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The Sami of Norway

By Wenke Brenna

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 objective factors.

Sami Language

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 Sami society.

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 societies.

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 travels.

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 goods.

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 territoriality.

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 grazing lands.

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 this connection.

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 cultural equality.

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.

Sami organizations

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 impact.

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 politics.

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 from 1873-75.

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 economic issues.

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 initiatives.

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 northern counties.

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 society.

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.

Reindeer industry

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 established.

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 Language Act.

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 regulations.

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 independent countries.

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 county.

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 Committee's report.

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.

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.