Since 1993, the Sami National Day has been celebrated on February 6th, in recognition of the first larger ‘national’ Sami political gathering held on that day in Trondheim, Southern Norway, in 1917. Following others, the modern Sami movement has adopted the key symbols of a nation – national day, flag and national anthem, all considered major achievements for the Sami people. Interestingly, a recent tradition of the Sami national day seems to have become a public declaration by various Sami leaders that the Sami are not seeking an independent nationhood. Last year this occured at a conference on Sami self-determination held in Alta, northern Norway. It was uttered in unison by the president of the Norwegian Sami Parliament and the State Secretary of Sami Affairs in Norway and published as a big headline in the newly established Sami newspaper Ávvir. Many of us wondered, apropos of what? Nobody even talks about the Sami nation (the Sami people, yes, but not a nation). Especially politicians never dare to go there – political suicide perhaps? I guess we are happy to have our national day and flag and sing the national anthem once a year.
I will be celebrating the day with the publication of my article on Finnish Sami policy in the national newspaper Helsingin Sanomat today. (For English version, see my earlier posting on Dec. 10.) Also Virtual Finland, an English-language Finland-promotion website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did a short interview ‘On the other side of the Arctic‘ to mark the Sami national day. Lihkku beivviin, as Norwegian Sami say – a modern saying and direct translation from Norwegian. Kia kaha to my Maori friends – February 6th also happens to be the Waitangi Day in Aotearoa.