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Book Reflections – The Sámi People; A Handbook by John Trygve Solbakk 

I’ve wanted to learn about the Sámi people of Norway and this book provided all of the information about the history that I wished to know. It starts in the prehistory, and goes through Sámi traditions and lifestyle then conversion to Christianity and colonisation by southern ethnic majority Norwegians, the clashes between Sámi minority and Norwegian ethnic majority and the balance that has now been achieved. It’s a thorough book. It doesn’t seem to be biased. I didn’t read the whole book but I recommend it to anyone who needs in-depth insights into the Sámi people in the 4 Nordic countries (including the Kola Peninsula, Russia).

In 1865 all Sámi villagers in one village in Finnmark signed a petition defending themselves against encroachment of their lands by southern ethnic majority Norwegians stating:

The original inhabitants of the land against their oppressors, to be able to continue the enjoyment of their well-acquired, centuries-old lands and rights

Despite this being a unanimous testimony of the entire community they lost the case and a precedent was set to reject Sámi land claims. The Norwegians increasingly claimed Sámi lands and used alcohol to destabilize the Sámi communities. School teachers taught exclusively in Norwegian language as a deliberate government policy and it wasn’t until 1959 that Sámi was accepted as a teaching language. 

In 2001 the Norwegian and Swedish national broadcasting companies began televising 10 minutes of news programs in Sámi language each week day. In 2003 it increased to 15 minutes. There are now also Sámi language newspapers. 

As an aside, the first Norwegian Sámi to receive a higher education was Anders Porsanger and the book contains a copy of a letter he wrote in Trondheim  (where we now live) in 1767. The book also includes a photo of the first Sámi National Congress held in Trondheim in 1917. It was the centenary celebration of that meeting that was marked by the Tråante gathering in Trondheim in February this year. 

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This entry was posted on April 1, 2017 by in Books & Ideas and tagged , , , , , , .
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