Never before has the Sami National Day been so broadly trumpeted as it will be when the Centenary of the first Sami Congress is celebrated throughout the country on Monday.
The first Sami Congress took place in Trondheim from the 6th to 9th of February, 1917. It was a milestone for the Sami in Norway, and 75 years later, the 6th of February was instituted as the Sami National Day.
The reason that as many as 150 delegates gathered at the Trondheim United Methodist Church was 50 years of gruelling ‘Norwegianisation’ policy for Norway’s ‘indigenous’ people.
‘Sami language could not be used in schools except in a ‘very extreme emergency,’ as it was called.
Reindeer herding was also under pressure from advancing agriculture throughout the country, especially in Southern Sami areas. 15 years earlier, the Norwegian Parliament had introduced a ban on selling land to ‘non-Norwegian speakers’, said historian and former Sami politician, Steinar Pedersen, to NTB news agency.
The Sami national meeting in Trondheim also gathered Nordic delegates together, giving an instant new impetus to the same movement, and was followed by several smaller congresses until 1921.
According to Pedersen, the Congress in 1917 was an important starting point for Sami organisational work, and a symbol of the Sami gathering to present their case as one people for the first time.
‘By this magnitude, the meeting in Trondheim was a one-off. Oppositional forces in society were so strong that they were turned down. Norwegianization policy continued unabated, and decades passed before Sami organization again began gaining momentum’, said Pedersen.
In 2003, February the 6th became official flag day in Norway, and according to Steinar Pedersen, that has suited the ideas behind the 1917 Trondheim
‘February 6th is marked more widely year by year, and not just by the Sami. It has become representative of the distance they have travelled toward reaching what they were looking for in 1917, namely equality between Sami and Norwegian culture. Although much remains to be done on giving people greater knowledge of the Sami side of history’, said Pedersen.
The main celebration of the 100th anniversary will be in Trondheim and last a whole week. Official Norway will be well represented, with both King Harald and Prime Minister Erna Solberg attending. Sami Parliamentary President, Vibeke Larsen, will hold the opening speech.
Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today