Walser and their culture
Who are the Walser?
The researcher agree that the Walser are colonists. The migrated from Valais 700 years ago and received special rights in their new settlements. The people from Valais themselves are not added to the Walser. The Valais settlements Simplon-Dorf and Zwischbergen-Gondo are counted among the southern Walser settlements. In the 20th century, many residents had no idea that they were Walser. The historic consciousness is very young. Campello Monti/ Kampel and Ornavasso/ Unfafásch have been “rediscovered” as Walser colonies as recently as in the seventies.
In search of Walser characteristics, nature, build, pace and blood group were analysed. Such characteristics are not only allocated to the Walser but to all alpine populations.
There are also no supraregional commonalities in relation to religion, costumes or type of building and settlements. All these things developed regionally over the last 700 years.
In many documentations the common language is seen as crucial criteria for the belonging to the group of Walser. Paul Zinsli even thinks: “Where there is no Walser dialect spoken any more, there is no longer any Walser settlement, in fact there are no more Walser.”
However, today there are many Walser whose high-Alemannic dialect gave way to Piedmontese, Francoprovencial, Lombardian, Reatoroman or the French, Italian and German standard language. In an ethnical sense they remained Walser, so called “origin-Walser”.
Yet, it can be said that the Walser-German is the most striking characteristic for the Walser’s ethnical and cultural identity.
The common worship of the Holy Theodul, the canton’s patron of Valais is remarkable. Further, the Holy Mauritius and Holy Nikolaus are worshiped.
Common to all Walser are the altitudes which had been advised to them for farming. The long and snowy winter demanded a clever storing of feed.
Johannes Führer comes up with the following definition: “The residents of historic Walser settlements in alpine altitudes where language, culture, economics and historic consciousness were vital in the 20th century are identified as Walser.”