– I would like to congratulate Sami Parliament with 25 years of democratic voice of the Sami people in Norway. Sami Parliament’s efforts for Sami language and Sami culture and industry have strengthened the Sami community. It also made Norway a more diverse and interesting community, says local government and the modernization Minister Jan Tore Sanner.
He also noted Norway celebrates two important anniversaries this year: The Constitution’s 200th anniversary and the Sami Parliament’s 25th anniversary. Sanner described these two anniversaries as celebration of Norwegian democracy.
– The Sami Parliament is today as a viable institution and is an important dialogue partner for the government in the development of Sami policy. I look forward to continuing our good cooperation with the Sami Parliament, said the Minister.
About Sami Community
The Sami people (also Sámi or Saami), traditionally known in English as Lapps or Laplanders, are the indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway.
The Sami are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples, and are hence the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. Sami ancestral lands span an area of approximately 388,350 km2 (150,000 sq. mi.), which is approximately the size of Norway, in the Nordic countries.
Their traditional languages are the Sami languages and are classified as a branch of the Uralic language family.
Traditionally, the Sami have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping, and sheep herding. Their best-known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding.
For traditional, environmental, cultural and political reasons, reindeer herding is legally reserved only for Sami people in certain regions of the Nordic countries.
The Sami have for centuries been the subject of discrimination and abuse by the dominant cultures. They have never been a single community in a single region of Lapland, which until recently was considered only a cultural region.
Yet to this day, Sami are being forced to choose the specific identity of the country within whose declared borders the Samis’ land lies and adopt that country’s values at the expense of Sami culture. The Swedish and Norwegian governments have been singled out as especial oppressors of the Sami in this regard.
Samis in Norway
Norway has been greatly criticized by the international community for the politics of Norwegianization of and discrimination against the aboriginal population of the country in previous years.
On the other hand, the Sami have been recognized as an indigenous people in Norway (1990 according to ILO convention 169 as described below), and hence, according to international law, the Sami people in Norway are entitled special protection and rights.
The constitutional amendment of Norway states: “It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and way of life.” This provides a legal and political protection of the Sami language, culture and society. In addition the “amendment implies a legal, political and moral obligation for Norwegian authorities to create an environment conducive to the Samis themselves influencing on the development of the Sami community”.
The Sami Act provides special rights for the Sami people (ibid.):
“…the Samis shall have their own national Sami Parliament elected by and amongst the Samis”.
The Sami people shall decide the area of activity of the Norwegian Sami Parliament.
The Sami and Norwegian languages have equal standing in Norway.
The Norwegian Sami Parliament also elects 50% of the members to the board of the Finnmark Estate, which controls 95% of the land in the county of Finnmark.