Wouldn’t it be better, if we all spoke the same language?

By Gáppe Piera Jovnna Ulla / Ulla Aikio-Puoskari

[in Finnish]
In 1992, Michael Krauss issued a warning that came to be observed worldwide. Krauss’ message was that during the next century, 90% of the languages still spoken by mankind will disappear unless there is a decisive change working towards their survival. The majority of the world’s endangered languages are indigenous languages. Languages becoming endangered means that their transition to new generations is compromised (under threat) and in many cases even lost altogether. All Sámi languages are endangered languages, according to UNESCO classification, and the Inari and Skolt Sámi spoken in Finland are severely endangered.

The activity of language communities surprised researchers

The activity of indigenous and minority linguistic communities in protecting, revitalizing and working on developing the linguistic rights of their own languages has been enormous and has become a great surprise for many researchers. In the Sámi community, the Northern Sámi language work started already in the 1960s and 70s. The conscious revival and the protection of many other Sámi languages began in the 1980s and 90s. The most effective method of revitalizing an endangered language seems to be a language nest method adopted from Aotearoa Maoris and adapted to the Sámi community, which has resulted in the growth of new generations of children with native Sámi language skills, with the Inari Sámi, which had already become almost exclusively the language of the elderly, becoming the language of instruction throughout elementary school! The Sámi community has developed dozens of different methods to ensure the transition of languages to new generations, of which there are descriptions available within my report published in 2016.

The academic counter-reaction surprised the language communities

Developing the status of indigenous’ peoples and minorities’ languages has also given rise to an academic counter-reaction that is surprising and even strange to me. Scientists questioning the development of linguistic rights most favourably consider the improvement of the status of these languages and the revitalization as an attempt to protect something that (already without assistance) belongs to the past. Why resist the inevitable and natural linguistic modernization? Why limit the lives and mobility of people belonging to minorities by staying in a language with limited access? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone to speak one language, the main language of our countries or English language? Why connect language with ethnic identity? Are the languages not just communication tools and local agreements, where the dismantling of them does not mean a profound change in people’s lives? Some theorists still consider the protection of the linguistic rights of minorities as a factor that also weakens the unity of a nation-state and creates inequality.

Does the improvement of the status of a minority language really mean resisting development and is the preservation of an original language an effort to stick to the past, in poverty and in a pre-modern way of life, as was widely believed in the 1950s?

From the point of view of the Sámi community, the strangest thing is the view in opposition to the development of linguistic rights, according to which the preservation of the minority’s indigenous/original language and the act of choosing it, e.g. as the language of education for children, is tantamount to irresponsible parenting. According to this, those preserving their minority language will mainly become happy slaves, who may indeed guarantee linguistic and cultural continuity, but are condemned economically and socially to a lower position than other groups. Minority language is thought to remain only in an isolated state, outside the rest of the world, and best in a situation where the language-speaking population remains illiterate. This criticism is exacerbated by the claim that the preservation of minority languages prevents linguistic modernization, as well as the social and occupational mobility of speakers. Minority language is thought to merely have emotional value or meanings supporting identity. Majority language is thought to be primarily instrumental in value, enabling both economic growth, social mobility and modern life. Essential in this criticism is the act of setting minority and majority languages as mutually exclusive. In any case, the preservation of the minority language—also in the bilingual situation—is considered to be a matter of being excluded from the majority language community and its interests.

The revitalisation of the Sámi languages reinvigorates the whole community

The experiences of the Sámi community regarding the importance of their own language are completely opposite to the above described experiences. The development of language-related rights has allowed the Sámi community to modernize in their own language and has not at all meant isolation into monolingualism. The development of linguistic rights has meant expanded opportunities for the use and development of indigenous languages, as well as the re-learning and transfer of a lost language to new generations. The maintenance of bilingualism and multilingualism has thus also meant an expanded labour market and mobility opportunities in the home country and even across national borders. The modern Sámi community has created new jobs e.g. to the public and to the Sámi administration, as well as to the Sámi media, public services, education and many other areas of life. Sámi language skills have become a major contributor to employment. Increasing the use of the Sámi language has thus increased the instrumental value of the language, while also showing the great importance of language for the identity and cohesion of the whole community and its members. There is also a team of researchers who are now refusing to merely report on changes in languages and linguistic communities. A large number of researchers work closely with linguistic communities to support and assist them in their language work.

The revitalisation of Sámi language revival has become the most visible goal of Sámi language work in recent decades. The revitalisation of languages reinvigorates the whole community, breaks down the traumas that have passed from generation to the other, open doors to their own history, to their own self and the Sámi people in neighbouring countries. For my part, I know that the act of re-learning a language gives a feeling of reinvigoration and a sense of becoming complete, similar to that of healing from a serious illness. Despite being endangered, the Sámi languages are still the first learned native languages, which is valuable, as well as historically speaking marvellous!

Happy Sámi National Day! Active Indigenous Languages Year 2019!

In the picture you see Ulla Aikio-Puoskari
Ulla Aikio-Puoskari

Gáppe Piera Jovnna Ulla / Ulla Aikio-Puoskari works as Secretary for Education Policy for the Sámi Parliament of Finland and is the head of the Office for Sámi education and Instruction material, https://www.samediggi.fi/toiminta/koulutus-ja-oppimateriaali/. She is also an educational policy researcher and has published comparative reports and articles on Sámi education in Finland, Sweden and Norway. A report on the best practices in Sámi language revival and national language policy in the Nordic countries, published in 2016 in Finnish and three Sámi languages can be downloaded here: https://dokumentit.solinum.fi/samediggi/?f=Dokumenttipankki%2FSelvitykset%20ja%20raportit.

Aikio-Puoskari is the responsible editor of www.oktavuohta.com, the Sámi Education Information Center.

Translated by: Razan Abou Askar

Sano se saameksi – Say it in Sámi

Say it in Saami features the first online Saami phrasebook on the Internet containing informal language, and its goal is to help the endangered languages. You can listen to the phrases in North, Inari and Skolt Saami. The website also features five short documentary films, a quick guide to Saami culture and a soundboard in North Saami.

The website and online dictionary have versions in Finnish, English and Swedish.

The Say it in Saami project began is a collaboration of Finnish documentary filmmaker Katri Koivula and Saami poet Niillas Holmberg.

Picture: from Say it in Sámi -website
illustration: Lille Santanen

Siskkáldas kritihkka váilun ja heajos digitála sajáiduvvan leat áitagat sámegirjjálašvuhtii, mii boahtte jagi deavdá 400 jagi

This article written in Northern Sámi explores and discusses the content of a recently published report A Writing Hand Reaches Further, “Čálli giehta ollá guhkás”: Report on the recommendations for the improvement of the Sámi literature field. It suggests concrete ways to improve the visibility and dynamics of the Sámi literary based on the recommendations by Johanna Domokos and other writers. The report reveals structural obstacles that prevent Sámi literature to flourish. It also sheds light on the language political and historical contexts where Sámi people produce literature.

”Go eará álbmogat hállet das, mo gávdnat girjjiid, sámebirrasis sáhka lea baicce dávjjit dat, mo girji joksá lohkki.”​

Dát Harald Gaski sitáhtta varas sámegirjjálašvuođagietti čielggadeames speadjalastá bures sihke sámegirjjálašvuođagietti hástalusaid ja dan geavatkeahtes vejolašvuođaid.

Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalus almmuhii golggotmánus 2018 viiddes čielggadeami A Writing Hand Reaches Further ”Čálli giehta ollá guhkás”: Recommendations for the improvement of the Sámi literary field, mii gokčá buot sámegielaid girjjálašvuođadiliid. Čielggadeami lea čállán ja čohkken jorgaleaddji ja girjjálašvuođadutki Johanna Domokos.

Eaŋgasgielat čielggadeami vuosttas oasis Domokos láhčá saji ságastallamii ja fállá sihke dutkandieđu ja vásáhusaid, mat sutnje muitaluvvui čielggadeami várás. Dáin vuođul son evttoha 15 ávžžuhusa buoridit sámegirjjálašvuođagietti dili. Ávžžuhusat vuođđuduvvet jearahallamiidda ovttas sámeásahusaiguin, sámečálliiguin, sámeservviiguin, jorgaleddjiiguin, girjerádjosolbmuiguin ja eará olbmuiguin, geat barget sámegirjjálašvuođagiettis. Son čállá:

”Ealli sámekultuvrii lea dehálaš, ahte sámegirjjálašvuohta ii šatta sámečállagiid musean, dahje dušše girjerájusin iežas systemain.”​

Čielggadeami nuppi oasis guorahallojuvvojit iešguđet sámegielaid čálálaš dilit. Dán bloggačállosis čalmmustahtán čielggadeami dutkandieđuid ja evttohusaid, mat sáhtášedje leat ávkin buohkaide, geaidda sámegillii čállin ja sámegielaid nannen lea váimmu ášši.

Sámegielaid čálálaš dilit guhkkin eret dásseárvosaš sajádagas: muhtun sámegielain ain váilu ortografiija, mainna čállit

Čielggadeamis gieđahallojuvvo sámegirjjálašvuođagieddi. Ieš alddes doahpaga gietti sáhttá geavahit dušše davvisámegielat girjjálašvuođa oktavuođas, danin go dat lea áidna sámegielain, mas leat girjjálašvuođagietti struktuvrrat. Bealli buot sámegillii čállon čáppagirjjálašvuođas lea čállon davvisámegillii. Davvisámegiela girjjálašvuođa dili ii oba sáhte buohtastahttit eará sámegielaid čálálaš diliide. Ovdamearkan bihtánsámegielas váilu dálá áiggi ortografiija, mainna obalohkái čállit!

Čielggadeamis čálmmustahttojuvvo čielgasit, ahte girjjálašvuođa dilli laktása giela dillái – ja politihkkii. Joshua Wilbur (Pite Sámi Literary Texts) čállá ná:

“Kánske buot ávkkáleamos livččii, jus sámedikkit Ruoŧas ja/dahje Norggas dohkkešivčče bihtánsámegiela virggálaš sámegiellan. Dat soaittášii addit vejolašvuođa dasa, ahte stáhtat juolludivčče ruđa bihtánsámegiela lohkandáiddu ovddideapmái (ja maiddái oahpaheapmái).”

Sámegielaid girjjálašvuođaid dilit eai leat dásseárvosaš sajádagas. Davvi-, julev- ja máttasámegielat čállis lea vejolašvuohta oažžut girjjis almmustahttojuvvot Norggas sámegirjelágádusas ja oažžut čálli bálkká almmuheami ovddas. Dákkár vejolašvuohta ii leat anáraš- dahje nuortalašgiela čállis, gean lohkkit eanáš orrot Suomas, gos sámegirjelágádusat eai gávdno. Nuba girjjiid almmuheapmi lea ovttaskas olbmuid ja servviid duohken, dego Anarâškielâ servvi.

Askold Bazhanov ja eará sámečállit ortografiija fáŋgan

Vel rašit dilis leat Guoládaga sámegielaid (áhkkil-, darjje-, gieldda- ja nuortalašsámegielat) sámegirjjálašvuođaid dilit. Guoládaga sámegirjjálašvuohta lea eanáš čállon ruoššagillii čállin- ja ortográfalaš váttuid geažil. Áhkkil-, darjje- ja gielddasámegielaid ortográfalaš vuođđun mearriduvvui gielddasámegiella, mii lea dagahan hástalusaid buvttadit sámegillii čállosiid Ruoššabeal Sámis. Michael Riessler (Skolt Sámi literature) čállá čeahpes ja beakkán nuortalaš čállis, Askold Bazhanovis ná:

“Son lei Notozero guovllu nuortalašgiela eatnigielat (ja čeahpes) hálli, muhto son čálii dušše ruoššagillii. Ovdal go son jámii, son čilgii, ahte sivvan lei Ruošša eiseválddiid negatiiva miellaguottut su eatnigiela hárrái. Iige son livčče sáhttán čállit gielddasámegiela ortografiijain, danin go son ii livčče gulahallan dainna. Nuppe dáfus son livččii sáhttán čállit nuortalašgiela ortografiijain, mii lei dohkkehuvvon Suomabealde, muhto politihkalaš sivaid geažil dat livčče lean veadjemeahttun dalá Sovjetlihtus.”

Sámegirjjálašvuohta čállo – feara man gillii

Bazhanova ja eará Ruošša sámečálliid galgamuššan lei ja ain dávjá lea čállit ruoššagillii – giellapolitihkalaš sivaid dihtii. Sámegielaid lassin sámečállit čállet ruoššagiela lassin dáro-, ruoŧa- ja suomagillii ja maiddái eaŋgasgillii! Nappo sámegirjjálašvuođa iešvuođaide gullá máŋggagielatvuohta. Jorgalusat gávdnojit badjelaš 40 gielaide, muhto liikká menddo unnán davviriikalaš váldogielaide, mii dagaha dan, ahte hárve sámegirji joksá dáža, ruoŧŧelačča dahje suopmelačča.

Sámegirjji meroštallin ii leatge čállosa giella, muhto baicce čálli giehta, čálli identitehtta.

Sámegillii čallin adnojuvvo alla árvvus, muhto sámegielat girjji deaddileapmi ii livčče vejolaš stáhtaid juolludan ruđaid haga, eandalii ruđaid, maid Norgga sámediggi oažžu ja juolluda ovddosguvlui. Čielggadeamis čuoččuhuvvo Norgga sámediggi dehálaš rolla sámegirjjálašvuođagietti geađgejuolgin. Sivvan lea, ahte Norgga sámediggi gokčá 100 proseantta sámegielat girjji deaddileamis, go girjelágádusat mearridit deaddilit girjji.

Siskkáldas kritihkka váilun áitagin

Čielggadeamis čalmmustahttojuvvojit konkrehta hástalusat ja áitagat sámegirjjálašvuođagieddái, ja namuhan dain moadde.

Máŋggat čállit (Domokos, Gaski, Riessler) čalmmustahttet dárbbu sámegirjjálašvuođa áigečállagii, mii guorahalašii ja árvvoštalašii sámegirjjiid. Go dákkár struktuvra váilu, ii leat mekanisma, mii árvvoštallá sisdoalu, nanne sámegirjjiid vuostáiváldima ja juogašii dieđu. Dál diehtu almmustahttojuvvon sámegirjjiin báhcá dávjá riikkarájáid siskkobeallai, vaikko sámegirjjálašvuohta čállojuvvo miehtá máilmmi.

Hástalus, mii ii guoskka dušše sámebirrasa lea, ahte sámemánát, -nuorat ja nuorra ollesolbmot leat unnán čállin ja lohkkin. Sin oktavuođa nannen girjjálašvuhtii lea okta hohpoleamos bargguin, maidda bidjat návccaid ja jurddašeami. Go Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalus ordnii 27.11.2018 ovttas Suoma sámedikkiin dilálašvuođa Anáris čielggadeami birra, ságastalaimet vugiin, mo movttiidahttit nuoraid sámegirjjálašvuhtii.

Oktan vejolašvuohtan livčče juogadit lohkandiploma daidda mánáide ja nuoraide, geat lohket dihto meriid girjjiid. Dákkár lohkandiploma lea geavahusas juo Soađegilis. Sáme Girječálliid Searvi celkkii maiddái dearvvuođaidis: sin ja Norgga sámedikki ordnen nuoraid čállingursa lea rabas buohkaide. Das lea leamašan stuorra váikkuhus Norggabeal sámenuoraid čállin- ja lohkanmoktii. Bágo čálliid siebrie Ruoŧabealde lea ealáskahttán sámegirjjálašvuođagietti beaktilit maŋimuš jagiid áigge sullasaš gurssain.

Čielggadeames Domokos maid ávžžuha lágidit Sámiráđi girjjálašvuođabálkkašumi lassin sámegirjjálašvuođa jahkásaš gilvvohallamiid iešguđet kategoriijain: oanehis bargui man beare sámegillii (man beare šáŋŋeris), sámegillii jorgaleapmái dahje sámegielas jorgaleapmái mannu eará gillii ja nuorra čálliide dahje/ja girjjiide, mat leat oaivvilduvvon nuorra lohkkiide.

Nuba vuogit nannet sámemánáid ja -nuoraid oktavuođa sámegirjjálašvuhtii livčče:

  • lohkandiplomat
  • čállingurssat
  • girjjálašvuođa bálkkašumit sierra kategoriijain

Sámegirjjiid rašes sajádat digitála birrasiin lea áitta sámegirjjálašvuhtii, maiddái sámegielaide

Sámegirjjálašvuođa sajádat lea rášit dilis eará dáiddasurggiid ektui. Sámegirjjálašvuhtii čuhcet gielalaš hástalusat: máŋggat sámit leat massán giela dahje eai leat hárjánan lohkat sámegillii dahje eai máhte čállit sámegillii. Sámegirjjálašvuođa nannen laktása nannosit sámegielaid rašes diliide. Danin sámegielat birrasiid galggašedje lasihit dohko, gos olbmot dán áigge leat: digitála birrasis. Domokos čállá:

“Dutkamušat čájehit, ahte gielain, main ii leat digitála sajádat, lea unna vejolašvuohta ceavzit.”

Son ávžžuhage bidjat searaid sámegielaid ja sámegirjjálašvuođa digitála sajáiduvvamii, mas teknihkalaš beaivádusat, applikašuvnnat, vloggat, e-girjjit, servviid ja ovttaskas čálliid neahttasiiddut, bloggat ja Instagram-lyrihkka gulahalašedje digitála áigodaga olbmo dárbbuiguin.

Anára ságastallamis loktojuvvui maid dárbu, mii veahkehivččii stuorraservodaga lágideddjiid: neahttasiidu, mas gávdnošedje dieđut ja govvabáŋku sámečálliin ja sin dáiddabuktagiin.

Girjerádjosiid ámmátolbmot fas čalmmustahttet, ahte e-girjjiid lassin sámit livčče beroštuvvan maid jietnagirjjiin ja girjjiin, mat leat čállon álkiduvvon gillii. Jietnagirjjit ja álkiduvvon gielat girjjit heivešedje máŋggáide iešguđet (sáme)joavkkuide:

  • mánáide ja boarrásot olbmuide
  • olbmuide, geain leat váttisvuođat lohkamis ja čállimis
  • sidjiide, geat leat oahpahallamin sámegiela
  • sidjiide, geat leat masssán aktiiva sámegieldáiddu

Girjerádjosiid ámmátolbmot maid čalmmustahttet, ahte sápmelaš nuorra olbmot ja nuorra ollesolbmot váillahivčče girjjiid buotlágan fáttáiguin degomat fantasiija, scifi ja rihkosvuođašáŋŋeriin. Dán nanne maiddái jearaldatdutkamuš, masa čielggadeamis čujuhuvvo:

”Norgga sámediggi čađahii jearaldatdutkamuša jagis 2016. Dan mielde nuorra lohkkit háliidivčče lohkat buotlágan girjjiid, eai dušše girjjiid, mat muitalit sámiid árbevirolaš eallimis.”​

Ávkkálaš gažaldat lea: Mo lasihit sámegirjjálašvuođa oidnoma juo dálá sámestruktuvrrain?

Anára dilálašvuođas lei ollu sáhka maid ruđas: geas lea ruhta doarjut sámegirjjálašvuođa ja geas ii. Ruđalaš dárbbuid ii ábut badjelgeahččat ja lea namalassii Davviriikkaid geatnegasvuohta fuolahit sámegirjjálašvuođagietti dilis ja boahttevuođas. Álo čovdosat eai goit gávdno ruđas, muhto baicce jurddašeami viiddideamis. Domokos ávžžuhage smiehttat vejolašvuođaid, mo lasihit sámegirjjálašvuođa oidnoma juo dálá struktuvrrain. Soames informánta evttoha čielggadeamis ná:

”Divttaid sáhtášii láktit eará kulturdáhpáhusaide, degomat Ijahis idjii dahje Skábmagovaide. – – Dat sáhtášii bohciidahttit beroštumi girjjálašvuhtii daid olbmuid gaskkas, geat muđuid eai boađáše guldalit girjjálašvuođa. Dat seammás divošii ovdagáttuid divttaid, girjjálašvuođa hárrái.”​

Dát evttohus oaččui olu doarjaga Anára ságastallamis: mo mii ieža sáhtášeimmet buktit sámegirjjálašvuođa mielde sámedáhpáhusaide, mat juo lágiduvvojit jahkásaččat?

2019 – sámegirjjálašvuođa ávvojahki lea vejolašvuohta loktet sámegirjjálašvuođa

Čielggadeamis buktojuvvo máŋgii ovdan, ahte sámegirjjálašvuođas váilojit jeavddalaš dáhpáhusat, degomat festiválat, gos čállit, jorgaleaddjit ja sin lohkkit sáhtášedje gulahallat. Harald Gaski ja David Kroik čalmmustahttiba, ahte boahtte jagi lea gollan 400 jagi vuosttas sámegielat girjji almmuheamis. ABC – ja lávlungirjjáš ilbme Ruoŧabealde jagis 1619 ja dat ledje sihke bihtán- ja máttasámegillii. Gaski evttoha:

“Ávvojagi dihtii livččii ánolaš, jus boahtte jagi sámedikkit Norggas, Ruoŧas ja Suomas bijašedje návccaid loktet sámegirjjálašvuođa máŋggabealálaččat.”

Jahki 2019 lea sámegirjjálašvuođa oaidninčiegas erenomáš jahki maid dáid sivaid geažil:

Čielggadeapmi sámegirjjálašvuođagietti dilis gullá prošektii Multilingualism and diversity as a resource in the cultural field – employment and integration through literature in the Nordic countries ja dan lea jođihan Kultuvra buohkaide -bálvalus.

Prošeakta nohká dál, muhto jus lea juoga, mo Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalus sáhttá veahkehit, doarjut dahje rávvet sámegirjjálašvuođagietti dili ovddideames – áinnas gánniha leat oktavuođas. Sámegirjjálašvuohta goit ii játta – dan jietna gullo, jus mii beare nákcet dan guldalit.


Čálli, Helga West lea bargan čavččadálvve 2018 Kultuvrra buohkaide -fitnus prošeaktakoordináhtorin. Su bargguide lea earet eará gullan čielggadeami juolgáidahttin.


A Writing Hand Reaches Further, “Čálli giehta ollá guhkás”: Report on the recommendations for the improvement of the Sámi literature field: Domokos_report

Gullá prošektii: Multilingualism and diversity as a resource in the cultural field – employment and integration through literature in the Nordic countries

Ruhtadan: Davviriikalaš ministarráđđi

Jođiha: Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalus

Čállit: Vuosttas oasi lea čállán Johanna Domokos ja nuppi oasi artihkaliid iešguđet sámegielaid diliid birra leat čállán David Kroik, Joshua Wilbur, Päivi Alanen, Lill Tove Fredriksen, Harald Gaski, Sigbjørn Skåden, Petter Morottaja, Michael Riessler ja Irene Piippola

Lassedieđut: Kultuvrra buohkaide -bálvalusa jođiheaddji Rita Paqvalén, rita.paqvalen@cultureforall.fi


Basic questions about Saaminess reveal not-so-hidden racism

Text: Petra Laiti

The question I get asked most by a mile is how being a Saami is visible in my life. In this essay I ponder why basic questions about one’s Saaminess are not only hurtful but also echoing underlying structures of Finnish society.  

The question “how you can tell if you’re a Saami” is telling in terms of figuring out where the Saami stand in Finnish society. Unfortunately, Finns know very little about the Saami, but more specifically, Finns don’t necessarily realize just how little they know. This is demonstrated particularly well when discussing racism against the Saami.

In my experience, there seem to be three key points that are difficult to make a wider Finnish audience understand. I would argue that these three points need to be understood before racism towards the Saami can be discussed properly. The points are very simple:

  • The Saami are not the same as Finns.
  • The Saami are an indigenous people.
  • The Saami are at a disadvantage in society compared to Finns.

There’s an explanation to why these points are so simple; if the only thing a person has ever learned about the Saami is through a children’s movie or a semi-offensive comic, not knowing basic facts is natural. However, ignorance will also lead to asking: “How is being Saami represented in your life?”. In the discourse surrounding the Saami identity and Saami culture, Finns will look for things they recognize in order to determine if a Saami is Saami according to what Finns understand to be Saami.

This is a central problem in Finnish society. Finns have a habit of asking the “but why?”- question, because they feel a need to understand what makes a person Saami. The question is seemingly relevant, since the right to self-determination of the Saami has not been fulfilled in Finland. Most Finns have never knowingly met a Saami, but many have seen racist imagery of the Saami, or rather, imagery of Finns portraying what they believe the Saami to be like. This can lead to a Saami having to answer questions coming from Finns, whose preconception of the Saami is racist without the Finn in question realizing that their preconception is racist.

This is not a Saami problem; it’s a problem of the Finnish society not understanding the privileged position that ignorance gives them.

I have been asked a large variety of questions like this. It can be anything from “what percentage of you is Saami” to “why don’t we just have genetic tests to determine who you people are”.  A counternarrative I often face is Finns belittling my Saaminess because I don’t “look” Saami (as if being Saami has anything to do with looks).

People don’t seem to realize that any variation of these questions is still rooted in the indoctrinated idea that it’s up to someone else to prove whether or not a person is indigenous.  When trying to discuss racism and purposeful racist comments directed towards the Saami, the same thing happens. The discussion revolves around determining whether or not the case in question is racist in terms that Finns understand to be racist.

For instance, I was harassed by a person and ended up taking my case to an authority a few years ago. I was called “dirty” and “filthy” and there were comments stating that my family “smelled” due to my ethnic background. Instead of recounting my experiences as they were, I spent a significant amount of time explaining why the harassment was racist. While the issue was resolved, I couldn’t help but wonder how it would’ve turned out had I not known how to explain the context. What if I didn’t know why the insults were hurtful, but simply knew that they were? Would the case have been resolved in my favor?

It all really depends on how much a person understands about indigenous cultures. A discussion with a Finn can be very advanced or incredibly simple, sometimes both. A person might have knowledge of the Finnish logging industry and how they try to press the Saami for a larger access to our reindeer herding grounds, but still ends up asking the question: “explain to me again, how exactly you guys are oppressed?”. So, while the Saami are required to make a legally convincing argument, we are still faced with very simple questions as well.

The entire discourse is completely missing the point of the right to self-determination. The point, the incredibly central point, is that the Saami have no obligation whatsoever to explain every root and branch of our culture in order to justify our demand to be taken seriously. A lasting solution is not that Finland suddenly starts making Saami-friendly laws, it’s that the power to govern ourselves is returned to the Saami. This is not a Saami problem; it’s a problem of the Finnish society not understanding the privileged position that ignorance gives them.

So, what does it mean to be a Saami? How does it show in my personal life? Well, one way to explain that question is to point at this text. One of the most visible examples is the amount of times I’ve had to explain that asking that question is a reminder of how much work there is still to be done.

How’s that for indigenous activism?

Petra Laiti is the chairperson of Suoma Sámi Nuorat, the Saami youth organization in Finland. Laiti works in Helsinki as the Vice President for the National Union for University Students in Finland. She is also a blogger and an activist, who regularly calls out the Finnish society for neglecting Saami voices.

Photo of Laiti: Sakari Röyskö

Less equal: Growing up Sámi in Helsinki

When I, a Finnish woman, became a mother to children from a cultural minority group, I was forced to come face-to-face with misconceptions of our well-meaning officials as well as structural racism of our society.

“It is against the constitution that your family should go out of their way to secure basic services. It is legislator’s intention that same services are equally available to all citizens regardless of ethnicity.“

-Legal advisor at The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland.

When our daughter reached her fifteenth month, she started part-time day-care in a small local public unit comprised of two loving teachers and up to twelve children. She was greeted every morning by a caring professional Sámi childminder in their mutual mother tongue, North Sámi. Day-care in her native language during those critical months of language development was essential in securing the healthy bilingual identity she holds today, as she is preparing for her new life as a pupil in the bilingual Sámi-Finnish class of a public primary school.

10 months prior, I first contacted our local chief of childcare to let her know, that my daughter would need day-care in her native language in the following year. The Sámi are entitled to day-care in their native language according to the Finnish legislation. The Helsinki childcare websites had informed me that indeed, public day-care in North Sámi is available in Helsinki. Little did I realize that I had started on a treacherous road to fight for the basic human rights of my children.

During the following six months I was repeatedly in touch with our local supervisor as well as the Helsinki regional supervisor, whose specialty is organizing services for minority groups. I was reduced to explaining and re-explaining why my children should be treated the same as other children in our region.

“No one is stopping you from being Sámi in the privacy of your own home. You and your husband may take a leave from your careers if you insist on bringing up children in the North Sámi language” they replied, when I suggested that we were not treated equally as is required by the Finnish constitution. I felt the wind being knocked out of my lungs.

I lectured to officials over and over again that my family was exactly the same as those of my friends with the exception that my children were fathered by an indigenous man, Finland’s non-Finnish tax payer. We, too, deserve the same career opportunities and public services according to the Finnish constitution. Furthermore, we were not to be equated with immigrant minorities, we were both born and raised as Finns by nationality, if not linguistically and ethnically.

“Do you suggest that my daughter is not qualified for the constitutional right to day-care in her native language which is spelled out in laws and recommendations alike?” I wondered.

“Absolutely your daughter does qualify for day-care” they replied. “No worries there, just not the extra bit.”

At the time, the city employed two native Sámi childminders in neighbouring units in the eastern suburbs. We were finally offered a place in one of these units with the subtle hint that this was a stretch and a special arrangement to be thankful for. This would have added at least two hours of commute to our daughter’s five-hour kindergarten day and would of course have required a part-time commitment from both or one of our employers, as our home and offices are in the western suburbs.

“Surely you would not complain about one-hour commute, you guys are Sámi and used to much longer distances than 15 kilometres” reasoned the regional chief. “I am not Sámi, my child is” I snapped. Thereafter I entered a ridiculous rant to justify, why 15 km in rural Lapland is not equivalent to 15 km across rush hour capital and how I do not understand why I have to explain elementary human rights to an official responsible for the execution of said rights with respect to underage citizens.

And that’s when I called the legal advisor at The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland.
“In the eyes of the legislator, your children are equal” she said.
“It is not just the law that binds the officials, it’s the intent of the legislation, which is unambiguously explained by our constitution.” she reassured.

I laughed and I cried. “I knew it!” I said. “My daughter is just as important as the next child.”

That autumn, my colleague got used to me taking a phone call in the corridor and returning to our office with tears still gleaming in my eyes. Securing Sámi day-care had become my personal odyssey by the outcome of which I measured the health of the surrounding society.

At the spring party at day-care, our now 20-month old daughter wearing her traditional solju brooch on her dress sat on cushions surrounded by her buddies. Her teacher beat the reindeer-skin drum and the group performed a yoik for us parents. Over coffee, the Finnish teachers and parents thanked the arrangement. Turned out that as our daughter was learning to speak Sámi, so were the other children at the day-care. They explained the particularities of Sámi culture and language at home to their parents, who embraced the cultural diversity without exception. We already knew then that trust between our family and the day-care officials of our hometown could not be repaired.

We wanted to upgrade to a day-care unit with linguistic isolation. Next autumn, the Máttabiegga language nest opened in Pasila. Our daughter was the first of 13 (to date) children to enroll.

Dr. Inkeri Lokki, PhD, is a Finnish mother of two Sámi children growing up in Helsinki. Her family has lived in Haaga, Helsinki since 2010 and she works as a researcher at the University of Helsinki. Her husband is a member of the Sámi parliament in Finland. Dr. Lokki embraces the Deatnu (Tana) Sámi culture of her husband and children. She considers being able to communicate to her Sámi family in their mother tongue, the North Sámi, one of her biggest accomplishments.


  • Portrait of Inkeri Lokki: Mikko Mäntyniemi
  • Featured image:  Inkeri Lokki with her daughter at Paistunturi wilderness in Midsummer 2013.  Photo: Elina Lemmetty

Maainâst muʹnne säämas, čâđđmam kâʹl fiʹttai

Text: Mari Korpimäki
Translation to Skólt Sámi: Anna-Katariina Feodoroff

Muʹst mõõni kuʹǩes äiʹǧǧ fiʹttjed, što päʹrnnpoodd taaurõõžži ääkkiʹʒʒe paaiʹǩi kõõskâst jie leämma dohat ǩilomettar, mâʹte meeʹst. Kuʹǩes äiʹǧǧ mõõni še fiʹttjed tõn, mõõn diõtt jiõm maainâst jiijjan jieʹnnǩiõl nuõrttsääʹmǩiõl.

Eččam šõddâmpäiʹǩǩ lij Savo čâđđmest Kaavi Rovevääʹrest da jeännam dommpäiʹǩǩ tââʹvv sääʹmsiidâst, Aanarjääuʹr saujjbeäʹlnn, Mustolasiidâst. Miʹjjid leäi luâđlaž, što kuäbba ääkk åʹrnn leʹjjiim, tõn mieʹldd mainstiim. Jõs leʹjjiim eeʹjj jieʹnn åʹrnn, toʹben mainstiim hääʹsǩes Savo-suõm di Mustolasiʹjdde go mõõniim di vaajtiim ǩiõl läullai teeʹmes sääʹmǩiõʹlle. Da nääiʹt juõʹǩǩ vuâra.

Kuhttu ääkk åʹrnn šiiʹliim kueʹl, hååidiim jieʹllʼjid, pooriim jiõčč rajjum veär, leiʹbbjiim, påǥstiim jiânnai da uus leʹjje pâi äävai kuõʹssid. Leʹjjiim kâskka ij ni mõõn – peʹce ââlda puuʹttes luâđ. Jiiʹjjesvääʹrrvuõtt leäi arggpeeiʹv da tuejj riʹjttji eeʹjj juõʹǩǩ peivva. Ǩieʹzz leʹjje paakkâs da peeivõõǥǥ, tääʹlv lääskav da muõtti.

Tõn leekk kopplõõzzâst leʹjjem päʹrnnpoddam nuõrrvuõđ äälǥ räjja.

Eman õõut peeiʹv jieʹllem moʹttji. Leʹjjem ååucad klaassâst Siilijääuʹr pââiškooulâst. Fiʹttjem, što vuäitčem leeʹd kueiʹtǩiõllsaž, mainsted kuhttu jieʹnnǩiõllam. Leša mainstem pâi nuuʹbb. Tõn nuuʹbb jiõm mainstam, leša fiʹttjem. Håʹt pâi čâđđminan.

Tän toʹlǩǩummuž leäi mâʹte pomm, kååʹtt vaaʹldi meädda vuâđ tõʹst, ǩii leʹjjem. Identiteeʹtt leäi kriisâst 15 – âkksiʹžžen tän tååʹsǩtaa še. Šõʹdde jiânnai kõõččmõõžž, snäätnteʹmvuõtt, õõmšummuš di vââʹjj še, go jie leämma vaʹsttõõzz. Jiõm fiʹttjam, mõõzz leäi nääiʹt, mõõn diõtt jiõm mainstam muu nuuʹbb jieʹnnǩiõl, sääʹmǩiõl. Mõʹnt muʹnne jie mättʼtam ǩiõl? Leäi-a vieʹrr muʹst? Jiõm-ǥo leämmaž nokk pueʹrr lebe jiõm-ǥo riʹjttjam?

Jiõm vuäǯǯam vaʹsttõõzzid kõõččmõõžžid.

Ääiʹj mieʹldd täi tobddmõõžži da kõõččmõõžži sâjja puäʹtte jeeʹres ravvšmummša kollʼjeei jurddi. Jiiʹjjes väjjaǥvuõtt kuuitâǥ tobddji mâʹte tollân vääimast. Leʹjjem seʹst pâi pieʹll ooumaž.

2010-lååǥǥ äälǥast leʹjjem vuõrâsooumaž, näittlõõttâm da vuäǯǯam pirrsam jiijjâd piârri. Jälstiim Heʹlssnest. Kuuitâǥ, pekkõʹttem õinn seämma aaʹššin go ääiʹjab. Ǩiõlteʹmvuõtt da pååđvuõtt väiʹvvee nuʹt čuuʹt, što äʹlǧǧem vueʹlljuurdeeʹl di mâŋŋa vuõssmõsân ooccõõttâd “muu jiiʹjjes oummi” årra – håʹt jiõm ni teâttam, što ǩeäk täk tuõđi leʹjje. Seʹlvvni, što Heʹlssnest leʹjje jeeʹres säʹmmla še, joba nuõrttsäʹmmla. Muu ooudâst aaʹlji leäʹđgtõõllâd ääiʹji mieʹlddsaž čuõvv.

Uus äʹlǧǧe ävvned õhttõstuejjummša City-Sámit rõ da Saaʹmi Nueʹtt rõ mieʹldd. Kauʹnnem jeärrsid muunallšem oummid da fiʹttješkueʹttem, što jiõm leäkku õhttu väjjaǥvuõđinam. Lie še jeärraz, ǩeäk lie mõõntam ǩiõllâz, da tõk oummu lie jiânnai. Fiʹttjem, što sij lie puk säʹmmla. Verddsažtuärjjõs vuäkka vuåǯǯum vuõssmõs vuâra vuõiggâdvuõđ tuužžâd oummuvuõđ, koon leʹjjem mõõntam. Jiijjâs vieʹrrdõõttmõõžž sâjja pueʹđi tieʹttemvuõtt, što vieʹrr ij ni leämma muu.

Kuuitaǥ ǩiõʹlle tillʼlõõvi ǩeeuʹsummuš tobddai. Mõõnni ǩieʹzz läʹddlaž koon juʹrddem čuõvtõssân, påǥsti muʹnne, što “Mii säʹmmlaid ton leäk, go ǩiõl jiõk maainâst.” Lij vaiggâd peälštõõttâd kõrmmlõõzzin koid ij vueiʹn pueʹttmen.

Nuõrttsääʹmǩiõll lij Unesco klasstõõllmõõžž mieʹldd tuõttsânji vaarrvuâlaž pâi nuʹtt 300 mainsteeʹjin. Jiõčč jiõm ni võl kullu tõõzz uʹcc ǩiõllmainsteeʹji jouʹǩǩe. Tän poodd muʹnne kuuitâǥ riʹjttai tõt, što mainstam, kulddlam da fiʹttjam sääʹmǩiõl čâđđminan. Âânam ǩiõl muu vääim jieʹnnǩiõllân.

Meeʹst säʹmmlain sätt leeʹd nårrjam šeämm da ouddkäddmõš väʹlddnarood juätkkjeei iʹlbbes kommeeʹnti vuâstta, leša dõõzz lij mäinn. Ij mij ǩiõl mõõntummuš leäkku mij jiijjâd vieʹrr, peʹce viõusâs assimilaatiopolitiikk, koon Lääʹddjânnmest vueʹǩǩâʹtte joba 1970-lååǥǥ räjja. Tuõđi päkksuddtummuš, assimilaatio, vaikkti sääʹmǩiõlid nuʹt, što sääʹmǩiõlid haaʹlee obbnes jaukkeed. Lekk lij, što tõʹst jie oʹnstam, håʹt jiânnai ǩeähn raʹjje. Ânnʼjõžääiʹj Lääʹddjânnam vuâđđlääʹjj 17 momeentteʹst lååkk paragraaff 3 momee’ntest, što säʹmmlain lij vuõiggâdvuõtt tuõʹllʼjed ja viikkâd ooudâs jiijjâd ǩiõl da kulttuur. Tõt lij šiõǥǥ vueʹlǧǧemsââʹjj, leša argg lij veâlâinn tuärrmõõžž.

Jiijjâd ǩiõl da kulttuur mõõntummuš lij nuʹt čiŋŋlõs da sokkpuõlvvõõǥǥâst nobba serddai trauma, što ni ǩeän ij õõlǥči tõn occnjõõššâd. Jõs äʹšš ij kuõskât tuu, ij-ǥa tuʹst leäkku tõõzz ni mii särnnamnalla, feʹrttai äšša kuuitâǥ siõhttlõõttâd ciʹsttjeeʹl – da kueʹđđed särnnmõõžžid jeärmmjab oummid.

Jåhtta maʹccem tââvvâst mååust Heʹlssna. Leʹjjem måttmid peeiʹvid muu jiiʹjjes oummivuiʹm sääʹmvuuʹdest, Čeʹvetjääuʹrest, Njeäʹllmest da Keväjääuʹrest. Ânnʼjõžääiʹj vuäǯǯam leeʹd muu tuej (http://www.kolttasaamelaiset.fi)  ooudâst  toʹben, koʹst čââʹđ njoikk seämma taaut mieʹldd muu meerain.

Meeʹst lij võl jiânnai tuejj tuejjeemnalla ǩiõl da kulttuur jeälltummuž ouʹdde. Resuursân lie kuuitâǥ raaj. Nuõrttsääʹmǩiõll lij Unesco klasstõõllmõõžž mieʹldd tuõttsânji vaarrvuâlaž pâi nuʹtt 300 mainsteeʹjin. Jiõčč jiõm ni võl kullu tõõzz uʹcc ǩiõllmainsteeʹji jouʹǩǩe. Tän poodd muʹnne kuuitâǥ riʹjttai tõt, što mainstam, kulddlam da fiʹttjam sääʹmǩiõl čâđđminan. Âânam ǩiõl muu vääim jieʹnnǩiõllân.

Leäm proʹsttjam jiõccsan da ouddam lååʹv leeʹd mieʹldd tõin ǩiõlin mii muu njääʹlmest piâzz, tääuʹjmõsân Savo-suõmin. Tän peeiʹv piʹrǧǧääm puârast, go muu jiõččtobdd ǩeâllai. Aʹlǩǩes čuâǥǥas tõt ij kuuitâǥ leäkku leämmaž.

Äʹjstam muu čâđđmest, što jiiʹjjes määʹtǩ âʹlnn jooʹtti ǩiõllmainsteei vuäǯǯče õõutstõõzzâs tuärjjõõzz, leʹjje sij håʹt koon pääiʹǩest sij määʹtǩest. Pâi mainsteeʹl da mieʹldd ååreeʹl mättai. Smeʹllkââttam pukid säʹmmlaid ââʹjjest huõlǩâni  mainstõõllâd kõskkneez toʹben koʹst teivva, viõʹttjed ääiʹj õhttsiʹžže da čeeʼestõõllâd seämma pååʹrdest. Da mainsted kõskkneez.

Sääʹmǩiõll jeällai kâʹl. Siõmmnai siõmmnai.

Mari Korpimäki, Gaurilooff sooǥǥâst, ǩii kåčč jiijjâs sääʹmsavoneʹǩǩen, alttii eeʹjj tuâǥårra Nuõrttsääʹmkulttuurfoond äʹššooumžen. Tuejj lij jäänmõsân ougglõstuejj Heʹlssnest, leša nuʹt õõut vuâra mannust Korpimäki jeäll foond konttrest Čeʹvetjääuʹr Sääʹmpõõrtâst. Graaflaž plaaneeʹjen tuåimmjam Korpimäki tåʹbdde še jeeʹresnallšem sääʹmkampanjain, koin vääžnʼjummuš meerlažliikkõssân tåʹbdde Lähetä postikortti Sevettijärvelle – kampanjast älggam 99930 Sevettijärvi -seiddõs Facebook-seeidast, koin pâʹrǧǧe stâânâd Koillis-Lappi aazzi vuõiggâdvuõđ jiijjâz pååʹštkääzzkõõzzid.

Photo of Mari Korpimäki: Mikko Mäntyniemi
Featured photo: Enrique Mendez
Translation to Skólt Sámi: Anna-Katariina Feodoroff

Puhu minulle koltansaamea, sydämeni ymmärtää kyllä

Mari Korpimäki

kolttasaameksi / in Skólt Sámi

Minulta meni pitkään ymmärtää, etteivät lapsuuden kavereiden mummolat olleet tuhannen kilometrin välimatkan päässä toisistaan, kuten meillä. Pitkään meni ymmärtää myös se, miksi en puhu omaa äidinkieltäni koltansaamea.

Isäni synnyinkoti on Savon sydämessä Kaavilla Rovevaarassa ja äitini kotipaikka pohjoisen kolttakylässä, Inarijärven eteläpuolella, Mustolassa. Meille oli luonnollista, että kieli vaihtui mummolan mukaan lennosta lupsakkaasta Savon murteesta pehmeästi soljuvaan koltansaameen ja takaisin.

Molemmissa mummoloissa kalastettiin, hoivattiin eläimiä, syötiin omatekoista ruokaa, leivottiin, naurettiin paljon ja pidettiin ovet auki kylästelijöille. Oltiin kaukana kaikesta, keskellä ei mitään – muuta kuin puhdasta luontoa. Omavaraisuus oli arkipäivää ja puuhaa riitti vuoden jokaiselle päivälle. Kesät olivat lämpimiä ja aurinkoisia, talvet lempeitä ja runsaslumisia.

Siinä onnen kuplassa vietin lapsuuteni teini-ikään saakka.

Kunnes eräänä päivänä elämä muuttui. Olin yhdeksännellä luokalla Siilinjärven yläasteella. Tajusin, että voisin olla kaksikielinen, puhua molempia äidinkieliäni. Mutta en puhunut kuin toista. Sitä toista en puhunut, mutta ymmärsin. Tosin vain sydämelläni.

Tämä oivallus oli kuin jysähdys, joka vei pohjan pois siltä, kuka olin. Identiteetti oli 15-vuotiaana kriisissä ilman tätäkin tuskaa. Heräsi paljon kysymyksiä, epävarmuutta, hämmennystä ja vastauksien puutteessa myös vihaa. En ymmärtänyt, miksi oli näin, miksi en puhunut toista äidinkieltäni koltansaamea. Miksi minulle ei opetettu kieltä? Oliko syy minussa? Enkö ollut tarpeeksi hyvä tai riittävä?

En saanut kysymyksiin vastauksia.

Aikaa myöten tilalle tuli muuta aikuistumiseen liittyvää pohdintaa. Oma vaillinaisuus poltti silti sielua syvältä. Olin henkisesti vain puolikas ihminen.

Kielettömyys ja juurettomuus vaivasivat niin paljon, että aloin alitajuisesti ja sittemmin tietoisesti hakeutumaan ”omieni” pariin – vaikken edes tiennyt, keitä nämä omani oikeastaan olivat.

2010-luvun alussa olin aikuinen, naimisissa ja saanut ympärilleni oman perheen. Asuimme Helsingin lähiössä. Silti kipuilin yhä samojen aiheiden kanssa kuin aiemminkin. Kielettömyys ja juurettomuus vaivasivat niin paljon, että aloin alitajuisesti ja sittemmin tietoisesti hakeutumaan ”omieni” pariin – vaikken edes tiennyt, keitä nämä omani oikeastaan olivat. Selvisi, että Helsingissä on muitakin saamelaisia, jopa kolttasaamelaisia. Tielleni alkoi välähdellä satunnaista valoa.

Ovia alkoi avautumaan yhdistystoimintaan City-Sámit ry:n ja Saa´mi Nue´tt ry:n kautta. Löysin muita kaltaisiani ja aloin ymmärtämään, etten ole vajavaisuuteni kanssa yksin. Muitakin kielensä menettäneitä on, ja heitä on paljon. Ymmärsin, että he ovat yhtä kaikki saamelaisia. Vertaistuen avulla sain ensimmäistä kertaa oikeuden surra menettämääni ihmisyyttä. Itsensä syyllistämisen tilalle tuli tietoisuus, ettei syy ollut sittenkään minun.

Silti kieleen kohdistuva kiusaaminen tuntuu. Viime kesänä sivistyneenä pitämäni suomalainen puolituttu nauroi minulle ronskisti päin naamaa, että: ”Mikäs koltta sitä sinä olet, kun et kieltä puhu.” Puun takaa tulevia iskuja vastaan on vaikea puolustautua.

Meissä saamelaisissa saattaa olla patoutunutta vihaa ja ennakkoluuloja valtaväestön jatkuvia tölväisyjä kohtaan, mutta syystäkin. Eihän kielenmenetyksemme ole omaa syytämme, vaan vallalla olleen vahvan assimilaatiopolitiikan, jota Suomessa harjoitettiin jopa 1970-luvulle saakka. Käytännössä pakkosulauttaminen, assimilaatio, vaikutti saamelaiskieliin siten, että saamen kielet haluttiin hävittää kokonaan pois. Onneksi siinä ei onnistuttu, vaikka laajaa tuhoa aiheutettiinkin. Nykyään Suomen perustuslain 17 pykälän 3 momentissa sanotaan, että saamelaisilla on oikeus ylläpitää ja kehittää omaan kieltään ja kulttuuriaan. Se on hyvä lähtökohta, mutta arki on edelleen yhtä kamppailua.

Oman kielen ja kulttuurin menettäminen on niin syvä ja sukupolvelta toiselle siirtyvä trauma, ettei sitä ole syytä kenenkään vähätellä. Jos aihe ei kosketa itseä, eikä siihen ole mitään sanomista, on asiaan silti syytä suhtautua kunnioittavasti – ja jättää sanomiset itseään viisaammille.

Palasin eilen pohjoisesta takaisin Helsinkiin. Olin joitakin päiviä taas omieni parissa koltta-alueella, eli Sevettijärvellä, Nellimissä ja Keväjärvellä. Saan nykyään viettää aikaa työni puolesta siellä, missä sydän sykkii samaan tahtiin oman kansani kanssa.

Meillä on edelleen paljon työtä ja tekemistä kulttuurin ja kielen elvyttämisen eteen. Omat voimavaramme ovat kuitenkin rajalliset. Koltansaamen kieli on Unescon luokituksen mukaan vakavasti uhanalainen vain noin 300:lla kielenpuhujallaan. Itse en edelleenkään kuulu tuohon pieneen kielenpuhujien joukkoon. Tällä hetkellä minulle kuitenkin riittää se, että puhun, kuuntelen ja ymmärrän koltansaamea sydämelläni. Pidän kieltä henkisenä äidinkielenäni.

Olen antanut itselleni anteeksi ja luvan olla mukana sillä kielellä, jota suustani pääsee, eli useimmiten Savon murteella. Tänä päivänä pärjään hyvin, sillä itsetuntoni kestää. Helppo tie se ei kuitenkaan ole ollut.

Toivon sydämestäni, että omalla matkallaan olevat kielenpuhujat saisivat yhteisönsä tuen, olivat he sitten tiellään missä vaiheessa hyvänsä. Vain puhumalla ja mukana olemalla oppii. Rohkaisen kaikenikäisiä kolttasaamelaisia tarinoimaan keskenään siellä missä tavataan, viettämään aikaa yhdessä ja saikastelemaan (eli juomaan teetä) saman pöydän ääressä. Ja puhumaan toistensa kanssa.

Koltansaame elpyy kyllä. Pikkuhiljaa.


Gauriloffin sukuun kuuluva, kolttasavolaiseksi itsensä esittelevä Mari Korpimäki aloitti vuosi sitten Kolttakulttuurisäätiön asiamiehenä. Työ on pääosin etätyötä Helsingistä käsin, mutta vie Korpimäen noin kerran kuussa säätiön toimistolle Sevettijärven Kolttatalolle. Graafisena suunnittelijanakin toiminut Korpimäki tunnetaan myös oivaltavista saamelaiskampanjoista, joista merkittävimpänä kansalaisliikkeenä tunnetaan Lähetä postikortti Sevettijärvelle -kampanjasta virinnyt 99930 Sevettijärvi -sivusto Facebookissa, jolla pyritään turvaamaan Koillis-Lapin asukkaiden oikeus omiin postipalveluihinsa.

Kuva Mari Korpimäestä: Mikko Mäntyniemi
Artikkelikuva: Enrique Mendez


Pirita Näkkäläjärvi

NRK Sápmi is taking part in undermining the value of the Sámi language because they don’t prioritise Sámi-language content more on their website. Internet plays a central role in most of our lives and it is an important domain, in which the Sámi language should be visible.”

I couldn’t agree more with Mr Mikkel Rasmus Logje, a young language connoisseur, who was interviewed by NRK Sápmi about a year ago.

I regularly complain on social media about the lack of Sámi-language internet news on the websites of NRK Sápmi and Sameradion & SVT Sápmi. Both of these Sámi arms of the national broadcasting companies in Norway and Sweden mostly write internet news in the majority languages, even when the topics would be of interest for the entire Sámi people across the borders.

I’m a Sámi politics buff.

I want to read in Sámi what is happening in the Sámi Parliaments in Norway and Sweden. I want information in Sámi on, for example, why Ms Marion Anne Knutsen was chosen as the Sámi of the Year 2016 – I know she dared to speak up about sexual abuse in the Tysfjord area in the Norwegian Sámiland, but it is hard for me to piece the story together based on Norwegian-language sources only.

Ironically, when a landmark Sámi court case concerning the right to reindeer-herding of a young Sámi reindeer-herder Mr Jovsset Ánte Sara ended up in the Norwegian Supreme court this winter, I was catered better by English-language news sources than our own Sámi-language broadcasters. I devoured the long stories put out by The New York Times, The Guardian and the Associated Press but was left hungry for more – especially in-depth stories written in Sámi and from our own, Sámi perspective.

Instead of getting analysis about the outcome on the state vs. Jovsset Ánte Sara, I heard Rihanna songs and light bantering about the upcoming visit of Father Christmas.

On the day of the verdict, knowing that the NRK Sámi website will not serve me in Sámi, I turned to the NRK Sámi Radio. After the verdict had come out, I waited one and a half hour by the radio, but instead of getting analysis about the outcome on the state vs. Jovsset Ánte Sara, I heard Rihanna songs and light bantering about the upcoming visit of Father Christmas. When the radio news finally started, the case was covered by 4–5 sentences.

In all of the cases above, luckily we have a small Sámi-language news paper Ávvir, which only publishes in Sámi. It has become practically the sole provider of Sámi-language news on the Norwegian side of Sámiland.

But why do I care so much about the news in Sámi, a marginal language on a global scale?

First, Sámi languages efficiently carry information across the borders. Building common Sámi politics to preserve the endangered indigenous Sámi culture and Sámi language becomes impossible, if for some reason information does not flow across the borders. Ironically, it is Sámi broadcasters, who now stand as an obstacle for the free flow of Sámi information in Sámi across the borders.

The Sámi languages are more international than commonly understood. Northern Sámi is a language shared by the Sámi living in three countries: Finland, Sweden and Norway. Information disseminated by Sámi-language internet news helps to build the Sámiland despite the national borders of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia, that have split the Sámiland in four.

Even the smaller Sámi languages are understood across the borders. For example, the only young adults’ radio show, Finland’s Yleisradio’s Sohkaršohkka (Sugar Shock), is co-hosted in the tiny Inari Sámi language of 300–400 speakers. However, due to the proximity of Inari Sámi to Northern Sámi, the Inari Sámi co-hostess can be understood also on the Norwegian and Swedish side of Sámiland, especially as her co-hostess speaks Northern Sámi.

News providers play an important role in establishing new words and expressions in the Sámi languages.

Second, the development of Sámi languages partly relies on news providers. News providers play an important role in establishing new words and expressions in the Sámi languages.

Officially it is the Nordic Sámi-language professional and resources center Sámi Giellagáldu, the Sámi Language Spring, that is responsible for coming up with new Sámi-language words and standardizing them across the borders in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. However, Sámi Giellagáldu needs the support of a media that regularly publishes Sámi-language news and makes the new terms visible especially online.

Without written news sources in Sámi, the development of the Sámi languages is undermined. If common terms for new phenomena (What is the tablet computer in Sámi?) are not rooted across the borders, for example the Northern Sámi language can become fragmented. Professor Jussi Ylikoski told Yle Sápmi in December 2017, that Northern Sámi may be split up into three different languages depending on the country. So heavy is the influence of the majority languages on Northern Sámi.

Finally, each language has its own way of telling things. A piece originated in a Sámi language keeps Sámi expressions, idioms and structures alive. In addition to linguistic considerations, a piece originated in Sámi also carries the Sámi worldview.

“A SÁMI-LANGUAGE POLITICAL ANALYSIS, I’m in Heaven!”, I cried on Facebook and Twitter, when NRK Sápmi published a Sámi-language commentary about the Jovsset Ánte Sara case at the beginning of year 2018.

Let’s hope for more reasons to react like this. More internet news in Sámi languages, please!


Ms Pirita Näkkäläjärvi is the Sámi of the Year 2017 and the former Head of Yle Sápmi in Finland. Currently she works as a strategy consultant. She holds an MSc Media and Communications from London School of Economics, UK and an MSc Economics from Helsinki School of Economics, Finland.

Photo:  Mikko Mäntyniemi




Snaepmie – sámegielat lanjaš viiddes vierisgielat máilmmis

Briefly in English: Published On February 6, the Saami National Day, the essay by Ánne Márjá Guttorm Graven discusses the relationship of the Saami language to the dominant language as well as practical instruments for strengthening the profile of Saami languages. She is a professional of the Northern Saami language. Guttorm Graven appreciates all the small advances that raise the status of Saami languages and wants to actively contribute to this process. The text is in Northern Saami.

“Mii fertet geavahit giela vai dat eallá ja ovdána.” Dát lea diehttelas cealkka, man leat gullan juo máŋgii. Muhto leago nu, ahte mii duođas vuoruhit sámegiela árgabeaivvisteamet? Dat leat min – giellageavaheddjiid – árgabeaivválaš válljemat, mat láhčejit giellamet boahtteáiggi.

Jáhkán dávjá lea nu, ahte sis geain ii leat sámegielmáhttu, gáddet sámegielagiid oažžut buot nuvttá beare danin, go sis lea giellamáhttu. Sámegiela vuoruheapmi goit mearkkaša dávjjimusat liigenávccaid, návccaid, maid eanetlogugielahálli ii dárbbaš oba smiehtadit. Jus háliidat telefovnnain čállit sámegillii, fertet vuos viežžat liigeprográmma, sámegielat boallobeavddi, telefovdnii ovdal sáhtát čálligoahtit sámegielbustávaiguin. Sámegiella soaitá šaddat noađđin váhnemii, guhte rahčá oččodit sámegiela skuvlii dahje mánnái, guhte gártá leat áidna sámegielaoahppi olles skuvllas dahje geasa šaddet guhkit skuvlabeaivvit sámegiela dihte.

Ii leat sápmelaččaid sivva, ahte buohkat eai leat oahppan sámegiela, danin go oassi min árbbis lea hávkaduvvon. Gal mun dieđán, ahte sidjiide lea bahča, go eai ádde man birra lea sáhka, jus soapmásat sámástit ja de báifáhkka rešket. Mun ádden sii dovdet iežaset olgguštuvvon. Mii dovdat dan bákčasa ja morraša, mii máŋgasiin lea dáruiduhttima, ruoŧaiduhttima, suomaiduhttima ja ruoššaiduhttima dihtii.

Sámásteame oktavuođas dávjá gullo, ahte sámegielagat olgguštit sin, guđet eai máhte sámegiela. Jus juoga lea dušše sámegillii – de sii hilgut earáid. Giela seailluheame hárrái dákkár miellaguoddu šaddá hástaleaddjin.

Sámegielagat ánssášit birrasa, gos besset friddja sámástit.

Mun in háliit hilgut gean ge. Mus lea baicce justa nuppelágan oaidnu: háliidan sin, guđet eai vel máhte sámegiela, áddet sámegiela riggodaga. Háliidan olbmuid oaidnit, ahte lea ovdamunni máhttit sámegiela, ja dainna lágiin ražastit oahppat ja vuoruhit sámegiela.

Lea dehálaš ásahit positiiva ja eahpeformála giellaarenaid, gos beassá stoahkat gielain, leikošit ja gos riektačállin ii leat deháleamos. Jus ferte diibmobeali rahčat gávdnan dihte rivttes gehčosa sátnái, leago imaš, jus giellamokta nohká. Lea áibbas OK, ahte muhtumin šaddá boasttogeažus sátnái, go háhppilit čálista juoga. Muhtuminhan mii meaddit, go čállit maid eanetlogu giela. Mannebat ii leat lohpi meaddit sámegillii?

Jurdagiin stoahkat gielain lean ásahan sámegielat johtti snapchat-kontu Snaepmie. Gii beare sáhttá snáppet, muhto áidna eaktun lea, ahte ferte snáppet man nu sámegillii. Ii dárbbaš máhttit riektačállima, ii dárbbaš leat eatnigielat, lea doarvái, ahte lea juoga man háliida čájehit ja muitalit – sámegillii. Okta olmmoš snáppe ain hávil vuossárggas gitta sotnabeaivái, ja de sáddejuvvo snáppa viidásat, ja muhtun eará sámegielat joatká snáppema.

Dassážii eanaš snáppejeaddjit leamašan Norgga bealde eret, muhto gal snáppen lea beroštahttán maid Ruoŧa-, Suoma- ja Ruoššabealde. Eanetlohku snáppejeddjiin leamaš davvisámegielagat, muhto maiddái julev- ja lullisámegiella lea gullon. Sámegiella ii leat dušše davvisámegiella, ja livččiige riggodat gullat eanet iešguđet sámegielaid.

Dál Snaepmies leat badjel 600 geahčči.

Snaepmiein suohttaseamos lea, go olmmoš ii goassige dieđe, gii doppe ihtá ja maid mii beassat vásihit suinna. Ovdamearkka dihte Isák-artista, Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen, čájehii vahku iežas artistaeallima árgabeaivvi. Beasaimet láhka geahččat, go son ráhkkanii konsertii, go almmuhii ođđa lávlaga ja beasaimet juoba čuovvut su ilu, go lávlla viimmat ilmmai. Oinniimet, mo son lei lávddi duohken gealdagasas ovdal loaiddasteame. Son válddii min vel mielde lávddi ala, go lávllui!

Snaepmie bokte oaččut binnánaš sámegiela njuolga njeazzái juohke beaivve. Beasat oahpásmuvvat ođđa olbmuide, gullat sin árgabeaifearániid ja sáhtát ieš válljet, goas don lávkestat dan latnjii. Sis, geat leat oahpahallamin giela, eai álo leat liigenávccat, mat dárbbašuvvojit giela oahpahaladettiin, muhto Snaepmie-máilbmái juohkehaš sáhttá lávkestit, go orru rivttes bottoš.

Snáppedettiin šaddá dihtomielalažžan iežas gielas: lea bággu smiehttat sámegillii vaikko maid de leaš bargamin. Sámegiella ii galgga leat giella, mii dušše gullo, go leat bigálusat, muhto maiddái dalle, go leat hommámin feara maid árgabeaivválaš gulaš dat sámevuhtii dahje ii. Dušše nu sáhttá sámegiella gávdnat ođđa vugiid, sániid ja dadjanvugiid dán áiggis.

Luđe snapchat-áppa telefovdnii, ja čuovvugoađe Snaepmie. Ávžžuhan váldit oktavuođa muinna, jus háliidat videoid ja govaid bokte čájehit iežat árgabeaivvi eará sápmelaččaide ja searvat rájáid rasttildeapmái.

Sámiid álbmotbeaivve ávžžuhan snáppet lihkkodearvvuođaid, mat almmuhuvvojit Snaepmies. Dalle mii muittuhuvvot, man girjái lea Sápmi. Muittuhuvvot, ahte Sápmi lea doppe, gos gullojit sámegielat.

Ánne Márjá Guttorm Graven lea lohkan sámegiela Romssa universitehtas, ja bargá jorgaleaddjin, logaldallin ja giellabargin. Son lea ásahan johtti sámegielat snapchatkontu Snaepmie, ja sámegielat podkástta Sis-Finnmárkku syndroma. Dál sáhttá su gullat maid podkásttas Manin ja danin, man NRK Sápmi buvttada.

”Dat ii leat vejolaš” – Vihtta muitalusa rájáid rasttildeames

[in English]


Olbmot, geat álget ovddidit sámegielaid sajádaga servvodagaineamet, dávjá ožžot vástádussan: ”Ášši lea dehálaš, muhto dan ii leat vejolaš čađahit.”

Doaimmaheaddjin gulan fearána dávjá. Eadnái, guhte geavaha čuđiid diimmuid ovddidettiin sámegielat árrabajásgeassima ja skuvlabálga, vástiduvvo, ahte dan ordnen ii leat vejolaš, danin go sámemánát eai gávdno doarvái. Hovdii muitaluvvo, ahte sámegielaide eai gávdno bustávat ja danin neahttaođđasiid buvttadeapmi ii lihkostuva. Rávvehagas leat fuolas, oahppágo mánná ollenge suomagiela, jus ruovttus gullo dušše sámegiella. Almmái, gii gillá alkoholismmas, muitáša ásodatskuvlaáiggi, go iežas eatnigillii ii ožžon hállat, danin go stáhta vehádatpolitihka geažil sámegillii gulahallan lei gildon skuvlaásahusain.

Oahpis lea maiddái árgabeaivválaš dovdámuš das, go ii jolge sámástit oahppásiin, jus láhkosis lea oktage, geas váilu giellamáhttu. Eanetlogu giela vuoruheapmi dáhpáhuvvá gažadatkeahttá. Multilingual Month – ja Satakieli-teemamánu áigge vihkkehallat earet eará dan, mo lea rasttildit gielaid gaskkas. Máŋgasat dain, geat leat searvan teemamánnui iežas čállosiiddisetguin, čalmmustahttet, ahte sámegielaid sajádaga ovddideapmi gáibida rájáid fanaheame, juoba daid cuvkema. Muhtumin lávki ain ovddosguvlui manná álket, muhtumin das boahtá veaddjemeahttun.

Eastagat sámegielaid nanosmahttimii leat máŋggat. Váddáseamosat dain leat struktuvrralaččat, oassin historjjálaš joatkaga, árgabeaivvi dásis fas ovttaskas olbmo miellaguoddu soaitá šaddat hehtehussan.

Go mun bivdojuvvon mielde kurateret Multilingual Month -teemamánnui vihtta sámefáddásaš čállosa, in eahpidan searvat mielde. Nu máŋgii sámejietna jávohuvvo ja navden dán buorrin dilálašvuohtan loktet bajás moadde dáin jienain.

Fáttáid válljemiidda eanemus lea váikkuhan áigeguovdilisvuohta: Maid geavatlaččat oaivvilda ”vuoigatvuohta iežas eatnigillii?” Mii lea sámegielat mediaid davviriikalaš geatnegasvuohta? Naba sáhttágo eatnigiellan navdit giela, man ii máhte aktiivvalaččat? Dáid gažaldagaid lassin čállosiin čalmmustahttojuvvojit rasismma sierra hámit, fáddá, mii dávjit ah dávjit ihtá sámegažaldagaid oktavuođas.

6.2., sámiid álbmotbeaivve, almmustahttojuvvo vuosttas čálusin Ánne Márjá Guttorm Gravena vihkkehallan sámegiela gaskavuođas eanetlohkugillii ja árgabeaivvi vugiin nannet sámegielaid profiilla. Son lea máŋggabealát giellabargi. Guttorm Graven illuda buot dain smávva lávkkážiin, mat nannejit sámegielaid árvvu ja dán proseassas son iešge háliida leat mielde.

26.2. almmustahttojuvvo Pirita Näkkäläjärvi čálus sámegielat neahttaođasdoaimma mearkkašumis sámegielaid sátnevuorkái, giela struktuvrii, dadjanvugiide – daidda giela iešvuođaide, mat dollet giela eallin. Näkkäläjärvis, ovddeš Yle Sámi hoavdan, lea persovnnalaš vásáhus fáttás sihke čavga višuvdna áššis.

5.3. almmustahttojuvvo čálus, mas Mari Korpimäki smiehtada giela mearkkašumi iežas identitehttii dakkár dilis, go giellamáhttu ii leat aktiivvalaš. Liikká oktavuohta gillii sáhttá leat lágaš ja ráhkis. Korpimäki lea šaddan dovddusin hutkás sámekampaniijain, main dovdduseamosin lea Lähetä postikortti Sevettijärvelle (sám. Sádde poastakoartta Čeavetjávrái), mii bohciidahtii 99930 Sevettijärvi -siidduid Facebookas.

12.3. almmustahttojuvvo Inkeri Lokki čálus bálgás oažžut sámemánáidasas sámegielat árrabajásgeassima sihke skuvlabálga oaivegávpotguovllus. Lokki čalmmustahttá eahpedoaivvu dovdámušaid ovttasbarggus eiseválddiiguin ovddidettiin Helssega sámemánáid vuoigatvuođa eatnigielat giellabálgái. Lokki oaččui fámu iežas riekteáddejumis, man mielde su sámemánáin galggašii leat dat seamma vuoigatvuohta, man son suopmelažžan lei ožžon: vuoigatvuođa gazzat oahpu iežas eatnigillii.

19.3. almmustahttojuvvo maŋimuš sámečálus, guokte beaivve ovdal riikkaidgaskasaš rasismmavuostásaš beaivvi. Čállosiinnis Petra Laiti vihkkehallá máŋggagielatvuođa ja rasismma oktavuođa, fáttá, masa son speadjalastá iežas vásáhusaid. Njuovžilis Laiti ii jaskkot, go son fáhtte birrasisttis miellaguottuid, mat dulbmet sámiid.

”Dat ii leat vejolaš” -vástádus lea oahpis dáidda čálliide. Sii eai leat dasa duhtan. Máŋggat sis leat hástalan eiseválddiid ja ovttaskas olbmuid nearvvaid, go leat ovddidan áššiid, mat eai galgan leat vejolaččat. Muhtumat sávve sin oalát jaskkodit ja heaitit. Dávjá dákkár reakšuvnnat baicce deattuhit, ahte soames lea mearkkašahtti ulbmiliin jođus.

Čállingiellan leat davvisáme-, nuortalaš-, suoma- dahje eaŋgalasgiella. Sávan dát čállosat čájehit binnáš dan máŋggagielat árgaeallima, man siste sámit ellet beroškeahttá das, gos sii orrot.

Sávan dát čállosat čalmmustahttet čihkosis leahkki miellaguottuid, mat doibmet hehtehussan sámegielaid friddja ja rabas geavaheapmái.




Biennáš-Jon Jovnna Piera Helga lea freelance-doaimmaheaddji, guhte lea eret Ohcejoga Deanuleagis, Savvonis. Son orru bearrašiinnis Helssegis, gos eallá njealjegielat árgaeallima. Gielaid máilbmi, olbmot sihke čállin geasuhit su. West lea teologa. Su davvisámegielat diktačoakkáldat Gádden muohttaga vielgadin almmustahttojuvvo giđđat 2018.

*Govvideaddji Mikko Mäntyniemi lea govven West, Näkkäläjärvi, Korpimäki, Lokki sihke Laiti dáid čállosiid várás.

“This Can’t Be Done” – Five Stories Of Breaking the Saami Ceiling



People who embark on advancing the position of Saami languages in our society often face a reaction along the lines of  ”what you propose is important, but it can’t be done”.

As a journalist, I hear this story often. A mother who spends countless hours to secure Saami-language pre-school and elementary education for her Saami kids in the capital city area is told that it is impossible to organise this due to the small number of Saami kids. A head of news is told that there are no fonts available for Saami languages and that online news cannot be produced in these languages. In a maternity clinic a mother is asked, worryingly, how the child will learn Finnish if the only language that he hears at home is Saami. An alcoholic recalls his days at the residential school where one could not speak the mother tongue, because speaking in Saami was prohibited due to the state’s policies towards its minorities.

We also know about the everyday feeling that it is not polite to speak Saami with a Saami-language acquaintance if there is even a single person around who does not know the language. The fallback to the dominant language in such situations often goes without any questioning. During the Multilingual Month and Satakieli theme month we explore, among else, the experience of operating between different languages. Many authors of Saami-themed texts highlight how an unusually big leap has been taken to improve the position of Saami languages. Sometimes this step is easy to take, at other times insurmountable.

Can one consider a language a mother tongue when one speaks it only with one’s heart?

There are many obstacles to the blossoming of Saami languages. The hardest obstacles are structural, some have historical roots and are often related to the attitudes of individuals.

When I was asked to curate the five Saami-themed essays for the Multilingual Month, I did not hesitate for a moment. So many Saami stories have been untold and I saw this as an excellent opportunity to draw attention to some of them.

My choice of topics has been guided by their topicality. What does ”the right to mother tongue” mean in practice? What is the responsibility of Saami-language media towards Saami languages? Can one consider a language a mother tongue when one does speak it only with one’s heart? In addition to these issues the essays discuss expressions of racism, a subject that is increasingly often raised in the Saami context.

Content of the blog series

On February 6, the Saami National Day, the first essay by Ánne Márjá Guttorm Graven will be published, discussing the relationship of the Saami language to the dominant language as well as practical instruments for strengthening the profile of Saami languages. She is a professional of the Northern Saami language. Guttorm Graven appreciates all the small advances that raise the status of Saami languages and wants to actively contribute to this process.

On February 26 we will publish the essay by Pirita Näkkäläjärvi about the significance of Saami-language online news and its impact on Saami vocabulary, structure and expressions – i.e., everything that keeps the language vibrant. As a former chief of Yle Sápmi, Näkkäläjärvi has personal experiences and a precise vision on this subject.

The text to be published on March 5 by Mari Korpimäki, who identifies herself as a Skolt Savonian, discusses the meaning of language for one’s identity in a situation where the language is not actively practiced. Despite this, the relationship to the language can be affectionate and close. Korpimäki is known for her insightful Saami campaigns, of which the most significant is the civic campaign “Send a postcard to Sevettijärvi” which has led to the 99930 Sevettijärvi website.

On March 12 we will publish the essay by Inkeri Lokki about the struggle to secure Saami-language pre-school education as well as schooling for her kids in the capital city area. Lokki describes the baffling moments when interacting with officials, while promoting the rights of Helsinki’s Saami to education in mother tongue. Lokki has been guided by a sense of justice to ensure that her Saami children would have the same right that she has been able to enjoy as a Finn – the right to study in one’s mother tongue.

On March 19, two days before the international day against racism, the last essay in this series will be published. In it, Petra Laiti talks about the relationship between multilingualism and racism – a topic about which she has many personal insights. The articulate Laiti who is also known as the Chair of the Finnish Saami Youth Organization, does not remain silent when facing discriminating situations towards the Saami.

The response ”This can’t be done” is familiar to all of these authors. They have not accepted this answer. Some of them have tested the nerves of officials and fellow citizens while advancing something that was supposed to be impossible. In the process, some of them have been asked to fall silent or have faced wishes that they would stop their pursuits. Often precisely such reactions reveal the necessity of their work.

These essays will be published in Northern Saami, Skolt Saami, Finnish or English. I hope that they will shed light on the multilingual reality that the Saami experience irrespectively of where they live.

I hope that the essays will reveal hidden attitudes and stories that prevent a full blossoming of Saami languages.


Helga West, originally from the Teno river valley of Utsjoki, is a freelance journalist. She lives with her family in Helsinki, in a daily quatrilingual environment. She is fascinated by language phenomena, stories of people and writing. She is a theologian by training. Her Northern Saami debut poetry book Gádden muohttaga vielgadin (“I Thought Snow Being White”) will be published in spring 2018.


* Mikko Mäntyniemi has taken photos of West, Näkkäläjärvi, Korpimäki, Lokki and Laiti for this series.

Translation from Finnish to English: Oliver Loode



Litteraturcentrum Uppsala

Litteraturcentrum Uppsala  is a collaboration of Studiefrämjandet, Kultur i länet, Kulturrådet, Uppsala city, Uppsala regional library and Svenska Pen. Its aim is to support local reading and writing and the regional literary field including a multilingual context. The centre is based in Uppsala, and it is a part of the culture plan of the Uppsala region.

The people involved in the activities of Litteraturcentrum Uppsala use at least the following languages: Swedish, Sami, Arabic, Bengali, Dari, French, German, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Wolof, Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian, Spanish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Estonian, Kokborok, Beluch, English, Tamil, Georgian, Turkish etc.


Anisur Rahman, the project leader for LItteraturcentrum Uppsala describes the work:

“We are interested in both the artistic and social effects of literature. We work locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, and have established productive partnerships with several organizations, including literary organizations, local theatres and schools. Our centre is now a platform for both professional and amateur writers in diverse mother languages. It is a meeting point for native, foreign, immigrant and exiled writers. We publish more than a hundred writers a year in our literary anthology from our creative writing workshops every year. We host more than a hundred literary events a year.

Our centre in Uppsala together with Litteraturcentrum in Tranås, Litteratur resurscentrum in Norbotten and similar project in Jämtland-Harjedalen is now Sweden’s international literary checkpoint where we have growing network and exchange with different continents. All are welcome on board to read and write in diverse languages in defense of free word and free thought.”

Anisur RahmanAnisur Rahman is Uppsala’s guest writer 2009–2011 in the ICORN system and currently project leader for Litteraturcentrum Uppsala, Studiefräjandet Uppsalaregion, http://www.litteraturcentrum.se/

Sivuvalo – Is This Finnish Literature?

Sivuvalo project is a creative platform for writers who write in other than the two national languages in Finland. It offers information about transnational writers, edits publications and organizes multimedia poetry readings, workshops and other artistic collaborations.

The coordinator of the project is Peruvian poet Roxana Crisólogo and the producer of “Mutant Language” multimedia poetry evenings  is Mexican poet and designer Daniel Malpica.

Sivuvalo´s website also includes a wide link list of writers who write in different languages in Finland.
Among them there are writers who write in Arabic, Burmese, English, Icelandic, Kurdish, Persian, Russian, Northern Sámi, Somali and Spanish.


Multilingual Library, Helsinki, Finland

The Multilingual Library is located in Pasila Library, Helsinki and its collections cover over 80 languages. Customers living outside of Helsinki can order all materials to their local libraries around Finland.

The Multilingual library also hosts a blog about current topics related to literature and multilingualism. The blog has blogs in English and occasionally in other languages, e.g. in Somali, Persian and Arabic.

Customers who cannot find their own language among the language collection can suggest items to add to the collection.

In the book collection you find books at least in the following languages:

Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Basque, Bengali, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Bulgarian, Burmese, Byelorussian, Catalan,  Chinese,  Czech, Danish, Dari, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Faroese, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek,  Greenlandic, Gujarati,  Hebrew,  Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Karelian, Khmer, Komi, Korean, Kurdish, Latin, Latvian, Lingala, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Mari, Nepalese, Norwegian, Pashto, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romani, Romanian, Russian, Sanskrit, Sámi, Sign language, Slovakian, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamili, Tatar, Telugu,  Thai, Tigrinya,  Turkish,  Ukrainian,  Urdu, Vietnamese and Yiddish

The mother languages of the permanent staff at Pasila Library, which is the physical location of Multilingual Library, include Finnish, Swedish, English, Russian, Estonian and Somali.



Reading by listening – a Nordic collaboration produces talking books in Arabic and Sámi

In the Nordic countries, the need for talking books in other languages than European languages has increased during the last few years. Due to the amount of refugees coming to the Nordic countries, a cooperation concerning the production of talking books in Arabic and Sámi languages started in 2015. The involved libraries are Celia in Finland, Nota in Denmark, NLB in Norway, Hljodbokasafn in Iceland and MTM in Sweden. They are all focused in accesible literature and publishing. 25 talking books in Arabic and 6 in Sámi will be produced in this project by spring 2017. 

According to Statistics for the Northern Countries, we anticipate that up to 20% of the population in each country have a foreign background.  Approx. 6-8 % of the total population in the Nordic countries have some kind of reading impairment. This indicates that a large group of the population with a foreign background need accessible media. Many refugees  coming to the Nordic Countries have Arabic as their native language.

These facts made it clear that we would have to find ways to increase the production of talking books in other languages than the national languages and English. The idea to cooperate with the other Nordic libraries was discussed among the libraries and was soon decided upon.

After analysing the demand for foreign language we decided that the project should focus on producing Arabic titles. This resulted in an agreement to produce a total of 25 talking books in Arabic, both for adults and children, by spring 2017. The great advantage of this project, besides satisfying the users´ needs of these titles, is that the libraries share the cost of production. Each library will produce 5 titles and will gain 25 titles. 

In addition to the Arabic titles we will also produce 6 new titles in the Northern Sámi Language. Sámi is a minority language and it is important that we contribute in making Sámi titles available for persons with print disabilities.

Our experience is that it is both nice and intellectually stimulating to be able to read the same book in different languages.  

MTM (Swedish Agency for Accessible Media), Nota (the Danish Library and Expertise Center for people with print disabilities) and NLB (Norsk lyd- og blindeskriftbibliotek) are also part of the TIGAR-service. The TIGAR service (Trusted Intermediary Global Accessible Resources),  makes it easier for participating institutions to search internationally for books in accessible formats, and to exchange them across national borders. It currently contains titles in accessible formats in some 55 languages. Participation in TIGAR is free of charge; there is no membership fee or financial contribution required from a participating institution or end-user.

TIGAR is a part of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC). The ABC aims to increase the number of books worldwide in accessible formats – such as braille and audio – and to make them available to people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. The ABC is a multi-stakeholder partnership, comprising World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO; organizations that serve people with print disabilities; and publishers and authors.

Written by Junko Söderman and Kristina Passad from MTM, Swedish Agency for Accessible Media and Kari Kummeneje from NLB, Norsk lyd- og blindeskriftbibliotek. Other participants in the project have been Eeva Paunonen,  Eva Hellén, Tove Elisabeth Berg, and Hafthor Ragnarsson.