Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MIS)

Degree Name

Interdisciplinary Studies

Department or School/College

Interdisciplinary Studies Program

Committee Chair

Kathryn Shanley

Commitee Members

Len Broberg, David Beck


Alta Conflict, Disrespect, Honor, Pride, Recognition, Respect, Sami, Shame


University of Montana


For nearly a century the Sami peoples of Norway were subject to colonial policies of assimilation and integration. According to historians of the Sami, colonial processes stigmatized Sami individuals and the Sami culture, producing feelings of shame. The concept of shame, for both individuals and groups, centers on experiencing fear, pain, and/or uneasiness, and requires a judging audience. Honor is about individuals transcending self-interest and the need for individuals and groups to acquire self-esteem for that purpose; it also requires a judging audience. Concepts of shame and honor played an important role during the Alta conflict; a watershed moment in recent history of Sami, Norwegian relations. The conflict arose in the 1970s, when Norway decided to build a hydroelectric power plant on the Alta-Kautokeino River, resulting in the flooding of Sami villages, farmland, and pasture land. Sami individuals of the boarding school generation, now educated in the same manner as Norwegians, organized collectively and protested against the proposed construction of the dam. While Sami individual and group activism failed to halt the project, it did signal a change in the political power structure between Sami peoples and Norway from one based on Sami subordination to one based on mutual respect. This helped change Sami identity from being seen as inferior to one deserving of respect, collectively and individually; which in turn elevated the status of Sami individuals and the Sami culture.



© Copyright 2012 Michael T. Bremmer