Flags fly for Sami National Day

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Norway has the largest indigenous Sami population in the Nordic countries, and thousands of them were celebrating what’s known as Samefolkets Dag on Monday. Others call it the Sami people’s National Day, since the first Sami convention was held on February 6, 1917.

Sametinget president Egil Olli (front row, second from left) leads the Sami parliament's executive council. PHOTO: Sametinget.no

There are an estimated 40,000 Sami people in Norway, compared to 17,000 in Sweden, 7,500 in Finland and 2,000 in Russia, according to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Egil Olli, president of the Sami parliament (Sametinget) was spending the day in Bjerkvik, just north of Narvik, where a large cultural festival was underway.

Meanwhile, much further south, in Oslo, the Norwegian Folk Museum was opening a special photo exhibition called Samiske bilder, documenting various historic events, political meetings and photos of everyday life including a series from Karasjok in the 1950s, depicting the opening of the area’s first self-service store, an early snowmobile and schoolboys on their way to a course on reindeer herding. They walked to get there, around 150 kilometers over the tundra. The exhibition runs until April 30.

Many Sami have been targets of discrimination over the years, most recently in Tromsø, where conflicts have arisen over official use of the Sami language. On Monday, Helga Pedersen of the Labour Party proposed that Sami students should be able to study their own ethnic language samisk instead of nynorsk, one of two official forms of the Norwegian language. Nynorsk promoters complained that pitted two minority languages against each other, and dismissed her proposal as populistic.

Others warmly supported her proposal for language electives in Norway. Olli told NRK that he wants Sami children to be able “to use samisk, learn samisk and learn about their own recent samisk history, no matter where in the country they live.”

Views and News staff