Kulturhuset "Sajos" i Enare. Här huserar det finska Sametinget. Foto: Marie Enoksson.

The Sami Parliaments in Finland and Norway

The Sami in the Nordic region were split up when the Nordic states drew up their national borders. The Sami still experience different conditions in the three Nordic countries, and there are three Sami parliaments. Finland was the first to establish a publicly elected Sami body, which was formed in 1973. The Sami Parliament in Norway was established in 1989.

The Sami Parliament in Finland
Finland has different traditions than Sweden when it comes to minority politics. There has always been a strong Swedish minority in Finland. This minority has acquired extensive cultural autonomy, and to a certain extent territorial autonomy such as on Åland. A publicly elected body called Sámi Párlameanta or the ``Delegation for Sami Affairs'' was established as long ago as 1973, and was given the status of advisory function to the Government. It was intended to monitor the Sami people's rights, as well as their economic, social and cultural conditions. In 1996, Sámi Párlameanta was restructured to correspond to the Swedish and Norwegian Sami Parliaments, with administrative duties in relation to Sami culture and the Sami language. Sami has been an official language in some municipalities in northern Finland since 1992. The authorities in Finland are obliged to negotiate with the Parliament regarding all measures that can have a direct and specific impact on the Sami's status as an indigenous people.

In the Sami Parliament election in Finland, you vote for people, not parties. According to the constitution, the Sami enjoy genuine autonomy following a decision by the Finnish Parliament in June 1996. The constitutional protection reinforces the Sami's position as an indigenous people, with the right to preserve their language and culture. The Finnish constitution includes a paragraph stating that ``As an indigenous people, the Sami must, in accordance with that stipulated in law, be assured cultural autonomy within their home area on matters concerning their language and culture''.

However, the linguistic and cultural autonomy has to be included in the `normal' laws, which has not yet been fully achieved. The Sami Parliament has relatively few duties, and the Finnish state sets aside less money to the Parliament than Sweden.

The Finnish Sámi Parliament is housed in the Cultural Centre "Sajos' located in Inari and inaugurated in 2012.

The Sami Parliament in Norway
The majority of Sami live in Norway. It is estimated that the country has a Sami population of at least 40,000. After the stringent `Norwegianisation' policy that was conducted for almost a hundred years, Norwegian Sami politics have changed. Following the major Sami demonstrations against the development of the Alta river at the beginning of the 1980s, the Government set up an inquiry. In 1984, this inquiry put forward a proposal for a Sami Parliament.

The Norwegian Sami Parliament was established in 1989. The Norwegian state sets aside much more money for the Sami than Sweden does. Along with the cultural contributions, the appropriation to the Sami Parliament is around NOK 250 million, not including reindeer husbandry. The Sami Parliament in Norway has more than a hundred employees.

The Sami Parliament in Norway has no clear constitutional position. It is not under the control of the Government, but neither is it an independent body. According to the Norwegian constitution, the state authorities have to create conditions to ensure that the Sami people can preserve and develop their language, culture and social life. The Sami Parliament's remit covers everything that, in the Parliament's opinion, affects the Sami people in particular. In other words, they are able to define their remit themselves. The Sami Parliament's primary duty is to be a referral body.

The Norwegian Sami Parliament's building is located in Karasjok, and was inaugurated in 2000.


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