The Norwegian state was founded on the territory of two
peoples - Norwegians and Sami. It is clear that the Sami, as an indigenous
people in Norway, have a special right to cultural protection. Norway's
Sami policies mark the consolidation of this goal. The name Sami stems
from sapmi which denotes both the geographical territory for the
traditional Sami settlement areas and the people themselves.
The Sami live in the polar region in what today comprises
the northern area of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia's Kola peninsula.
Policies toward the Sami have diverged strongly among these four sovereign
states. From the south the traditional Sami region extends from Femunden
in Norway's Hedmark county to Idre, in Dalarne, Sweden. To the north it
stretches to the Kola peninsula in Russia and down to Finland in the
southeast. Norway has the biggest Sami population.
The size of the Sami population has been reckoned at
75,000, but estimates vary in accordance with criteria used (genetic
heritage, mother tongue, personal wishes, etc.). Official censuses have
not given reliable counts. Because of the assimilation process, not all
Sami have wished to acknowledge or declare their ethnic identity. For this
reason, the Sami parliaments in the Nordic countries have worked out their
own criteria for defining Sami from a combination of subjective and
The Sami language belongs to the Finno-Ugric branch of the
Uralic family, and is closely related to the Baltic Sea-Finnish languages,
such as Finnish and Estonian and Hungarian.
Sami is a so-called "synthetic" language with
numerous derivations and inflected forms as well as multiple cases. The
system of derivatives provides a wealth of opportunities to create new
words out of a single word root. By comparison, Germanic languages are "analytical"
with their inflected forms. There are several Sami languages: East Sami,
Central Sami and South Sami. Central Sami includes North Sami, Lule Sami,
and Pite Sami. North Sami is the most spoken. The Sami language boundaries
do not coincide with the national borders of the Nordic countries.
Sami background - social life and economics
The Sami region stretches across a large geographical area
with cultural and economic variations and a corresponding diversity in
The Sami societies were formerly organized in siidas,
which were a form of practical cooperation between several family groups,
primarily regarding management and sharing of natural resources and game.
The individual siida had a collective right to hunting and fishing within
its area. The siida's head, the siida-isit, led the siida council. Among
other duties, he oversaw the siida's regulations for use of natural
resources, ensuring that hunting and distribution followed rules and
traditions. The expenditure of labour and the sharing of economic burdens
were distributed among the siida's members.
The Sami have developed an economy based on a direct
relationship to nature and natural resources. Adaptations can be seen as
functions of the local resources and natural conditions in the arctic and
subarctic areas. This is exemplified by their following reindeer herds and
the exchanges between agriculture and fishing practised by Sami coastal
The societies are also adapted to the prerequisites for
production in specific ecological niches, and they are marked by strong
integration between production, culture and family. Earlier, they lived
off a primary industry based on self sustenance and a family's own work.
Production was generally oriented toward sustaining life rather than
making money. This form of organizing labour required that all - women,
men and children - performed necessary functions and they were perceived
as vital resources for the family and society.
Socialisation of children was directly associated with the
need for knowledge about nature and survival. The bringing up of children
was closely connected with activities applying to making a living, with an
early involvement and responsibility for chores. Older children were
taught parental responsibility, while allodial privilege was given to the
youngest child, who was also bound to care for aging parents. Children
were tied to a network of relations beyond the nuclear family.
The Sami noaide was a person with strong mental and
spiritual power. The noaide functioned as the siida-isit. He was a strong
spiritual leader for his society in moral matters and could resolve
disputes. He was also a healer, social worker and story teller.
The Samis used both animal and vegetable products in their
folk medicine. In cases of where a diagnosis was uncertain, the noiade
sought advice by means of his shamanic drum, or runebommen. He was capable
of transcending states of consciousness and could travel to other
spiritual realms to cure sickness or prevent death. The traditional Sami
music form yoik and beating on a runebommen contributed to such spiritual
This use of yoik is probably the reason why the song form
was banned when Christianity appeared. Yet healers continue to operate in
several Sami communities today. It is not uncommon for local health
personnel and healers to work in unison. A healer's knowledge and
authority can have a supplementary function to modern medical practice.
The conditions of Sami social and economic life have
changed greatly through the decades. However, growing focus has been given
to the potential of combining a development of business activities and
developing traditional ways of making a living as a material basis for
Sami culture. One sees that the marginal resources in the Sami areas
seldom give sufficient economic nourishment for single occupations.
Combinations of jobs yield a more balanced utilisation of natural
resources, and additional economic support.
Sami background - Norwegianization and contact
The Samis' situation is strongly dependent on the politics
of the national states as well as more general social conditions. From
around the 1600s, assimilation and preservation can be detected as two
competing views in policies towards the Samis. The question asked was
whether the Samis should be absorbed by the Norwegian population or
whether their language, culture and identity should be preserved. But the
policies carried out were not always the result of a conscious decision on
behalf of the state.
The first contact the Samis had with other peoples were
meetings with explorers, adventurers and missionaries. Trade and state
taxation soon followed. The Samis had furs etc. which were valued as trade
The colonisation of the Sami territories occurred step by
step. To begin with, the spreading of Norwegians to the north was
generally at the initiative of petty kings and rich farmers who were also
engaged in fishing. From the Middle Ages and onwards, settlements of
Norwegians arose along the coast and the outer fjord areas. As they
stabilized, the new settlement areas in the north came under the control
of state authorities. For ages, the Norwegian colonization was
concentrated along the outer coastal areas where such fishing villages
were established. Churches and fortresses followed. The Church had
representatives in these fishing villages and extracted values through
trade and the issuing of fines. The Church also marked Norwegian
In time, the Norwegian authorities stressed rational
agriculture and private ownership of property. This did not harmonise with
the traditional Sami way of life.
The ownership of reindeer herds began in the 1700s and
replaced earlier cultures' hunting of wild reindeer and stationary
ownership of tame animals. A pattern developed involving the nomadic
herding of large numbers of the animals between autumn, winter and spring
No clearly defined national boundaries within the Sami
areas of the polar cap were found until the peace treaty of 1751. The
areas grew to be perceived as strategic, cradling a considerable economic
potential. From time to time, the Sami were taxed by several nations
simultaneously. When national borders were staked out, the Sami's way of
life had to be taken into account. This was done in an addition to the
1751 peace treaty, the so-called Lappekodicillen. It was intended to
protect the Sami's grazing rights in the frontier areas, and comprised a
recognition of existing rights to herd reindeer. The Lappekodicillen was
called the "Sami's Magna Charta," and is considered to be
rudimentary in the legal protection of reindeer herding.
North of the polar circle a revivalist movement spread
around 1840 under the leadership of Lars Levi Læstadius. Church
leaders felt that this undermined their authority. After a while it became
clear that their concern entailed the "path-strayers from Kautokeino"
in particular. Through coercion the clergymen hoped to draw the Sami back
into the fold and increase their respect for the Church and the laws. A
number of authorities and police constables were sent to Kautokeino in
During the so-called Kautokeino rebellion of 1852, members
of the sect followed the leadership of Aslak Hætta and attacked the
local merchant who was also sheriff, as well as a liquor dealer and the
parish vicar. The rebellion was subdued. Two of the leaders were sentenced
to death and beheaded in 1854.
Part of the background for the rebellion was the
increasing trade in alcoholic spirits. The Sami had no tradition in
drinking alcohol and the Læstidians called for total abstinence.
Local disrespect for the clergy was partly due to the ministers'
involvement in the alcohol trade.
From around 1850 a number of regulations were made to
bolster the teaching of Norwegian to Sami. The goal was to establish
Norwegian as their school language. It was not until the 1930s that Sami
was again allowed as a secondary language in some school districts to
augment teaching. In practice, the Sami language was banned in many
Norwegian schools until well into the 1950s.
The "Norwegianization" policy eventually moved
into other social spheres. Following language, it became dominant in
agricultural policies, defence, education, communications and media. For
instance the Land Act of 1902 stipulated that property could only be
transferred to Norwegian citizens and furthermore only to those who could
speak, read and write Norwegian.
Social-Darwinist thinking provided the ideological
legitimisation for claiming that Sami were destined to fall prey to "evolution
and natural selection." Agriculture was viewed as essential to
culture. People who farmed the land could take part in the development of
society. Reindeer herding was a prerequisite for those who lived off the
land, but it was also doomed. The only way to "save" the Sami
was to integrate them completely into Norwegian society.
The development of such assimilation policies occurred
hand in hand with increased interest in the Sami territories by the
mainstream population because of discoveries of ores anddue to national
security considerations. Assimilation policies were also legitimized and
substantiated by mounting nationalism.
Norway had no pretensions of becoming a military power.
Its nationalism must be considered in light of Norway as a young nation
struggling to establish roots and nurture its identity. This resulted in a
poor atmosphere for recognition of ethnic diversity and cultural
differentiation. Nationalism resulted in pressure to conform.
The Norwegianization policy continued to influence Sami
life after the Second World War, although conditions gradually changed.
After 1945 - Samis in a welfare state
Although the official Norwegianization policy was
eventually ended, it was no easy matter to change the attitudes toward
Sami that followed in its wake. These could not be terminated by political
decree. Time has left its indelible traces on the Samis through a loss of
language, traditions and a fading perception of their history and
background - and these values are difficult to regain.
Sami protests and demonstrations should be viewed from
this perspective. A goal of the social democratic notion of solidarity was
to level the differences between people. Particularly in the initial
postwar years, it was difficult to unite this ideal with a policy aimed at
giving special rights to the Sami.
Toward a new basis for Sami policy
Little attention was given to Sami issues during the
interwar period and the postwar reconstruction. However, a new line of
official thought began to split away from conscious Norwegianization. Sami
education issues were treated for the first time by an official report in
1948. A new "spirit of the times" tied in with the UN's Human
Rights Declaration of 1948 which embraced a political consciousness about
The Sami committee of 1956 was established to discuss
principles and concrete measures for Sami. Its conclusions, issued in
1959, included numerous initiatives to facilitate the Sami's retention of
their culture within the framework of Norwegian society. This was the
first time that Sami issues were put to the Norwegian national assembly,
the Storting, for debate on a wide-scale and principle basis.
Among the intentions was a wish to create positive special
advantages for Sami. Opposition to the committee's ideas was initially
vigorous. When put to the Storting in 1963 the strongest agreement
involved proposals for social and economic development. In the following
decades, Sami policies were particularly oriented toward the social sphere
and regional development.
Local Sami organizations had existed for a long time but
there were no national ones until after the Second World War. Those who
were actively involved with the Sami cause were viewed as dreamers and
idealists, or in some cases as extremists. Sami cultural symbols
flourished and the development of Sami organizations began to have an
Nordic cooperation among the Sami was initiated in 1953 at
a conference in Jokkmokk, Sweden. A second conference, which took place in
Karasjok in Norway three years later, voted to establish a Nordic Sami
Council. This functions as a liaison body between the Norwegian, Swedish,
and Finnish Sami's political organizations. The Nordic Sami Council passed
a cultural policy programme in 1971 and a Sami policy programme in 1980.
The oldest surviving Norwegian Sami organization is the
Sami Reindeer Herders' Association in Norway (NRL), which was formed in
1947 with the goal of promoting the interests of the reindeer-herding
Sami. Samiid searvi (Sami Association) in Oslo has existed since 1948. The
National Association of Norwegian Sami (NSR) was established in 1968. Full
membership was reserved for Sami. The Norwegian Sami Union (SLF) broke off
from the National Association of Norwegian Sami as a moderate alternative
in 1979. The SLF attracted many coastal and fjord area Sami into Sami
Sami were active in the founding of the World Council for
Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) in 1975. An international perspective found its
way into Sami politics, and human rights arguments were adopted in
relation to Norweg ian authorities.
The Alta controversy
The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Administration
(NVE) issued comprehensive plans in the 1970s to develop the
Alta-Kautokeino water system on the Finnmark plateau, including a dam
which would inundate the Sami community at Masi. Even after these plans
were reduced, a major hydroelectric project remained on the drawing
boards, including a 100-metre high dam across a river canyon. It involved
the construction of a road across reindeer grazing land and calving areas.
The reindeer owners who were affected by this and the
Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature took the state to court
to prevent the development in 1979. The case gained symbolic value. Sami
and environmentalist interests joined forces in demonstrations and acts of
civil disobedience. Demonstrations were staged at the construction site
and Sami activists started a hunger strike in front of the Storting. A
group of Sami women contributed with a sit-down strike at the Office of
the Prime Minister.
The dam was completed but this issue dominated the debate
about Sami politics throughout the 1970s. The Sami's situation received
public attention and many claim that it cleared the air for a better
climate for Sami politics in the 1980s. In general, North Norway was high
on the political agenda at this time, also because of regional policy
concerns, relations with the EU, oil prospecting etc. Sami consciousness
was also affiliated with increased attention to North Norway.
The debate about the Sami situation grew heated and
emotional in Finnmark county in particular. Both Norwegians and Sami began
to fear "extremism" and perceptions spread about Sami who wished
to secede territory from the state of Norway. This was not so odd when
viewed in light of the former era Norwegianization.
The Sami media
The first Sami newspaper, Muittalægje, was issued
The Sami newspaper Sagat was founded in 1956. The
Sami-language newspaper, Sami Áigi, based in Karasjok, was first
issued in 1979. Today we have the Sami language newspapers Min Aigi and
Assu. Gaba, a magazine for women, is also published, as well as the
children's magazine Leavedolgi, the youth magazine S as well as the
religious periodical Nuorttanaste.
Broadcasts in Sami were first started by NRK Radio in
1946. Since then, the programmes have been expanded and given a more
varied content. But even the short broadcasts in the early days had a
powerful impact on the use of the Sami language. The number of TV
programmes in Sami is growing. NRK Sami Radio has its headquarters in
Karasjok. A study and report on the situation for Sami radio and TV is
currently being prepared.
Sami book publishing
A blooming of Sami literature occurred in the 1970s as
authors with Sami backgrounds began to write and publish books in Sami.
The first children's book in Sami was printed in 1976. Sami authors have
founded their own organization Sami Girjecalli Searvi. The Sami publishers
have collaborated with the Sami Educational Council and the Sami cultural
committee within the Norwegian Council for Cultural Affairs, and later
with the Sami Cultural Council under the Sami Parliament. With a mounting
production, recruitment of Sami writers has also made much headway. The
Sami publishing house Jårgæddji issued about 150 book titles
in the course of a decade. Davvi Girji published about 40 titles.
Sami cultural efforts
By means of special support measures, the Norwegian Council
for Cultural Affairs has helped establish a number of Sami cultural
institutions and cultural initiatives. Sami cultural heritage is expressed
by means of culture days, poetry readings and concerts, the spread and
development of handicrafts, literature and graphic arts, as well as
through the development of theatre and modern Sami art. Sami artists now
have their own organizations. Their umbrella is Sami Daiddagoveddas which
is situated in Karasjok. The Sami theatre group Beaivvás Sami
Teater was established in 1981 and since 1990 has had the status of a
permanent theatre eligible for state subsidies. The group has adapted Sami
oral storytelling traditions for the stage. Sami yoik has become inspired
by jazz as well as the ethnic music of other indigenous peoples. Sami
graphic art and literature, perhaps lyrical poetry in particular, displays
a diversity in choice of themes and means of expression. Since 1985, Sami
have had the right to nominate candidates for the Nordic Council Prize for
Literature. The artist Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was awarded the
prize in 1981.
Reorganization and official studies
The Nordic Sami Council was established in 1964 as an
advisory agency for state, county and municipal authorities. The council
eventually consisted of 18 members who were appointed in part by Sami
organizations. In 1975 a development fund for Sami settlement areas was
established to promote initiatives with an economic, social and cultural
importance for the Sami region. The fund is now known as the Sami
Development Fund. The Sami Council was responsible for supervising its
activities and pronouncing on them for the government. The Sami Council
has issued such statements in a number of important cultural as well as
The Alta controversy exposed the need for a national
coordination of Sami issues. In 1980 work with Sami issues was subject to
reorganization within the state administration, with the Ministry of
Labour and Government Administration as the central coordinating
authority. It was decided that the Sami Council's annual reports were to
be put to the Storting and added to the reports by the Sami Development
Fund. It was additionally resolved that the Sami Council was to distribute
state allocations to Sami organizations, to Sami handicrafts and to Sami
interpreter services, and have funds at its disposal to other Sami
To committees established in 1980 were given the task of
reporting on cultural and rights-related issues.
Education and Research
Sami as a beginning language in certain elementary schools
was initiated in 1967. Later legislation extended the use of the Sami
language in schools. Adult courses in Sami are held and paid leaves of
absence are granted to teachers who take university courses in Sami. Since
1975, school districts with a mixed language basis are permitted to
establish Sami school districts at parental request. This provides an
opportunity for the use of the Sami language as a means of education as
well as instruction in the language itself. A new curriculum in Sami
education was created in connection with educational reforms in 1997. This
primarily applies to pupils who reside in areas which are administrated
according to the Sami Act's language regulations. Furthermore, basic
material about Sami matters have been added to the national curricula.
The Sami Educational Council was established in 1976 in
Kautokeino to advise in educational issues. Plans are now under
consideration to organize this council into the system under the control
of the Sami Parliament.
Courses in Sami studies have been offered at the
University of Oslo since 1948. An expanding array of courses in Sami is
also offered by the University of Tromsø. Opportunities to learn
the Sami language are provided at a number of schools and colleges in the
The University of Tromsø has a clear profile
involving the maintenance of North Norwegian and Sami interests in
education and research. Its Centre for Sami Studies plays a coordinating
role. In the autumn of 1989 the Sami College in Kautokeino was
established, with Sami language teachers' training as its main offer. The
Sami College's goal is to adapt this education to the needs of the Sami
The Nordic Sami Institute at Kautokeino, established in
1974, is a Sami research institute funded by the Nordic Council of
Ministers. Several of these institutions are now joining forces to build
up a Sami research network.
Women organize themselves
Following the Nordic Council's women's conference in 1988,
Sami women founded their organization Sarahkka. Sarahkka is affiliated
with the World Council of Indigenous Women which was founded in 1989. The
organization points out that indigenous women are subject to different
conditions than their men. As long as there is little public work aimed at
the continuation of Sami culture, such efforts are among the
responsibilities of families - particularly the women, who carry the
heaviest load in child upbringing and the passing on of culture.
It has also been pointed out that the point of departure
for Norwegian laws and regulations on gender equality is a Norwegian and
Western European perspective. This is foreign for the Sami society, where
women have had a different, but strong position.
About 40 per cent of Norway's land mass is used for
reindeer grazing. Most of this is in Finnmark county. The economic value
of this industry is minor on a national scale, but it is important
financially and culturally on the local level.
An agreement from 1976 which regulates the business
empowered the Ministry of Agriculture with the right to negotiate two-year
agreements with the Sami Reindeer Herders' Association. The Reindeer
Herding Act of 1978, which replaced an older law from 1933, emphasises
both the business and cultural aspects of the reindeer trade.
Norway is divided into reindeer grazing areas, and Sami
have an exclusive right to the trade. The right to maintain reindeer herds
is based on traditional use. It is a right of usage, independent of who
owns the land. The trade has its own management system, in which the Sami
Parliament now has increased influence.
A debate has arisen about the proper use of grazing lands.
Reindeer owners, the Sami Reindeer Herders' Association, the Sami
Parliament, municipalities, reindeer industry administrative bodies and
departments have all become involved in the issue. The official goal is to
develop the trade with the objective of establishing sustainable reindeer
herding. This objective involves making the business ecologically,
economically and culturally sustainable - in other words, a business that
can continue to provide a living for families connected with reindeer
herding without undermining the distinctive character of the Sami.
In recent times there has been more focus on those who are
engaged in the primary industries with regard to their informal competence
in aspects such as language, environmental management, etc.
The Sami and fisheries policies
The population's means of making a living along the coastal
and fjord areas from mid-Norway up to Russia is generally based on
fisheries in combination with other trades. Most fishing is carried out
with small boats in the fjords. A combination of such fishing and farming
is the most common strategy for Sami along the coast and could thus be
called a cultural hallmark. In the 1980s and 90s the former practice of
unregulated coastal fishing was stopped because of increased exploitation
of sea resources and the establishment of international and national quota
regulations. Because the coastal Sami combined fishing with farming and
other trades, they were placed lower on the lists when quotas were
distributed. They simply had not fished enough. This was an unintended
side-effect of changes in fisheries policies, and the Sami Parliament
notified national authorities that the quota system threatened
atraditional Sami means of making a living. This led to special
initiatives for such fishermen, raised consciousness about the material
basis of Sami culture and a special Sami fisheries committee was
Agricultural policies in Sami areas
Most of the farms in Sami areas are run in combination with
other trades and businesses. Agriculture has traditionally been open and
flexible. It has provided employment for periods (onner) to persons who
have lacked a permanent connection with the trade, and it has given
farmers an opportunity to utilise other niches in the labour market. In
keeping with Sami tradition, but contrary to a key premise for Norwegian
agricultural policies, agriculture in Sami areas has not been organized
toward a goal of sectorisation and full-time employment. The Sami
Parliament ordered a comprehensive agricultural plan which was completed
in 1995. On several occasions, the Sami Parliament has stressed the need
to maintain the culture-bearing functions of the primary industries. In
several meetings, Norwegian agricultural authorities and the Sami
Parliament have developed a shared viewpoint that employment in
agriculture and other primary industries will continue to be essential to
the rural social life which ensures Sami culture, and which provides the
basis for its transfer to future generations. Ways of bolstering
combinations of trades is now a topic of discussion.
Sami health and social affairs issues
In their organizations, Sami health and social workers have
stressed the situation of Sami patients and clients. Sami health and
social issues were placed on the agenda in 1995 in connection with an
official report - the Plan for Sami Health and Social Services. Work is
now under way to follow up this report.
The Sami Act and Sami Parliament
In 1980 a committee was formed to discuss and report on
Sami cultural matters and look into Sami rights issues. The Sami Culture
Committee published reports in 1985 and 1987, providing a comprehensive
study of Sami school and cultural issues, including a proposal for a Sami
The Norwegian Official Report (NOU 1984:18), concerning
the legal rights of the Sami, and the Act concerning the Sami Parliament
and other legal matters pertaining to the Sami (the Sami Act) of 12 June
1987 were passed in accordance with this report. The Storting passed an
amendment to the Constitution, Article 110a in April 1988, which
stipulated Sami constitutional rights.
The Sami Parliament was opened in 1989 by King Olav V.
Regulations for the use of the Sami language were put to
the Storting in 1990 and incorporated into the Sami Act. In 1990, the
political leadership of the Ministry of Local Government and Labour was
supplemented by a Sami policy advisor, and in 1997 the position of state
secretary for Sami issues was created.
Article 110a in the Constitution 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 is a preeminent rule of law which both gives rights
to the Sami population and duties and obligations to the Norwegian state.
The Sami Act has the same preamble, with the additions of concrete
Norway has ratified several international conventions,
declarations and agreements which apply to the Samis. An essential one of
these is Article 27 in the UN Convention of 1966 on civil and political
rights, and the ILO (International Labour Organization) Convention No. 169
of 1989, which deals with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in
The Sami Rights Committee has issued several sub-reports.
These provide further details on current law, for the historical
perspective connected with the management of land and waters in Finnmark,
and the land rights of Norway's indigenous people. The Norwegian Official
Report (NOU 1997:4) on the natural basis for Sami culture was issued in
January 1997. At the heart of the proposals is the objective of
guaranteeing a natural basis for Sami culture in Norway, in accordance
with guidelines for national as well as international law. The committee
has tried to develop regulations on local management of land and natural
resources in Finnmark. The Sami Parliament has a role along with county
and municipal organs. The report will be subjected to a comprehensive set
of hearings before being put to the Government and the Storting. The Sami
Rights Committee will continue with its work and issue corresponding
reports on Sami settlement areas and traditional lands south of Finnmark
A separate project was initiated in 1997 which will look
into Sami traditions in legal perception and relations applying to the use
of land and waters in the Sami regions. The conclusions will be taken into
account in connection with further processing of the Sami Rights
In 1995 an official report was made about plans for health
and social services for the Sami population. In cooperation with the Sami
Parliament, the authorities are currently following up this plan.
Several subsidy schemes relating to Sami were transferred
to the administrative bodies under the Sami Parliament in 1993. The
appropriate ministries have retained professional responsibility for Sami
matters within their fields. Authorities operate in collaboration with the
Sami Parliament in developing appropriate routines in budgetary work
between the ministries and the Sami Parliament.
The Sami Parliament's plenary body consists of 39 elected
representatives from 13 electoral districts. The parliament convenes four
times a year for week-long plenary sessions. The Sami Parliament's main
administration is located in Karasjok. The Sami Parliament Council leads
the legislative body's day-to-day political activities. Various
professional advisory organs have been established subordinate to the Sami
Parliament. These are the Sami Cultural Monuments Council, the Sami
Culture Council, the Sami Business Council, and the Sami Language Council.
They function as professional organs for the Sami Parliament and assist in
the management of allocations and subsidies.
A number of questions involving the Sami Parliament's
position in the Norwegian political system have yet to be resolved. To
date, the debate has generally applied to its various supervisory duties.
The Sami Parliament's duties are manifold. It has carried
out comprehensive administrative work and planning. The parliament has
made a special impact through its efforts on the behalf of the agrarian
rural population's economic rights and fjord fishermen's situation in the
northern areas. It has developed a plan of action for Sami coastal and
fjord areas, its own Sami agricultural plan, and it has participated in a
special Sami fisheries committee. In addition it has carried out its own
studies involving combinations of trades to boost employment in the Sami
areas. The Sami Parliament has worked with a special plan for children and
youth as well as a Sami women's project.
Nordic cooperation also comprises a central part of its
activities. The Sami Conference in 1992 demanded that the Nordic countries
commence work on a Nordic Sami convention. In 1996 a Nordic working group
was established to research and report on the need for such a convention.
The Sami Parliaments in Norway, Sweden and Finland decided in 1996 to
collaborate through a special parliamentary council.
The Sami in a multi-cultural Norway
The Sami are now in the process of establishing a natural
position as an indigenous population in a multi-cultural Norway. However,
a number of tasks remain in connection with the enactment of
the provisions of the Sami Act, among these an adaption to
activities occurring in other areas and levels of public administration.
An integration of Sami policies, where necessary, will be important for a
long time to come. The Sami Parliament must achieve a position in the
Norwegian social system which will make it a key player, issuing the
premises for Sami social developments.
The author of this article, Wenke Brenna, has an
M.A. in history. Her thesis work concerned regional support initiatives in
the Sami areas. Since 1981 she has worked at the Ministry of Local
Government and Labour's section for Sami issues. She has also worked at
the Ministry of Agriculture's office on reindeer-herding, and was
secretary for a committee which issued an official plan for health and
social services for the Sami population in Norway (NOU 1995:6).
Act No. 56 of 12 June 1987 relating to the Sami
Parliament and other Sami legal issues (The Sami Act), Section 2-6
stipulates eligibility to vote in an election to the Sami Parliament. To
get on the electoral roll one has to declare that one:
* considers himself or herself a Sami, or
* has Sami as his/her first language, or whose father,
mother or one of whose grandparents has Sami as their first language+), or
* has a father or mother who satisfies the
above-mentioned conditions for being a Sami.
+) First language is defined as the language used at home
when growing up (mother tongue). If several languages were used, one of
these must have been Sami.
Produced by Nytt fra Norge for the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. Reproduced here with permission.