Stolen: The dark life of Sami heritage and Reindeer herding

stolen around Reindeer

Reindeer herding

The Netflix movie ‘Stolen’ directed by Elle Márjá Eira is an adaptation of the book by Ann-Helen-Laestadius, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles, and delves into the discrimination faced by the ethnic minority of Sweden, Sami. Their traditional lifestyle follows reindeer herding, the animals marked by their ears to let others know who raised them.

Elsa, the protagonist of the story was barely nine when she witnessed a man brutally kill her pet reindeer calf, Nastegallu. Seeing that she has watched the scene, the hunter forces her to be silent with a threatening gesture as he drops the calf’s ear on the ground and runs off on his snowmobile.

Her father, after hearing this, takes her to the police station to file an official report but they are not thrown any heed by the local police, the excuse being that the animal killings are seen as thefts, and they cannot do anything about the “stolen” animals in the area.

The movie touches on themes of mental health problems that result in a high number of suicides, and the global warming issues that make living in regions inside the Arctic Circles difficult as the heating melts the ice and makes it unsteady to even stand on top of it. The racism and xenophobia against the Sami community are on the rise when the Swedish settlers complain about the reindeer getting in the way of their streets.

The reindeer are not only Sami’s livelihood but also a significant part of their culture. Harming the animals is not only affecting their way of living but is also a direct hit to their culture and its teaching.

The trauma of the events follows Elsa to her adulthood. Her only motivation to push forward is Nastegallu’s severed ear that she had preserved as a memory of her beloved pet reindeer as she promises to hunt the killer down and take revenge for what they have done to her and her community.

Ten long years have passed since that dreadful night and the killing of the animals was only increasing while the complaints to the police for the same were going unheard. Elsa, who was now nineteen, bravely decided to stay in the village and fight for their justice.

As the hostility towards her community kept increasing, she finally had enough and decided to push back at the police, making herself the target of the very killer that had killed her reindeer all those years ago. She pushed forward to take a leading role in the community but the elder men who wanted the women and young girls to take the backseat protested, showing the topic of sexism that is prevalent in the Sami community.

Sami’s Guilt

When the hunter came after her, it felt like all the guilt, sadness, and trauma that she had carried inside of her for all these years, broke free, which led to a catastrophic confrontation between the two.

The movie has somewhat of a bittersweet end to it, the police force finally has someone willing to take the complaints by the Sami community seriously but the community themselves were wary of them and their motives. Elsa could finally close this chapter of her life and move forward, cherishing the memories of her dear pet, who was the major source of her strength.

Stolen is a beautifully crafted story of a young and brave Sami woman who is struggling to protect her indigenous heritage for the future of her people.

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