Sami jubilation for a ‘truth commission’

sami lappland artdrum from fryningsfjellet copper and brass decoration Photo: jan roger østby / sametinget

Sami jubilation after majority for a ‘truth commission’ on assimilation

The Norwegian Association of Lapps (Norske Samers Riksforbund) says it is a victory for the Sami community that the parliamentary majority now goes on to scrutinize the forced assimilation (fornorsking) of Sami and the Kven.


On Wednesday evening it was made clear that Labour’s parliamentary group unanimously supports SV’s proposal to establish a truth commission. The commision is to investigate the assimilation policy that the Sami and the Kven were subjected to from the mid-nineteenth century and for more than 100 years.

Hurray! This is really good news and a victory for the Sami community. We prioritize this work on the Sámi Parliament because we as people have a great need to map the resentment and the consequences of it so that we can move on, says Henrik Olsen, MP of the Sami Council (Norwegian Sami Association).

Everybody except the Government parties

Thanks to everyone in the Sami community that has stood up and highlighted the need for a commission. Thanks also to SV who took the ball we passed to them and pushed the case through Parliament.

– Last week, we raised the matter as a matter of urgency in the Sámi Parliament – To send a clear message from the Sami community. Now, the job will be to ensure that the mandate is correct and that sufficient resources are applied, says Olsen.

The Christian Democrats, Liberals, The Greens and Centre Party all support the proposal, while the Progress Party says no to a review. The Conservatives have not yet decided on the matter. Labour representative, Martin Kolberg, confirms to NRK that they will support the proposal.


Kolberg believes a commission is necessary.

– This should have been dealt with for a long time. Through the treatment it has become clear that we need to gather the documentation of historical facts, to retrieve more historical facts and to see what lessons we need to draw from it, he says.

The case will be considered in the Control and Constitution Committee. It will deliver its recommendation on June 13. The proposal will be dealt with by Parliament in plenary on June 20.

Seek the truth for reconciliation

– The Truth Commission shall not dole out guilt, but seek truth. To bring truth to the light is the essence of the reconciliation, according to Kirsti Bergstø (SV). She made the statement to Vårt Land when the proposal was launched in January.

According to the proposal, a truth commission will study the consequences of the assimilation policy in the Sami areas, which lasted for more than 100 years.

– One should review the abuse and injustice that the Sami people have been subject to. A generation got its language knocked out of their body. The next generation lost the language due to concealment. Therefore it is clear that this is important, Bergstø says.

 Facts about the forced assimilation of Sami and the Kven

  • Fornorsking is the term used about the assimilation policy that the Norwegian authorities used on the Sami and later also the Kven from around the mid-nineteenth century and for over a hundred years.
  • Sami and women were discriminated against in many ways, and the Norwegian authorities tried to force the Sami and the Kven to abandon their languages. From 1880, it was no longer allowed to use Sami or Finnish languages in Nordland, Troms and along the coast of Western Finnmark, and it was forbidden to speak Sami during recess. This was not repealed until 1959.
  • In 1997, HM Harald V, as the first, lamented the Norwegianization policy on behalf of Norwegian authorities.
  • In 2014, the matter of a truth commission on the forced assimilation of Sami and Kven in Norway was proposed to the Sámi Parliament by the Árja party. In January 2017, SV presented a proposal for such a commission in Parliament.
  • In May 2017, the Parliament’s Control and Constitutional Committee held an open hearing on the need for a Truth Commission.
  • June 7, 2017 it became clear that there is a majority to create a commission, after Labour’s parliamentary group unanimously supported the proposal. KrF, Sp, Venstre and MDG also support the proposal. FrP has voted against, while Høyre has not yet decided on the matter.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today


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