The Sami people (also Sámi or Saami) are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Sami ancestral lands are not well-defined. Their traditional languages are the Sami languages and are classified as a branch of the Uralic language family. Norway has the largest number of Sami, perhaps 30 – 50 000, many of whom live in major cities and towns and have lost command of the Sami language. Still, many Sami do traditional reindeer herding and migrate with their flocks.
2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Sami congress, held in 1917 in Trondheim where Norwegian and Swedish Sami first came together. In 1956 the Nordic Sami Council was established, and following the dissolution of the Soviet Union also the Sami of Russia joined the Sami cooperation. In 1992 the Sami Congress adopted the resolution to celebrate the Sami National Day on 6 February. The Norwegian government recognized it as a national holiday/flag day in 2003.
Celebrated all over Norway
The day is marked differently in different places. Sami week in Tromsø, for example, features reindeer racing, lasso throwing championship, a Sami market and more, while in Oslo, the carillon in Oslo City Hall plays the Sami national anthem as the Sami flag is raised. In Finnmark, the day is celebrated in schools and kindergartens during the day, followed by a church service and cultural activities, and of course Sami food.
Protecting Sami culture and rights as an indigenous people
Norway has signed and ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO Convention 169). As a result of the Sami Act of 1987, the Sami also have their own Sami Parliament (the Samediggi) elected by and amongst the Samis. And in 2006 title to approximately 95 % of the Norwegian county of Finnmark passed from the State to a separate legal entity owned by the inhabitants of the county, many of whom are Sami. The management of this property aims at enhancing Sami traditional culture, reindeer herding, use of nature and the development of the Sami community and their economy. Norway in this way is devoted to protecting and promoting the language, culture and environment of the Sami people.
For a long time the Sami were an oppressed people, with their culture in danger of dying out. Today the Norwegian Sami culture, economic and political rights stand stronger than that of most other indigenous people in the world. A vibrant cultural and political environment testifies to that. Many festivals are held annually, and Sami musicians and artists are often seen performing on major venues in Norway and abroad.