"Perhaps the best discovery made on the trip, namely 2 sacks full of Lapp skulls and bones." -- Lars Levi LaestadiusThe quote is from an excerpt (translated from Swedish) of a remarkable White Paper published by the Church of Sweden, available in print (at no cost) and excerpted online, where it can be copied and pasted into Google Translate. Titled "The Historical Relationships between the Swedish Church and the Sámi: A Scientific Anthology," the paper is the result of a project begun in 2012 whose purpose was to "deepen the knowledge of historical relations between the Church and the Sámi." It serves as a public confession of abuse, and the Church calls it is a necessary first step toward reconciliation.
A direct line can be drawn between the grave-robbing of the 19th century and the race biology of the 20th century to the horrors of the Holocaust. When the Swedish Institute for Racial Biology was founded in Uppsala in 1922, it was the first of its kind in the world, and its painstaking research methodology was admired by, and became a model for, Nazi Germany. (Learn more in this excellent documentary.)
Excerpt from "The Historical Relationships between the Swedish Church and the Sámi: A Scientific Anthology":
PRIESTS CONTRIBUTED TO RACIAL BIOLOGY RESEARCH
Priests and other representatives of the Church of Sweden took part in robberies and excavations and contributed to the collection of Sámi human remains for cranial and racial research.
This research has in itself contributed to the notions of the Sámi as a primitive and lower standing people and enabled discrimination, marginalization and oppression of Sámi in Sweden.
Priests participated in the robbery of Sámi graves
During the 19th and early 1900's, Sámi tombs were plundered in a comprehensive search for skulls and skeletal parts, including the service of racial biology. Priests and other representatives of the Swedish Church participated. Today, Sámi demands that human remains be returned.
SÁMI GRAVES WERE ROBBED
The grave robberies were sometimes held secretly during the night and using bribes. There was, of course, a resistance among Sámi against what happened, which those responsible showed little respect for.
The most famous example is Lars Levi Læstadius (1800-1861), church leader in Karesuando and Pajala parishes and founder of the Lapponian revival movement. There are several examples of how he participated in the robbery of Sámi tombs, for example as a guide and local expert in the French La Recherche expedition (1838-1840). Læstadius himself writes in an unsigned newspaper article about what the expedition found: "Perhaps the best discovery made on the trip, namely 2 sacks full of Lapp skulls and bones."