Originally published on Medium

I was reminded this evening about what a complete mongrel I am. French grandfather, Swedish mother, Norwegian father, and then there’s my grandmother. She was half Norwegian, half Sami.

She was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. Not very educated; not very sophisticated. The type that entitled middle class people call stupid when they want to blame someone for things like Brexit.

She had her faith, and that is what kept her going through some pretty bad times during the war. First, the separation from my grandfather when he fought for the Free French somewhere and when she was alone in North Norway under occupation and had to raise their boys.

I was leafing through an album of old family photos this evening, and saw one with her sister. Her sister was dressed in Sami garb, and they looked so alike. But my grandmother never talked much about her Sami heritage, except in words of shame. It reminds one of how mistreated the Sami were until well into the 1970s, and even now they’re seen as less sophisticated and less advanced. An exotic element that brings both guilt and a sense of embarrassment.

I’ve never thought much about the fact that I’m part Sami. I’m so many things: French, Norwegian, Swedish. My mother’s origin stems from Walloon immigrants to Sweden in the 18th century as well. The idea of ethnic purity seems silly. But I wonder why I’ve never explored my Sami heritage. Could it be that I’m afflicted with a residue of my grandmother’s shame?