Hunters and trappers

In the national park there are a remnants of dwellings and other traces of hunting, trapping and gathering, which were seasonal activities. Remnants of this old culture include trapping pits, hunting blinds, and stone fences that were used to trap wild reindeer. Near Bønå is a cave painting, which is probably also a relic of this same ancient culture.

Old construction from the time of hunting wild reindeers. Photo Carl Norberg.

At Sara, Ole and Jorg Kvitfjells campfire in Feitskardet. Photo Carl Norberg.

The nomadic reindeer husbandry of the Sámi people

Reindeer husbandry has a long history in Lomsdal-Visten. There is clear evidence of the practice dating back to the 1500s, as well as indications of the hunting of wild reindeer in the 8th and 9th centuries. Much of Sámi cultural history is linked to ways of exploiting the reindeer. A hunting and trapping society preceded the development of nomadic reindeer husbandry. (Some Sámi settled to live year round on the coast.) Today’s reindeer husbandry practices are quite extensive. Most Sámi cultural monuments are linked to the nomadic reindeer husbandry that became dominant from the 1500s. Spread throughout the national park are rock shelters, remnants of turf huts, campsites and stone fences. Due to the great care the Sámi showed in their utilisation of natural resources, some of the cultural remnants will today be noticed only by a very observant eye.

The nomadic reindeer husbandry was based on following the natural migration of the herds between winter and summer grazing lands. In the national park are barriers – usually low drystone fences – that were used to lead the flocks, to gather them, and to milk or mark the reindeer. A characteristic and mostly intact Sámi settlement can be found in Sørvassdalen. Here are turf huts (goahti), houses and sheds. Both Sámi and Norwegian place names refer to how the indigenous people used the land. In what is now a national park, two rare shaman drums decorated with magic runes and symbols have been discovered, one found in Lomsdalen and the other in Visten. There are also numerous Sámi sacrificial sites throughout Lomsdal-Visten.

Old Sámi shaman drum found at Krongelvassfjellet in Innervisten. Photo Per Fredriksen, NTNU VItenskapsmuseet.

Millstone left along the trail to Lomsdalen. Photo Carl Norberg.

Agriculture prior to 1960

During the 17th and 18th centuries, many new farms were established along the fjords and in the valleys of Norway, and on lands higher up in the mountains. Such mountain farms include Lomsdal and Strompdal in Brønnøy municipality, Sørvassdalen and Skjørlægda in Vefsn, Stavassdalen in Grane, and Auslia in Vevelstad. On these mountain farms, making ends meet was always a challenge. The farmers also had to rely on fishing, hunting and trapping. During the winter, it was relatively common for farmers to head north to the Lofoten Islands for the lucrative cod fishery. For yet others, forestry became part of their livelihood. By the end of the 1800s, some of the farms in Vefsn and Grane had become quite large; nonetheless, most of the inland farms were deserted by 1960.

Lomsdalen farm
The first known settlement here dates back to 1665. In 1723 it was said that Lomsdal was “a rather humble field where grain fails to mature”. Even the owners of Lomsdalen spent time as fishermen in the Lofoten Islands up north to make ends meet. The farm is situated at 165 metres, 11 km from the sea, and it changed frequently. In 1865 the livestock included six cows, eight sheep or goats, and one horse. That same year, it was recorded that one-quarter barrel of barley, three-quarter barrel of mixed grain, and three barrels of potatoes were sown. The actual yield is unknown. At its peak, the farm had 16 structures, seven of which were remote outbuildings. Lomsdalen was run by tenant farmers. In 1876 it was purchased and became an independent farm. In 1933 the farm was deserted, and the buildings fell into disrepair; today there are only remnants. The property, which covers 20,000 acres, is now owned by the hydropower company, Helgeland Kraft.

The mountain farm at Skjørlægda
People have probably lived and farmed this place since around 1695. It is said that the man who started clearing the farmland was named Torleif, and that he lived there during the summers. Records show that in 1726 the mountain farm had two cows and four sheep or goats, but no horses. In 1919 the farm was abandoned, although other locals were cutting and drying hay here until 1947. Other farms in the area include Skjørlægdgården and Tverrelvmoen (Skjørlægdsetra), as well as a croft by Litlvatnet lake. The 1875 census shows two Sámi families living at Skjørlægda, and there were Sámi camps at Storvatnet and near Litlvatnet.

Agriculture prior to 1960

During the 17th and 18th centuries, many new farms were established along the fjords and in the valleys of Norway, and on lands higher up in the mountains. Such mountain farms include Lomsdal and Strompdal in Brønnøy municipality, Sørvassdalen and Skjørlægda in Vefsn, Stavassdalen in Grane, and Auslia in Vevelstad. On these mountain farms, making ends meet was always a challenge. The farmers also had to rely on fishing, hunting and trapping. During the winter, it was relatively common for farmers to head north to the Lofoten Islands for the lucrative cod fishery. For yet others, forestry became part of their livelihood. By the end of the 1800s, some of the farms in Vefsn and Grane had become quite large; nonetheless, most of the inland farms were deserted by 1960.

Lomsdalen farm
The first known settlement here dates back to 1665. In 1723 it was said that Lomsdal was “a rather humble field where grain fails to mature”. Even the owners of Lomsdalen spent time as fishermen in the Lofoten Islands up north to make ends meet. The farm is situated at 165 metres, 11 km from the sea, and it changed frequently. In 1865 the livestock included six cows, eight sheep or goats, and one horse. That same year, it was recorded that one-quarter barrel of barley, three-quarter barrel of mixed grain, and three barrels of potatoes were sown. The actual yield is unknown. At its peak, the farm had 16 structures, seven of which were remote outbuildings. Lomsdalen was run by tenant farmers. In 1876 it was purchased and became an independent farm. In 1933 the farm was deserted, and the buildings fell into disrepair; today there are only remnants. The property, which covers 20,000 acres, is now owned by the hydropower company, Helgeland Kraft.

The mountain farm at Skjørlægda
People have probably lived and farmed this place since around 1695. It is said that the man who started clearing the farmland was named Torleif, and that he lived there during the summers. Records show that in 1726 the mountain farm had two cows and four sheep or goats, but no horses. In 1919 the farm was abandoned, although other locals were cutting and drying hay here until 1947. Other farms in the area include Skjørlægdgården and Tverrelvmoen (Skjørlægdsetra), as well as a croft by Litlvatnet lake. The 1875 census shows two Sámi families living at Skjørlægda, and there were Sámi camps at Storvatnet and near Litlvatnet.

World War II history

During Nazi Germany’s occupation of World War II, Lomsdal-Visten played a central role in the transport of weapons from the coast to the Resistance in the inland areas of Helgeland. Weapons were transported from Storbørja and Indre Visten over the mountains to Eiterådal and Stavassdal. The transport was organised by Norwegian Independent Company 1 under the leadership of Captain Martin Linge, and involved many local men who were active in the Resistance. The area was well-suited to commando operations, as it was easy to hide fighters, weapons, equipment and ammunition. The Resistance had numerous cabins and hidden depots. It is said that some of the weapons and ammunition are still hidden.

In the spring of 1942, between 30 and 35 people from the region were involved in these illegal activities for the resistance. All in all, from Visten around 30 tonnes of weapons and supplies were transported inland, each load weighing 30–35 kg. The Germans eventually discovered the transport; in connection with the so-called Majavatn Affair of 1942, they executed 23 men and family members. The communities of Indre Visten, Eiterådalen and Stavassdalen were hit especially hard. However, the transport soon resumed. In 1944 there were serious skirmishes in Eiterådalen and by Stavatnet lake. Three men from Linge’s Company 1 lost their lives.

The objective of this extensive weapons transport was to prepare for an Allied landing in Helgeland. Historians are uncertain whether these plans were real or meant as a diversion to tie up the area’s German forces. Regardless, many members of the local community were willing to risk sacrificing their lives. Today their efforts are honoured in various ways, including the annual Sjøberg March, between the valley of Eiterådal and the Austerfjord.

Local resistance during World War II. Gathered in Austerfjorden in Innervisten. Repro Helgeland Museum.