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Kulturstigen 21

Nebnekote - Bethlehem

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South of Slagnäs, about 3 km from the village, on the west side of the Skellefteälven, there was a so-called Sami settlement as early as 1809: Näbnekote. It was inhabited by a Sami fisherman, i.e. a person who paid taxes to the state for their area - a so-called Lappish tax country - but who did not use the land for cultivation, but only lived from fishing and hunting. This fishing village and the first Swedish settlers in the village got along well; they were neighbors at a reasonable distance from each other, could understand each other (Burman also spoke Lappish if necessary) and they shared the tax that had to be paid for the Lappish tax country during the so-called ‘freedom years’ for the new construction of Slagnäs.


Sometime in the middle of the 19th century, the place changed its name; Näbnekote became Bethlehem. No one knows today why this happened, but one explanation could be the Protestant lay movement - the Norrland New Reading - which began in Piteå County in 1802 and reached the hinterland (Malå and Sorsele) at that time. This movement was in serious conflict with both ecclesiastical and secular rulers. (The Reading movement is described in Maria Bilele's Children of the Hot Fire, among others).


Besides Näbnekote / Bethlehem there were probably other Lappish settlements around our lake before Burman came. It is unclear whether these were permanent settlements with fishing licenses or just summer residence areas. The finds include, among other things, fire pits for huts, which were found during new cultivation work on Näset, North Slagnäs and a sacrificial site (according to Dr. Wallquist) in Gelloviken, where the Sami had a summer residence. In spring and autumn there was also a feed store for the reindeer. The spring and autumn migrations between the coast and the mountains also passed through Udden, where a lot of old things were found as well. The Sami-Swedish history of each village is in all likelihood much more intertwined than we know today, also with regard to the 'side tiger' (page = a Sami idol made of stone).


Bethlehem was also inhabited by Swedish settler families until the 1930’s. Their last settler was Sjul-Ersa Nila, the rural postman on the Sunnanå-Bergnäsudden section.

When Malåvägen was later completed, Nila's house foundation ended up under the road. A long history of settlement of fishing villages and settler work was over.

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