Samis in Norway Celebrate Sami National Day

The Sami people wear their traditional clothing when celebrating. Photo: Karin Beate Nøsterud

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Sami National Day is marked in various ways throughout the country and among the Sami in Norway. Also, many schools and day care centers in Norway get to know Sami culture that day. Some of them also have Sami culture as a theme throughout this week.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg and many other politicians published official celebration messages for the day.

Erna Solberg tweeted about the day in Sami language:

Sami National Day has been marked since 1993 in the four countries where the Sami live. The day is official flag-flying day since Norway in 2004, and several government buildings hoisted the flag of the Sami together with the Norwegian flag.

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About Norwegian Samis

The Samis are Europe’s northernmost and the Nordic countries’ only officially indigenous people. During the 19th century, Norwegian authorities put the Sami culture under pressure in order to make the Norwegian language and culture universal. A strong economic development of the north also took place, giving Norwegian culture and language status.

On the Swedish and Finnish side, the authorities were much less militant in their efforts, though Sami language was forbidden in schools; strong economic development in the north led to a weakening of status and economy for the Sami. In 1913-1920, the Swedish race-segregation politic created a race biological institute that collected research material from living people, graves, and sterilized Sami women. Throughout history, settlers were encouraged to move to the northern regions through incentives such as land and water rights, tax allowances, and military exemptions.

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Systematic cultural pressure against Samis

The strongest pressure took place from around 1900 to 1940, when Norway invested considerable money and effort to wipe out Sami culture. Notably, anyone who wanted to buy or lease state lands for agriculture in Finnmark had to prove knowledge of the Norwegian language and had to register with a Norwegian name. After World War II, the pressure was relaxed. The controversy around the construction of the hydro-electric power station in Alta in 1979 brought Sami rights onto the political agenda.

In August 1986, the national anthem (“Sámi soga lávlla”) and flag (Sami flag) of the Sami people were created. In 1989, the first Sami parliament in Norway was elected. In 2005, the Finnmark Act was passed in the Norwegian parliament. This law gives the Sami parliament and the Finnmark Provincial council a joint responsibility of administering the land areas previously considered state property. These areas (96% of the provincial area), which have always been used primarily by the Sami, now belong officially to the people of the province, whether Sami or Norwegian, and not to the Norwegian state.

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