King Harald on injustice against the Sámi: “We all probably have a guilty conscience”

The king gets flowers from Olav Amund Eira and Ellen Inger Gaup, while director of the Sámi archive, Inga Marja Steinfjell, and national archivist Inga Bolstad watches. King Harald is present when State Secretary in the Ministry of Culture and Gender Equality Gry Haugsbakken transfers the document Lappekodisillen to outgoing Sámi Parliament President Aili Keskitalo and Sámi archives at Sami University College in Kautokeino on Tuesday night. Photo: Terje Bendiksby / NTB

King Harald hopes he can help rectify some of the injustice done to the Saami and Kven peoples in the past.

“There is a long story behind [the injustice]. We all probably have a pretty guilty conscience, I think,” Norway’s King Harald said to NTB.

On Wednesday, he and Crown Prince Haakon opened the ninth Saami Parliament in Karasjok. On Tuesday, the King was present when one of the Saami peoples’ most important documents, Lappekodisillen, was transferred to the Sámi archive in Kautokeino.

“This is a big day for the Saami, so it was completely natural for me to be here,” said King Harald.

The King has previously apologized to the Sámi Parliament “for the injustice the Norwegian state previously inflicted on the Saami people through a harsh Norwegianization policy.” His father, King Olav, did the same.

King Harald hopes that markings, such as the handover of Lappekodisillen, can contribute.

“It’s very nice. Perhaps it helps a little against the fact that we were quite as wise in the old days,” said the King.

Hundreds of years

‘Norwegianization,’ or fornorsking in Norwegian, is the assimilation policy pursued by Norwegian authorities towards the Sámi, and later also the Kvens and Norwegian Finns. Norwegianization began as early as the 18th century and became a pronounced policy from 1851.

The historical document Lappekodisillen from 1751 was an expression of a different way of thinking.

“Kodisillen was a child of the Enlightenment when the Sámi were considered a separate people who had the right to “future existence,” i.e., that they should not be assimilated into the Norwegian and Swedish state, as the policy would be later,” law professor Øyvind Ravna told NTB.

A shameful history

Discrimination during the Norwegianization period took place in many ways. For example, Norwegian authorities tried to force the Sámi, Kvens, and Norwegian Finns to give up their languages. From 1880, the use of Sámi languages and Finnish in teaching was banned. Speaking Sámi languages during free time was also forbidden. This instruction was not revoked until 1959.

In June of 2017, the Storting decided to establish a truth commission to investigate the consequences of the Norwegianization policy. The commission is headed by Dagfinn Høybråten.

Their report was originally due to be presented in the autumn of 2022 but was postponed until June 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Source: ©️ NTB Scanpix / #NorwayTodayTravel

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