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I moved to Trondheim, Norway 18 months ago and I am curious about the Sámi indigenous ethnic minority group. In English we usually use the term Lapp but now that I live in Norway I’m going to use the term Sámi.
The Sámi people traditionally live in a territory known as Sápmi, which covers the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola peninsula. Although the Sámi are divided by those formal boundaries, they continue to exist as one people and are united by cultural and linguistic bonds and a common identity.
The Sámi people are traditionally semi-nomadic and archeological sites in northern Norway from the bronze age (over 2,800 years ago) show a seasonal pattern of migration following reindeer herds (according to the history book I’m reading by Libæk and Stenersen called A History of Norway).
Tråante 2017 is a celebration marking the 100 years that have passed since the first congress for the Sámi people held in Trondheim Methodist Church in February 1917. Tråante 2017 is a jubilee for Sámi people from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The organisers intended the celebration to have a focus on democracy, justice and diversity, while giving people a better understanding about the Sámi people; their culture and history. Tråante is the southern Sámi word for Trondheim.
I was excited about the Tråante jubilee being held in Trondheim. I asked several Norwegians who live in Trondheim if they were going to attend it. Only one knew what I was talking about and he works in the cultural part of the local government. None of the others even knew the word Tråante or knew the significance of the celebration. None intended to attend any of the events associated with the jubilee. When I asked one Norwegian if she would attend any of the events she said no and asked whether I work in cultural studies, as if that’s the only reason she could conceive of why one would care. A few Norwegians (on separate occasions) told me disparagingly that the majority of Norwegian Sámi live in Oslo, insinuating that they have no ties to their original culture and that they sponge off the welfare system. That is enough reason for me to want to learn more about the history and customs of the Sámi people. Watch this space for more blog posts to come.
One Norwegian when asked if she would attend Tråante 2017 and I explained that it’s a centennial jubilee celebration of indigenous Sámi people retorted that at least Norway didn’t steal a whole generation of their children (she was obliquely referring to the Stolen Generation and Australia’s deepest shame). She knows that I’m Australian and her remark piqued my curiosity because it was out of context and felt retaliatory. What shame is she hiding? Could she feel touchy about Norway being investigated by the UN Racial Discrimination Committee for failing to treat the Sámi as equal citizens? I’ll probe that separately in another post.
I loved watching the Sámi people walking proudly around Trondheim this week in their colourful traditional clothing. The king was here and the prime minister too. I hope that it has been a successful event and that some non-Sámi Norwegians attended and enjoyed themselves.