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King Harald comments on Sami people’s letter to Queen Margrethe

Earlier in October, it was revealed that the Norwegian Sami Parliament sent a letter to Queen Margrethe of Denmark asking for help in returning a special artefact – a Sami drum that was confiscated after a witchcraft trial in 1692. The drum has created controversy between Norway’s indigenous people and Denmark.

Sami Parliament President, Aili Keskitalo, asked the Danish Queen for her support for keeping the Sami cultural treasure in the Sápmi region. The Danes confiscated it after an axe murder in 1692.

Last week, King Harald of Norway was on a three-day journey to the Sami region of Norway. King Harald then witnessed the conflict that has bubbled up at the Sami Museum in Karasjok. So when King Harald visited the museum last week, he was asked for a comment on the situation.

The Norwegian monarch replied: “I guess I have the same thoughts as Queen Margrethe has, I think, that she does not want to interfere. The specialists will find a solution to this conflict. Nevertheless, I know that this is up in the Danish National Museum and that a decision will probably be made relatively soon.”

Director of the Sami Museum in Norway, Anne May Olli, commented on the King’s statement remarking: “I understand that the King thinks he must be neutral. I understand that he can not say anything else in public, but I hope that in more private conversations, he can have an opinion towards this problem.”

Since 1979, the rare Sami drum from the 17th century has been on loan to the Sami Museum in Karasjok in Norway. On 1 December, the loan agreement with the Danish National Museum expires. Keskitalo has sent a letter to Queen Margrethe asking her to get involved in returning the valuable drum on a permanent basis to Norway. This past spring, the Sami Museum in Karasjok sent a demand to Denmark to formally take over ownership of the drum.

In 1849, the drum was moved from the King’s art chamber to the Danish National Museum, where it remained until 1979 when it was loaned to the Sami Museum in Karasjok. Norwegian and Danish media have also been in contact with the Danish Royal Court, which has referred to the National Museum for a statement on the matter.

The Danish National Museum says that the case is complex, but they will consider giving back the drum. They further state that the issue has now been sent over to the Danish Minister of Culture for a final decision.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written six books on historical subjects and more than 1.500 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.