About Skibotn marketplace
The Market in Skibotn had its glory days in the 19th century and was the largest and most important market in North Troms.
Of the original trading houses there are only two remaining. These are probably the only remaining buildings from all market trade in the northern hemisphere. Together with two reconstructed trading houses, a reconstructed smithy and a rocker well these buildings form the the historical site of The Skibotn Marketplace. Today the buildings house an exhibit that through pictures, text, historical objects and sound tell the story of the market place and tries to give the visitor a glimpse of how the market would have been like. The marketplace also show temporary exhibits in summer and has a small museum shop.
The market in Skibotn is seen as one of the oldest and most important in Northern Norway. One of the causes was its ideal location. Geographically Skibotn was the ideal meeting spot for the people of the inland and the coast. It was also used by tax gatherers as the place to meet and pay the Sea Sami taxes at certain times in the year. Tax gathering and paying was often combined with trade. The market in Skibotn is mentioned in written sources as early as 1571. It was also the gateway for læstadianism to North Troms.
There was a market gathering at Skibotn twice a year, in November and late January. The timing was mostly due to butchering season and travelling conditions. During the 19th century the market grew to be one of the largest in the Northern hemisphere. In 1855 there were bought and sold 54 000 kilos of pollock, 18 000 kilos of flour, 36 000 kilos of butter, 3000 kilos of coffee and between 1-2 000 reindeer carcasses. Reindeer meat, grouse, butter, flour, and fish were the most important trading goods.
Reindeer herding Sami, traders from Torne valley on the Swedish-Finnish border, Norwegian traders, Norwegian, Sami and Kven from the surrounding area, all met at the market. The people who visited the market were all mutually dependent on each other. The fall market was usually trade between the people from closer to the market, from inland and coast. The market after Christmas was called the Kven market. This was when professional tradesmen from Torne valley arrived.
The market was a welcome break in a tiresome existence. The marketplace offered entertainment, sweets, lucky bags, and lucky letters. “Finding yourself a market sweetheart” was a known turn of phrase.
After 1900 the market trade slowed down. The establishing of railroads, steamship routes and new roads made transporting trading goods more effective within national borders. The cross-border trade gained more and more competition. Together with political unwillingness and disinterest towards the cross-border trade this led to a decline in the importance of the markets. The last market in Skibotn was in 1955.