Pedar Jalvi

Pedar Jalvi (1888–1916) from the River Teno is considered as the first Finnish Sámi author. Jalvi, who passed away at a young age, only wrote one proper work: the collection of poems and stories called Muohtačálmmit – Snowflakes. The title poem Snowflakes describes, through natural metaphors, the strength that will result from the Sámi becoming united as a nation.

Pedar Jalvi was born on Jalvi Homestead on the Yläköngäs Falls of the River Teno. His original name was Piera Klemet’s son Helander (Lemehaš-Biehtár in Sámi). He got his compulsory schooling in Outakoski. At the age of 23, Jalve was admitted to Jyväskylä Teacher-Training Seminary. During the first year of the seminary, in 1911, Jalvi began to use the name Pekka Pohjansäde. The use of a Finnish name, Pohjansäde, reflects the Finnish nationalistic movement that was strong among students at the time. On the other hand, the adoption of the name Jalvi – which refers to his birthplace – in 1914 is a sign of Jalvi becoming conscious of his own Sámi background and identity.

Pedar Jalvi’s work muottaĉalmit (snowflakes), which was written in the Sámi language, was published by the author himself in 1915. The work consists of five poems and seven short stories. The title poem muottaĉalmit (”muohtačálmmit” in the present North Sámi orthography) describes how snowflakes melt in the spring into drops of water, form brooks and streams and later unite, becoming a rapid river that flows into the sea. The poem has been interpreted as describing symbolically the force that would result from the Sámi uniting themselves as a nation. The work was published at a time when the Sámi were just becoming aware of their national unity and own culture.

Facing the sunshine in the spring,
the tiny snowflakes begin to melt
into clear drops of water.
Soon, the drops start to make
brooks and rivers, lakes and seas
- growing all the time in might.”

(English translation: Kaija Anttonen)

Apart from the work “Snowflakes”, the only things that remain of Jalvi’s writings are bits of folklore that he collected and articles that he then wrote into newspapers on folklore. In a writing Pedar Jalvi sent to the Finnish Literature Society, he compared settlers’ courtship and wedding customs, which he had documented in Taivalkoski with those of the Sámi. In addition to recording customs, Jalvi also collected Sámi fairy tales and stories. Jalvi was introduced to the documentation of folklore when working as a guide for Armas Launis, a scholar of ethno music who recorded examples of the Sámi yoiking tradition. Jalvi’s article on “the chanting poetry of the Lapps” was published in the paper Kotiseutu in 1915.

Since Jalvi died already at an early age, the number of literary writings he produced is low. After graduating from the seminary, Pedar Jalvi worked for a year as a primary and lower secondary school teacher in Savitaipale. In the summer of 1916, Jalvi was on his way home to Utsjoki. The trip was interrupted in Inari when he was hospitalised because of tuberculosis that he had caught already during his studies. His life ended in Inari on August 8, 1916. Pedar Jalvi is buried at the cemetery in Inari.

Helander, Nils Øivind & Gaski, Harald: Čálli giehta ollá guhkáš. Sámi girjjálašvuođa birra. / Kirjoittava käsi yltää pitkälle. Katsaus saamelaiseen kirjallisuuteen. Girjegiisá. Kemijärvi 1991.
Pedar Jalvi: Muottačalmit. 1915.
Pedar Jalvi (ed. Samuli Aikio): Sabmelažžai maidnasak jâ muihtalusak – Lappalaisten satuja ja tarinoita. Lapin sivistysseuran julkaisuja 28. Helsinki 1966.
Larsen, Anders & Jalvi, Pedar: Sátnedáidu. Davvi Girji. Vaasa 2008.
Sainio, Matti A.: Pedar Jalvi - Suomen ensimmäinen lapinkielinen kirjailija. Lapin sivistysseuran julkaisuja 29. 1966.


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