February 6, 2011

Sami National Day – Finland, Sweden, Norway

The Sami are indigenous people who live in the arctic regions of Norway, Finland, and Sweden (a little bit of Russia). Their languages and traditional way of life are endangered, and in the past this native group faced pressure to adopt the language and culture of the majority Swedish, Finnish, and Norwegian cultures. For example, the Sami languages used to be forbidden in schools, and Norway had policies that required proof of knowledge of the Norwegian language and even possession of a Norwegian name in order to buy or lease state lands.

The northern lands that the Sami have lived on for five to ten thousand years used to be called Lapland, and the Sami themselves were called Lap, Lapp, or Laplanders. These terms are considered belittling by many Sami and are used less today.

On this day in 1917, Sami from Norway and Sweden got together to form the first Sami congress. There they began to work together to solve their common problems. In 1992, the fifteenth Sami Congress decided to celebrate February 6 each year as a reminder of that first meeting. A researcher has recently discovered that Sami peoples who lived on an arctic peninsula in Russia used to meet with Russian officials on February 6 each year—something that the Norwegian and Swedish Sami hadn't known when they set up the first congress, something the later Sami hadn't known when they voted to create this national day. What a coincidence, huh?

In Norway on this day, the Sami flag is flown, city hall bells play a Sami song, and festivities take place honoring the Sami.

Here is a narrated video about reindeer herding in the land of the Sami.
Here is a video of someone's visit to the land of the Sami. 

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