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The Sami Movement in Norway: ideology and practice 1900-1940



by Regnor Jernsletten


(Concluding chapter)


This book stems from the MA thesis I presented at the University of Tromsø in 1986. When I began work on this in 1984, my intention was to focus on the discussion of Sami social affairs generally prior to 1940. It soon became clear, however, that it was necessary to limit the topic. I therefore decided to concentrate on the politicisation of the Sami. The existence of written sources made this easier to handle than the broader social picture for which sources were limited.

In order to delineate different aspects of Sami politicisation it was necessary to focus on two separate geographical areas: that of the Northern Sami with its heartland in Finnmark, and that of the Southern Sami stretching (in Norway) from Helgeland, through the counties of Trøndelag and into the northern part of Hedmark; and (in Sweden) into the counties of Västerbotten, Jämtland and the northern tip of Kopparberg. My emphasis, so far as the Southern Sami are concerned has been on developments in Norway, even though certain organizational aspects can be traced across the border.

The background to Sami politicisation is dealt with in Chapter 1. Crucial here, from shortly after the start of the twentieth century, are the different circumstances of the Northern and Southern Sami. For whereas in northern Troms and Finnmark the government's assimilation (Norweganisation) policy was the central issue, in the south, it was the threat to reindeer herding brought about by agricultural expansion. The early years of the Sami movement in Finnmark are examined in Chapters 3 and 4. Working nationally, the movement managed to get Isak Saba (himself a Sami) elected to parliament (Storting) for the constituency of East Finnmark for two periods covering the years 1906-1912. The platform on which he stood is examined exhaustively in Chapter 4, whilst the reasons for his success at the polls are discussed in Chapter 3.

In Chapter 5 I look at the establishment of Sami associations in the southern areas, on both the Norwegian and Swedish sides of the border. A central feature of the presentation here is how the associations became, in effect, lobbies for the reindeer herders, even though they had set out to work for Sami interests generally. Through this comparison of developments in the north and south, it is possible to find reasons for the way the Sami movement evolved. Chapters 2-5 take the story up to 1913, after which the movement stagnated for some years.

During a brief period, 1917-21, of hectic activity, the Northern and Southern Sami movements attempted to present a united front, drawing on the contacts made in earlier years. National organizations were set up, both in Norway and Sweden and links between the two were fostered at national conferences in 1917 and 1918.

Chapter 6 deals with the events of these years. These attempts at unification ran into the sand. The years 1921-1927 saw a down turn in activity ( a matter dealt with in Chapter 7) although the Sami again tried to get their representatives elected to parliament from both Finnmark and Nordland. The Sami movement's demands and proposals for reform in the years 1915-1940 are covered in Chapter 8. What was the message and can we trace any links with the period before 1915? Chapter 9 discusses the issues as to why the Sami movement virtually disappeared in the 1920s, and whether disintegration was so complete that, in later years, the Sami political movement must, in effect, start all over again. A summing up appears in Chapter 10.

The Chronology

The Sami began to organise themselves around 1900 in both their northern and southern heartlands. The Sami of Sweden's Västerbotten even managed to set up a national organization for a short period. Its structure was quite advanced, with local associations, a newspaper and a national body. That it was so up-to-date arose from the fact that some of the Sami had made contacts in liberal political circles in Stockholm. These helped them to present their demands to the government authorities. And they also got support in the form of training in organizational work.

The Southern Sami in Sweden

In both Norway and Sweden the Southern Sami areas had long been under pressure from the surrounding non-Sami farming community. In Sweden the latter reached its greatest geographical extent towards the end of the nineteenth century. This brought the reindeer herders and the agriculturalists into economic conflict. The Swedish authorities had already in the mid-nineteenth century drawn a border that was to form the dividing line between agricultural land and reindeer pastures. But in the eyes of the Sami it was only their interests that were closed off, with Swedish farmers still being permitted to settle on the best lands above the supposed demarcation line. These economic conflicts underlay the setting up of the Sami Central Council in 1904.

This Council's work soon ran into the buffers. However one or two of the first Sami bodies appear to have continued on the quiet until the movement as a whole reawakened. But this time the inspiration came from kinsmen in Norway.

The Norwegian Sami had tried to further their interests on two fronts. First, shortly after the turn of the century, the Northern Sami sought to create a national revival along the lines of that Norwegians had experienced in the last decade of the nineteenth century and which had led to Norway's secession from Sweden in 1905. Second, the Southern Sami followed in the footsteps of their Swedish kin and began to campaign for the economic interests of the reindeer herders.

The Southern Sami in Norway

The Southern Sami in Norway began to organise themselves a few years after the Sami in Sweden. The basis of the two bodies was the same, namely the problems encountered by the reindeer herders vis-à-vis the agriculturalists. Those who took the initiative had contacts amongst the Swedish Sami and knew of the organizational work being carried out in Sweden. From 1910, the Southern Sami had their own newspaper, Waren Sardne. It served as a link between the Sami associations. During the years 1910 and 1911, there were two Sami newspapers in Norway: Waren Sardne and Sagai Muittalægje. From this point on, the Northern and Southern Sami can be reckoned to be in contact with each other. Waren Sardne ceased publication in 1913 and the associations fell silent. The next initiative was to come from a group of women in Helgeland, the most northerly part of the area occupied by the Southern Sami in Norway.

The Northern Sami

A national movement of Sami people was started in Finnmark around the turn of the century. At its heart was the newspaper Sagai Muittalægje (1904-1911). The most important success of this movement was its alliance with Norwegian socialists which led to the election to Parliament of the Sami, Isak Saba. He was to sit in Parliament from 1906 to 1912.

There had been an attempt to rouse the Sami politically in the 1870s, but it had come to nothing. The aim had been to raise the educational level of the Sami. Through the newspaper Muitalægje, Christian Andreassen and Peder Larsen Uhcci sought to encourage Sami youth to seek after book knowledge. Through this they would become better acquainted with the world outside the local community. This in turn would lead to the Sami becoming more involved in public affairs. Thus they would begin to influence their own situation.

Conditions in 1870s were not such as to bring this to a fruitful conclusion. However schooling gradually spread in Sami areas too. This was a necessary condition for the national movement. We must assume that the thought of entering political life was as alien to the Sami as it was to Norwegians generally. The democratisation of the political institutions around the turn of the century was another necessary condition for what was to follow. With the extension of the franchise and the reform of the ballot (1905), the prospects for the majority to exert political influence were much improved. The Sami movement arose around the same time as the Labour Party entered Parliament. Its first representatives also came from North Norway. The Sami movement in the north was a national one. The strong measures taken by the authorities to destroy the Sami's sense of nationhood was an important reason for this. The Norwegianisation policy sought to get both the Sami and the Kven (the Finnish speaking minority in Norway) to relinquish their language and culture. The Sami movement in the north arose as a reaction against this. Ironically the Sami activists sought inspiration from the Norwegian nationalist movement which had led to the Liberal Party (Venstre) becoming a political force. Individual activists such as Isak Saba had in fact been part of the youth movement that, ideologically speaking, was close to the Liberals. In that way the Norwegian nationalist movement provided arguments for Sami militancy just at the same time as the Liberals were tightening their Norwegianisation policy and so creating a situation against which the Sami activists could unite their people.

The Sami movement in the north first took hold in the fjord areas of Finnmark and North Troms. That it did so can also help us explain its demise (see pp.6ff). For it was here that the Sami first made contact with Norwegian society. The municipalities of Inner Finnmark were to a great extent shielded from this. I would argue, therefore, that if new political ideas were to take hold amongst the Sami, they would do so in the fjord districts. For it was there that society was undergoing the most rapid change, creating the need for new political institutions. The working methods of modern politics were best known there, and contact with Norwegian society's oppressive language policy at its most intense.

Saba was, as noted already, elected to Parliament (Storting) in 1906, the result of an alliance between the socialists and the Sami activists. The latter's newspaper, Sagai Muittalægje folded in 1911, and this contributed to Saba not been re-elected in 1912. Moreover, as time passed, opposition to Saba took on a more racist character. However the most important reasons for his defeat at the polls had nothing to do with the Sami issue. Rather it stemmed from inter-community rivalries and the rapid growth of the mining community in South Varanger. Here support for the socialists had been strong in the two previous elections. But growing internal divisions led to a fall in the turnout at the election and, as a result, the socialists lost votes in the East Finnmark Rural District. As a high proportion of those entitled to vote were in South Varanger this played a decisive role in Saba's electoral defeat in 1912.

This marked the end of the first phase. it was to take some years before the Northern Sami managed to get on their feet again. This time, however, a formal organization was created.

The great congresses

During the second phase of Sami mobilisation (1917-1921) a series of major congresses were held. The first Sami national congress took place in Trondheim in 1917. This proved to be a source of inspiration for both the Swedish Sami and those of North Norway. It initiated cooperation between the Southern Sami of Norway and Sweden, and between the Northern and Southern Sami in Norway, an expression of which was the appearance of Sami delegations from Sweden at the congresses in Trondheim in 1917 and 1921, and from Norway at the congress in Östersund in 1918. Contact between the Northern and Southern Sami in Norway was evidenced by the appearance of a few Sami from the north at the national congress in 1917. One Sami only from the north attended the 1921 meeting in Trondheim. More numerous were the Sami from Helgeland who travelled north to the meetings arranged by the Sami Central Council (Sámi Sentralsearvi) between 1919 and 1921.

The Sami Central Council was intended to be an umbrella organization for local associations, a national body. But in fact it never became more than a joint organization for the Northern Sami. When the Sami tried to set up a major meeting in Tromsø in 1921, the organization collapsed. There were problems in getting the Sami together to attend meetings, little local support (with the exception of two groups) and internal difficulties within the organization itself. Sami activists were, in short, not prepared for prolonged activity in adverse conditions.

The Sami movement in Southern Norway was even more loosely organised than that in the north. Apart from the Sami associations in Helgeland and the women's association in Røros, the organization itself began and ended with the meetings that were held.

The authorities refused to accept the demands made by the Sami movement, north or south. To that extent the work was ineffective. This took its toll. Government officials exerted such a strong influence at the congresses organised by the Southern Sami that it was virtually impossible to raise a Sami resistance movement against the authorities on such a basis. Opposition to the authorities' policies on reindeer herding were undoubtedly voiced at the congresses, but there was no opportunity to conduct an uninterrupted debate on political strategy.

Waren Sardne: a rallying point

The setback of 1921 in both the north and the south was followed by new efforts to get things going again. Waren Sardne appeared between 1922 and 1927. There was a certain amount of activity in Ofoten (north Nordland) especially around the time of parliamentary elections. Contact between Waren Sardne, on the one hand, and the Ofoten Sami Association, on the other was the most important feature of the organised Sami movement in Norway during the 1920s. Henrik Kvandahl from Ofoten continued to maintain contact with the Southern Sami on reindeer herding issues also after Waren Sardne ceased publication in 1927.

The Sami Movement disintegrates

Lars Danielsen, editor of Waren Sardne and Henrik Kvandhal from Ofoten, made a tour of Finnmark in 1925. Here they met veteran Sami activists. This resulted in a greater body of Sami opinion becoming acquainted with Per Fokstad's initiative as to the way forward for Sami education. Fokstad's educational plans were, however those of one individual only. But they were promoted through various channels: the Labour Party's manifesto for the parliamentary election of 1924: an article in the New Norwegian language journal Norsk Aarbok in 1923; and in a proposition sent to Parliament's Education Committee by the Deatnu/Tana Sami Association in 1923/24.

For the most part Kvandahl and Danielsen in 1925 were obliged to do little more than mull over old memories with the Sami activists in Finnmark. When the Sami Central Council disbanded in 1921, a new venture, the newspaper Samealbmug, was launched in connection with the parliamentary election of 1921 in Finnmark. The Sami candidates got little support. So ended the last major attempt in the political arena on the part of the Sami movement. The local associations which still existed in the north, appear to have disappeared in the mid-1920s.

Silence

So far as the Sami movement in Norway was concerned, the years 1925-1945 are characterised by the fact that it was no longer to be seen on the political stage. No doubt some discussions continued in private, especially within the reindeer herding interests in the south of Norway. Such discussions in Finnmark were, however, of a very limited nature. Political activity amongst the Sami was confined to the traditional party and electoral system. Here the Sami conducted themselves as Norwegian citizens, without pressing specifically Sami demands as they had done through the Sami movement. In addition the Sami of Deatnu/Tana set up an agricultural association: a kind of political activity that excluded ethnicity as a political issue. On the cultural front one bastion remained, the Christian newspaper Nuorttanaste (1898-) which stuck to the Sami language as its medium of communication. Otherwise the Sami language was relegated to private matters.

Researchers have come up with three explanations for the absence of Sami organizational life:

1 Per Otnes (1970) believed the most important reason was to be found in the State's divide and rule policy towards the Sami movement. The authorities controlled what happened in the movement by being present at the major meetings and by working against the demands emanating from them.

I am of the opinion that Otnes exaggerates the civil servants' ability to influence the Sami demands, they were too recurrent for that. However by their very presence at the meetings, the civil servants did restrict the ability of the Sami to debate their political strategy in peace. This can but have had a markedly disturbing effect on the movement's organizational development.

2 Otnes also believes that the Sami leaders were far too naive in their dealings with the state's representatives. They allowed themselves to be all too easily led when it came, for instance, to the choice of issues to be discussed. According to Otnes they were also naive in their belief that their demands would be met. Nor were they prepared for lengthy political activity. And they didn't prepare their supporters either for a long and unrewarding fight.

As against this, I believe the Sami were being quite realistic in eschewing a confrontational policy and choosing, instead, to inform and appeal to the authorities. The Sami movement had no power to support their demands so that their policy of enlightening and informing was well suited to the circumstances. Otnes is possibly right, however, in suggesting that the Sami leaders were too optimistic in believing that their demands would be met, and that they were not prepared for a campaign lasting many decades.

3 Henry Minde (1980) believed that both these explanations are sufficient to explain the demise of the Southern Sami organizations, but not that of the movement in Finnmark. Instead he stresses the socio-economic background. After the First World War, the traditional economy of the Sami in Finnmark was in terminal decline, with those in the fjord districts hardest hit. State officials told the Sami that their economic advancement depended on their giving up their Sami culture and becoming Norwegians. The authorities introduced economic measures designed to alleviate the situation but these were not aimed specifically at the Sami. Thus the economic and social policies of the Labour Party took on a relevance for them.

I agree with this analysis. The crisis of the inter-war years had besides such enormous consequences for the personal economic situation of the Sami leadership that it proved difficult to maintain an organization that stretched over such a vast geographical area. People could not afford to take part. More important, however, was the fact that the Northern Sami movement did not manage, or wish, to formulate a social policy. Instead it directed its attention towards the authorities' policy of cultural Norwegianisation, but failed to get any of its demands met. When it appeared that the Norwegianisation policy was to be tightened even further, both the central Sami leadership and the vast majority of Sami found it more appropriate to side with the Labour Party and its economic policy.

The strategies

I define the Sami movement as that part of the Sami people who supported the demand for autonomy: the right to exist as an independent cultural and social entity. It does not necessarily involve a demand for an independent political unit such as a state.

Basing myself on the model of political activity by minorities which Edmund Dahlström (1971) has put forward, I anticipate that ethnic minorities will also demand that they should enjoy the normal civil rights guaranteed by international law. This demand has for its object an end to all discrimination. It was to be expected that the Sami would seek an end to all discrimination and repressive segregationism, whilst at the same time seeking a positive discrimination on the part of the authorities.

I shall in this section look at conditions in the North, especially in Finnmark. It was here that the Sami had the most opportunities. Because there were so many of them they could hope to influence the political scene through the electoral system. The Southern Sami had more limited possibilities because there were so few of them.

The policy of internal colonization included positive measures to strengthen Norwegian settlement in the north of the country, whilst at the same time taking restrictive measures against the 'foreign nationalities'. The Sami movement had, therefore, grounds for directing their demands at the authorities for both ethnic and civil rights. If they laid most weight on the demand for non-discrimination, it would be relatively easy to collaborate with the political institutions within the Norwegian ethnic group, such as parties and special interest groups. If, on the other hand, they chose to push their ethnic demands in cooperation with Norwegian political institutions, they must find allies who were willing to accept that the Sami demands were justified.

I believe the Sami were faced with three possible strategies: the ethnopolitical the party political and the complementary.

The ethnopolitical strategy involves a policy based on the demand for autonomy. It is in fact more a matter of setting goals than a practical strategy. In its purest from it involves organizing on an ethnic basis, putting forward ethnic demands through ethnic organizations or parties.

The party political strategy assumes that Sami interests will be best served by choosing to work within a Norwegian political party. This strategy presupposes that the Sami do not have vital, special interests that cannot be pursued through such a party.

Through the complementary strategy, the Sami seek to further their specifically Sami demands in cooperation with Norwegian political parties. Two possible grounds for choosing this strategy may lie in either strategic or organizational considerations.

The party political strategy must be regarded as in competition with the Sami movement in the period I have examined. To the extent that supporters of the Sami movement went into party politics, they did so either because, like Isak Saba, they saw the possibility of an alliance (i.e. the complementary strategy), or because like Per Forstad in the late twenties and thirties, they saw no real alternative to political participation. It was impossible to pursue the ethnopolitical line in Finnmark throughout the twenties because it didn't produce results. The Labour Party's crisis policy was an alternative for several of the Sami activists, when the Sami cultural policy no longer had supporters who were willing to bear the personal costs which Sami political activity entailed.

Some Sami activists had little faith in the ability or willingness of the Norwegian parties to further the Sami's collective demands. Such opinions were published in Samealbmug before the election of 1921 in Finnmark. The Ofoten Sami association experienced the same fate after the 1921 election in Nordland where they had cooperated with the Liberal (Venstre) Party. Locally, in Finnmark, the Labour Party proved to be the only one of the major parties willing to support Sami demands in an electoral context. Centrally, however, the Labour Party's attitude to Sami demands was, at best, one of indifference.

If we look at how the Sami activists behaved in different contexts, then the conclusion must be that within the Sami movement the choice of strategy was determined by the situation. It is difficult to separate out groups who stuck to but one strategy.

The Sami movement

I shall now direct my attention at programme making within the Sami movement. And, in contrast to earlier sections I shall treat the movement in the whole of Norway as one.

A declared aim of the movement was that it should protect the interests of all Sami. But the leadership found it difficult to do so. The demands of the Southern Sami reindeer herders were confined to them. Neither the Southern Sami who lived in permanent settlements nor the Northern reindeer herders had the same interests. It would appear that the cultural demands of the Northern Sami provided the greatest opportunity for a common programme. But it was really only the Sami in Finnmark, especially in the fjord districts, who to some extent supported the programme, as they were under the greatest pressure from the authorities.

In point of fact it was the reindeer herders amongst the Southern Sami who stuck by the collective demands longest. They were already organized into legally binding areas of reindeer pasture. The disappearance of the Sami associations didn't have such a great impact in the south as it did in the north. The demands of the Southern Sami reindeer herders could be seen as economic in nature, but because, for them, reindeer herding was clearly identified as a Sami business, and a cultural aspect of Sami life, it is quite proper to include such demands within the overall Sami demand for collective rights.

A distributory policy perspective on a cultural problem

Parliament's Education Committee believed in 1926 that the purpose of the school should continue to be the assimilation of the Sami. The pedagogic goals of Per Fokstad, the Sami teacher - ? - were seen as isolationism, a withdrawal from the mainstream of human, social and national progress. This simplification of the argument was a common feature of the Norwegianization policy and as early as 1904-1912 both Anders Larsen and Isak Saba had taken exception to it. In a society where education was becoming more and more important, the Norwegianization policy had implications for the allocation of resources. As on the whole the Sami were the least well educated they were at the back of the queue when it came to competition for the benefits society could confer. Supporters of Norwegianization argued that their policies would bring advantages to the Sami in the future, when they had become Norwegian. The Sami leaders were not prepared to accept such a discounting of their current demands in favour of uncertain benefits in the future. They wanted their rights now, so that their own children could get their fair share of society's benefits of both a material and non-material kind.

Per Fokstad warned against having a cultural policy separate from an economic one. In 1923 he put it this way: 'When we are no longer recognized as a nation, we shall sink down to being a depressed proletariat under the Norwegians'. In 1950 he wrote of a form of oppression that worked through belittlement. `... Belittling ... can have this purpose: ... 2. To make the Sami unsure of themselves, so they will be easier to control'. This was not the first time such thoughts had been put forward by Sami. Elsa Laula Renberg argued in the campaign journal _Inför lif eller död?_ (1904) that Sami who were assimilated into the Swedish farming population would end up at the bottom of the social scale.

The demand for equality

The Sami movement laid great stress on presenting their demands as a claim for a formal equality of treatment of both Sami and Norwegians. The demands were put forward in both economic and cultural matters. In claiming equality of treatment, the Sami movement was making what today we would describe as a demand for an equality of outcome. Even prior to 1940 the movement had put forward the demand that the Sami should have the same life chances as Norwegians. Per Fokstad, through his educational schemes, went furthest of all in claiming an equality of outcome. The Sami should not be forced to master another culture before they got their share of society's benefits. Fokstad too was the first to demand that the Sami should have the right to occupy official posts in Sami areas. Isak Saba, even before Fokstad, had argued in favour of Sami being teachers, but this was essentially a demand that the schools should function pedagogically in Sami areas. It would appear that in the 1920s, Fokstad believed that the Sami should have the right to share in the administration of society. The movement had also claimed the right to participate in the political system by, for example, allocating the Sami seats in Parliament. An argument often used on behalf of the right to share in the direction of society was that the Sami contributed to public expenditure as taxpayers.

The demand for autonomy

Given this background it is less interesting to discuss whether or not the Sami movement was influenced by Social Darwinistic ideas. Very often they were. But in spite of Social Darwinism, the Sami leaders formulated a set of demands that were directed at preventing the demise of Sami culture. At bottom this self-contradictory position was due to the fact that the Sami leadership had to accept the conventional wisdom current at the time, if they were to have any hope of realizing their aims. They must, as it were, argue on the basis of the authorities' terms. That the Sami leadership was aware of the currently accepted ideology was about as far as the impact of Social Darwinism on them went. By their actions they demonstrated that they did not live by what they had learned.

The Sami movement's demand for autonomy - that the Sami language and culture should continue to exist - stemmed from a belief in enlightenment. The Sami leaders thought that if they could enlighten Norwegian society about the Sami, then discrimination and inequitable treatment would be less widespread. In addition they believed that if the Sami got an education they would be in a position to use the institutions of society to protect their interests.

Most of the Sami in Finnmark had little interest in education and schooling. What the schools had to offer was little relevance to their lives and was regarded as useless. The Læstadian sect put forward arguments rejecting these modern social institutions. The cultural conservatism of the Sami ran counter to the programme of the Sami movement. It had, therefore, to put a lot of effort into motivating Sami youth to get an education.

The schooling problem was important for the Sami movement in both the north and the south. For the Southern Sami it was important that they should have schools that taught Sami children things that were of use in reindeer herding. And both the Northern and Southern Sami based their demands on an understanding that if the Sami were to keep up with the competition for society's benefits, then Sami culture must develop in the same way as Norwegian, through democratization and the possibilities that education offered.

Further comments

Here, towards the end, I shall point up some results of my work that I have not commented upon earlier. Before 1986, what we knew of the Sami movement's early history was confined to some scattered references in essays on other issues and in articles on organizational history. The picture presented by the latter must now be changed somewhat.

The most important change that I can point to is that no permanent Sami associations were set up in Finnmark in 1911, as had previously been arrested in the literature. It is true that attempts were made, but they were unsuccessful. Not until 1919 do we find Sami associations in the Northern Sami areas. An umbrella organization - the Sami Central Council - also existed at this time. Little attention has been paid to it in the literature.

Neither was it the case that there were Sami associations in the Southern Sami area after 1913, apart from in Helgeland and the women's association in Røros. The Sami movement channelled its activities in other ways.

My history of the organization reveals that there were relatively good contracts between the different Sami groups; between the Northern and Southern Sami after 1910; and between the Southern Sami in Norway and Sweden after 1917.

My analysis of the programme making has revealed a clear difference between what the Northern Sami and the Southern Sami emphasized in their demands to the authorities. The Southern Sami's focus on reindeer herding and the Northern Sami's opposition to linguistic Norwegianization, were maintained throughout the whole period from 1900-1940.

This analysis of programme making was helped by comparing it with that of the Sami movement in Sweden. Policy towards the minorities was different in the two countries. The Norwegian literature in the area points out that the minorities' policy in Sweden was one of segregation. On the basis of contemporary Sami assessment of the policy I would rather call it Janus-faced. Rather than speaking of a 'lapp-shall-be-lapp' policy, I would rather draw attention to the twin categorization the policy lent itself to. So far as the reindeer herders were concerned the policy was one of repressive segregation. As for the other Sami groups it was a policy of assimilation.

The Norwegian policy of assimilation is, for its part, well known.

There are grounds for believing that the harsher political climate in Norway, so far as the minorities were concerned, made the Sami movement's task more difficult there than in Sweden. The latter's segregation policy provided openings for the state support of the newspaper Samefolkets Egen Tidning which began to appear in 1918, and which is still published as Samefolket. Norwegian support for Sami meetings was more selective. It is, therefore, worth noting that even if the Swedish Sami also had great difficulties in keeping their organizations alive, several of their local associations have had a continuous existence since 1917/8, with some, in fact, going back to 1904/5. In Norway there is possibly only one local association with such a long period of uninterrupted activity.

Because I have focused on the Sami movement, such as I have defined it, it is clear that other tasks remain in the study of Sami political history. An obvious one would be a more detailed examination of the ordinary political activity in Sami areas, perhaps especially in Finnmark, to see what the role of the Sami was here. This would be a study of the party political strategy (see above).

The Sami political inheritance

Many of the demands voiced by the Sami movement before 1940 are still relevant even if Sami culture and business are now in receipt of public funds. The debate on Sami educational policy builds upon many of the principles of Fokstad's plans for the curriculum, and the arguments used are very much the same.

On the other hand, the Sami organizations in the course of the post-war years have created a basis on which Sami language and culture can be a living alternative to the Norwegian monoculture. Even if the attempts before 1940 gave poor results, they form a part of this history of Sami influence. An historical awareness has always been a feature of the Sami movement, especially on the issue of rights.

Translated by Michael Drake.


Published in: Regnor Jernsletten: Samebevegelsen i Norge. Idé og strategi 1940-1940. Skriftserie nr. 6.
Sámi dutkamiid guovddáš - Senter for samiske studier, Universitetet i Tromsø 1998. ISSN 0804-6093.




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