Murder at Dieckagåhpe

The Murder at Dieckagåhpe

By Wenche Spjelkavik

Diecka
Dieckagåhpe                                                                                                           Photo: Cato Hultmann

In the southernmost outpost of the Sulitjelma mountains, high above Saltdal’s smallholdings and patches of farmland, there was a murder in 1829. The incident has not become part of local folklore, and the name of the place where the murder happened, Dieckagåhpe, has been forgotten. Even the grave of the woman who was killed is hidden in a forgotten cemetery at Saltnes in Saltdal.

Through reading Petrus Læstadius’ book Fortsättning af Journalen öfver missions-resor i Lappmarken innefattande åren 1828–1832 (“Continuation of the Journal of Missionary Journeys in Lappmark during the Years 1828–1832”), I became aware of the mention of a murder committed in Norway, where the murderer was arrested by the Norwegian authorities. Since the books are about the people who lived in Pite Lappmark, which also includes the Sulitjelma mountains, I found it interesting that the incident was unknown, both in the local historical literature and among the people who had had great knowledge of this area for generations. Two of the Sami that were mentioned by name in this case were known from the local history of Sulitjelma. One was “Smoleck”, who has a small river in Sulitjelma named after him. The other, Jon Andersson Ljung, is strongly associated with the prediction of Sulitjelma’s establishment – and its decline, should the church tower ever have a spire.

An enquiry sent to the State Archives in Trondheim, where the municipal records for Salten Tinglag (judicial district) are archived, produced results. Soon, I had copies of witness statements, minutes of court proceedings, and correspondence between the sheriff, the bailiff and the local judge in my mailbox. All the documents were in the handwriting of the time, known in Norwegian as gotisk skrift, which meant that it took some time to read through the material.[1] Gradually a tragic case was revealed of the killing of a woman, most likely by accident. The case also showed how the legal system in Salten worked around 1830. Pretty much everyone who was affected by the case was Sami and spoke Pite Sami. How did the Norwegian authorities deal with that? This story has been put together into a chronological narrative, based on witness interviews in Norway and Sweden, and from the detailed information taken from these documents, as well as Læstadius’ mention of the incident. This is how the story of what then happened back then in Dieckagåhpe, somewhere between Lake Ingeborgvatn and Stålberget in Saltdal municipality, came to be.

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[1] Gotisk skrift (“Gothic handwriting”) is the name used in Denmark and Norway for Kurrent, a type of German cursive writing that came into use in the 16th century. It was the normal style of handwriting in Norway from about 1600 to 1850. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurrent