THE VIABILITY OF THE FORTHCOMING NORWEGIAN SÅMI PARLIAMENT: AN ASSESSMENT. Ingrid Schild. Wolfson College - PDF

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THE VIABILITY OF THE FORTHCOMING NORWEGIAN SÅMI PARLIAMENT: AN ASSESSMENT Ingrid Schild Wolfson College This thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the M. Phil, in Polar Studies

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THE VIABILITY OF THE FORTHCOMING NORWEGIAN SÅMI PARLIAMENT: AN ASSESSMENT Ingrid Schild Wolfson College This thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the M. Phil, in Polar Studies at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge June 1989 D E C L A R A T I O N In accordance with University of Cambridge regulations, I do hereby declare that: this thesis represents my own original work and conforms to accepted standards of citation in those instances in which I have availed myself of the work of others; this thesis is not now being submitted nor has been submitted in the past for any other degree, diploma or similar qualification at any other institute; this thesis is greater than 10,000 words without exceeding the maximum allowable length of 20,000 words, excluding footnotes, tables, appendices and bibliography. Ingrid Schild Wolfson College Cambridge June 1989 II ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am indebted to a number of individuals, without whose assistance the preparation of this thesis would have been a much more arduous task. I would like to thank the staff, visiting scholars and students of the Scott Polar Research Institute whose enthusiasm provides a stimulating work environment. Special mention must be made of my supervisor, Piers Vitebsky, whose guidance and assistance proved invaluable, and of Ericka Engelstad for reading sections of my work and providing helpful suggestions. I am also grateful to Priscilla Renouf and to Mark Nuttall for their assist ance. I owe my thanks to Pat Little for typing this thesis, and to Rosmary Graham who assisted with the word processing. Finally, I thank my parents without whose moral and financial support this thesis would never have materialized. Ill C O N T E N T S page Declaration Acknowledgements Contents List of maps, photographs and figures II Ill IV VI Abstract 1 Introduction i Objectives 2 ii) The Sémi people 3 iii) A note on the concept of ethnicity.. 8 Chapter 1 The post-war Sémi movement in Norway The Alta-Kautokeino hydro-electric project as an ethnopolitical catalyst 25 3 The Sami Rights Commission 3. 1 The origins of the Sémi Rights Commission and its mandate The Government - creating the Sami Parliament as a response 40 4 The Sami Parliament and the management of Sami ethnic identity 4. 1 The structure and function of the Sémi Parliament: a point of contention between the Sami organizations Reindeer pastoralism as a central idiom of Sémi identity Other symbols of ethnicity among the Sami 65 IV 5 A final analysis: the prospects for the viability of the Såmi Parliament 5.1 Three versions of what could conceivably constitute success The Finnish Sami Parliament: an example of a parliament's limitations? The key issue of representation in Norway 89 Glossary 93 References List 95 V List of maps, photographs and figures Figure page 1 Map. The Sémi settlement area and dialect regions 4 2 Map. Finnmark county, administrative units 11 3 Map. Sémi constituencies 46 4 Photograph. The Sémi school; learning how to dismember a reindeer carcass 70 5 Photograph. Reindeer pastoralists 70 6 The Sami flag as adopted by the Nordic Såmi Council in Photographs. Extracts from a montage by the Sémi artist Iver Joks, Seek harmony with nature a The 'stage' of our times 77 b The claim of the sacrificial altar 78 VI ABSTRACT In 1987, the Norwegian Government passed the Sémi Law, which expressly protected the interests of' the Norwegian Sami as an ethnic group and provided for the establishment of the Norwegian Sami Parliament, a representative body to be elected by and among the Norwegian Sémi. This body will replace the current Norwegian Sami Council. Although the reform reflects Government response to Sémi demands for greater ethnic self-determination, the Sémi Parliament can, as yet, only act in an advisory capacity. The passage of the Sémi Law has exacerbated the division between Sémi ethnopolitical factions, as reflected in the polarization of the three Norwegian Sémi organizations vis-å-vis ethnic self-determination. The Sémi organizations project different versions of a Sémi ethnic identity as shown in the way they manipulate ethnic symbols. These differences in approach towards ethnic identity management reflect differing experiences of Norwegian/Sémi relations. Thus the essence of a Sami ethnic identity is no longer straightforward, owing to codifications of Sémi ethnicity imposed from without. This has implications for the viability of the Sami Parliament: its credibility depends on it being representative of the Sémi population in general. Since decisive powers have not, as yet, been conferred upon the Sémi Parliament, its symbolic significance will, at least at the outset, be paramount. In light of these considerations, the Sémi Parliament may be unsuccessful in gaining the support of that sector of the Sémi population which experiences a Sémi ethnic identity as problematic. ABSTRACT In 1967, the Norwegian Government passed the Sémi Law, which expressly protected the interests of the Norwegian Sémi as an ethnic group and provided for the establishment of the Norwegian Såmi Parliament, a representative body to be elected by and among the Norwegian Såmi..This body will replace the current Norwegian Såmi Council. Although the reform reflects Government response to Såmi demands for greater ethnic self-determination, the Sémi Parliament can, as yet, only act in an advisory capacity. The passage of the Sémi Law has exacerbated the division between Såmi ethnopolitical factions, as reflected in the polarization of the three Norwegian Såmi organizations vis-å-vis ethnic self-determination. The Såmi organizations project different versions of a Såmi ethnic identity as shown in the way they manipulate ethnic symbols. These differences in approach towards ethnic identity management reflect differing experiences of Norwegian/Såmi relations. Thus the essence of a Sémi ethnic identity is no longer straightforward, owing to codifications of Sémi ethnicity imposed from without. This has implications for the viability of the Såmi Parliament: its credibility depends on it being representative of the Såmi population in general. Since decisive powers have not, as yet, been conferred upon the Sémi Parliament, its symbolic significance will, at least at the outset, be paramount. In light of these considerations, the Såmi Parliament may be unsuccessful in gaining the support of that sector of the Såmi population which experiences a Såmi ethnic identity as problematic. INTRODUCTION i) Objectives In the autumn of 1989, the Norwegian -Sémi, an indigenous ethnic minority, will for the first time elect representatives to their own ethnic body, the Norwegian Sémi Parliament. In many respects, the event represents a victory for the Norwegian Såmi, marking as it does, a move away from State guardianship and encapsulation, towards a situation whereby the status of the Såmi as an ethnic group is to be determined by the Såmi themselves. For the purposes of this thesis, the viability of the Såmi Parliament is to be assessed in the light of two interrelated factors: its structure and its degree of popular support. In accordance with this my main objective is to discuss how ethnic self-identification is no longer a straightforward process for the Såmi, owing to imposed colonial encounters (Paine 1985). I shall examine the implications this problem has for support for the Parliament, which by its very nature depends on being a representative body. I shall begin by reviewing the ethnopolitical events that led up to the establishment of the Såmi Parliament. These events should not be seen as isolated incidents in Norway, but as just one expression of an increase in ethnic self-awareness among the Såmi in general, and among indigenous ethnic minority groups worldwide. Subsequently, I shall examine how both external and internal factors forced the Norwegian Government to respond positively to the ethnopolitical demands of the Såmi. Government reforms 2 provoked a mixed response among the Sémi, and I shall demonstrate how the various responses are reflected in the way different Såmi groups view their ethnicity, and attempt to manage it accordingly. Finally, I pose the question of whether a single ethnic body can accommodate the different Såmi ideologies reflected in different approaches to identity management whilst retaining its credibility. The geographical bias of my analysis towards Finnmark, and more especially inland Finnmark reflects my personal experiences, as I taught for a year in the inland Såmi community of Kåråéjohka. I speak Norwegian but not Såmi. A brief note is in order on some linguistic points. Whereas I use the term Såmi Parliament in headings, English connotations of the word Parliament preclude me from using the word in the body of the text, since the Såmi Parliament has at present no legislative or decisive powers. Thus I refer to it by the Scandinavian term, Sémithing. The 'core' area of Norwegian Såmiland is made up of the two municipalities of Kšrššjoga gielda and Guovdageainnu suohkan. The main community within each of these respective administrative units is Kårééjohka and Guovdageaidnu. I use this Såmi orthography to replace the Norwegian Karasjok and Kautokeino. ii) The Såmi people The Såmi are said to be the autochthonous people of Scandinavia. The present-day area of Såmi settlement covers a large area from the Kola peninsula in the north-east, stretching across the county of Lappi in northern Finland, that of Finnmark in Norway, and extending down into the counties of Troms, Nordland and 3 Figure 1 The Sami Settlement Area - Dialect Regions 9. Ter from Beach, H p.3 Trondelag in Norway and those of Norrbotten, Västerbotten and Jämtland in Sweden (Figure 1). There are no exact statistics as to the number of Sémi. Estimates range from 30,000 (Nesheim 1979 p. 7) to a rather optimistic 300,000 (Siuruainen and Aikio 1977 p. 11) although the figures most often quoted lie between 30,000 and 60,000. More than anything, the confusion surrounding these demographic statistics stems from the difficulty of defining who is Sémi. The problem becomes a matter of concern when a definition is required for political reasons, such as with the establishment of the Norwegian Såmithing. Ruong (1982) gives the national Såmi populations as 40,000 in Norway, 15,000 in Sweden, 4000 in Finland and 1500 to 2000 in the Soviet Union (p.9). Much has been written about the origins of the Såmi, and many theories postulated. They have been variously placed with the Samoyeds, the Finns and the mongoloid race (Beach 1988) but as some authors point out, perhaps the correct question to ask is not where the Sémi came from, but when they originated as an ethnic group with a Såmi identity Hatta 1979; Beach 1988). The important aspect to this question is that the Såmi have occupied their Scandinavian settlement areas since pre-historic times, before the Scandinavian States had defined their boundaries. Central to Såmi identity and culture is the Såmi language, which although on the decline in the South Såmi area, is very much alive in the core Såmi settlement area. Såmi belongs to the Finno- Ugric language group, a branch of the Uralic family. The best known related languages are some Baltic languages including Finnish, and 5 Hungarian. Other related languages are those spoken in some eastern and northern parts of Russia and north-western Siberia (Nesheim 1979). The Sémi language is divided into a number of dialects (Figure 1) which can be broadly classified into South Sami, North Såmi and East Såmi. The dialects are not necessarily mutually intelligible; a North Såmi speaker cannot generally understand the South Såmi dialect and vice versa. Since North Såmi is the dialect spoken in the core Sémi area of Finnmark and adjacent regions in Finland and Sweden, this is rapidly becoming a 'standardized' form of the Såmi language. North Såmi is the dialect most used in the Såmi media and is most accessible to outsiders wishing to learn Såmi. Perhaps such a standardization is necessary if the Såmi language is to be given a chance of survival at all. Originally, the Såmi lived in small semi-nomadic social groups or sllddat sg. siida) which formed the basis of their hunting, fishing and gathering activities (Aarseth 1975). This form of livelihood was, however, to change during the late Middle Ages, in response to the effects of colonization and heavy taxation. We learn from a late ninth century account given to King Alfred the Great by the North Norwegian chieftain Ottar (Ohthere), that the Såmi were taxed for furs and other natural products by Norwegian chieftains living along the coast of Nordland and Troms counties (Lorenz 1981). The so-called Lapp-tax was later used by the emerging nation-states of Denmark/Norway, Sweden and Russia to consolidate their sovereignty in the north. The Swedish/Dano- Norwegian border was not drawn up until 1751, thus taxation 6 districts overlapped, and many siiddat were subject to the taxation administrations of two or three Crowns. Taxation pressures enforced the Såmi to over-exploit stocks of fur-bearing animals, such that by the end of the sixteenth century, the more soughtafter species were on the point of extinction and wild reindeer herds were dwindling. This, together with the absorption of the Sémi into different neighbouring States, undermined the hunting/gathering economy and the siida system, forcing the Sémi to specialize (Hirsti 1980). Thus, it is not until the sixteenth century that Såmi groups distinguished by economic activity, emerge. The mountain Såmi maintained a semi-nomadic life-style based on, by now, reindeer pastoralism, and to a large extent retained the siida-system. Såmis in coastal areas, however, faced direct resource competition from settled Norwegian populations, and were forced to become sedentary, basing their economy on fishing, livestock-rearing and other farming activities. The siida-system among the coastal Sémi disintegrated with sedentarization and as marriage across ethnic boundaries became more commonplace (Aarseth 1975 p. 30 ff). Another Såmi group is often distinguished, that of settled inland Sémi, or forest and river Såmi. This group maintained a mixed-economy based on farming, fishing, hunting and gathering (Hirsti 1980). The cultural systems of these three Såmi groups developed largely independently of each other and the differences between them is reflected in modern Sémi ethnopolitics. 7 iii) A note on the concept of ethnicity My approach in this thesis has entailed reference to certain terms linked to the concept of ethnicity. These terras, notably ethnic group , ethnic boundary and ethnic symbol will need some clarification. Ethnicity refers to just one of a number of possible ways in which individuals may be bound together to form social groups. Ethnic attachments may be defined by an individual's identification with a culturally specific set of value standards (Barth 1969 p. 25). Insofar as cultural values are implanted in early childhood, ethnicity may be regarded as the most basic form of identity, entailing strong emotive forces. However, whether ethnic bonds are immutable or flexible and thus whether ethnicity is a primordial or a subjective phenomenon appears to be the point of some contention among anthropologists (Barth 1969; Epstein 1978; Smith 1981). It appears that the effects of industrialization and the spread of mass produced cultural norms have in many cases infused ethnic bonds with a new lease of life, often with a political salience, when in theory these bonds were supposed to have been rendered obsolete. In the words of Paine (1985), it is as if as persons become increasingly aware of the erosion of their cultural boundaries, so they become self-conscious about their cultural identity (p ). This realization of the vulnerability of the individual may be said to be a driving force behind the need to seek security within the circle of one's ethnic associates - the 8 ethnic group (Epstein 1978 p.xiv). The ethnic group can exist only in relation to another ethnic group. The way in which the actor presents himself as part of his own group as opposed to any other is therefore significant. Thus a set of cultural criteria, which may include such features as dress, language and certain economic activities, is adopted and cultivated by the group as ethnic differentiae, making up the ethnic boundary. These cultural values are self-consciously invested with new meanings, and assume a symbolic function such that they become eloquent statements of identity: of... similarity to and differences from, other people (Cohen 1986 p. ix). These recodified distinguishing features or ethnic symbols are consciously or unconsciously used and manipulated in order to demarcate ethnic boundaries. Incorporation into or exclusion from an ethnic group is determined by the way in which the actor relates and is perceived to relate to the boundary markers. Thus ethnic belonging is self-perceived as well as prescribed by others (Barth 1969; Kennedy 1982 Introduction). 9 Chapter 1 The post-war Såmi movement in Norway The first attempts at ethnopolitical mobilization among the Norwegian Såmi were made during the first half of this century. At that time, activities among South Såmi and North Såmi were organized largely independently of each other. The early North Såmi movement must be viewed in relation to the harsh Norwegianization policies to which the Såmi, and especially the North Såmi, were subjected between 1850 and the Second World War. These Norwegianization policies, which had their roots in the geopolitical and ideological conditions of the day, were aimed at creating a culturally homogenous population in Norway and especially Finnmark (Jernsletten 1986). Thus the demands of the first Northern Såmi activists were centred upon cultural (nonmaterial) and particularly educational issues. The pre-war movement was dominated by a handful of enthusiasts, most of them Såmi teachers. This group successfully campaigned for one of their number, Isak Saba from Nesseby, to be elected to the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) as representative for East Finnmark in 1906 and They also edited a Såmi newspaper Sagal Muittaleegje (The News Teller) between 1904 and Other projects however were less successful. Various Såmi organizations cropped up and then disappeared again in such places as Kåraåjohka, Tana and Nesseby, between 1911 and 1930 (Minde 1986) (Figure 2 for administrative units in Finnmark). also made at establishing Såmi political parties. Attempts were One such party 11 in Finnmark forwarded candidates in the 1921 Storting election but was not successful. The overall impression of the spasmodic, highly individualistorientated pre-war Såmi movement is one of failure. It did not succeed in infusing the Såmi population with the political and ethnic consciousness necessary for mobilization. Nor was it taken seriously by State authorities. It was only with the socioeconomic and political changes that characterized post-occupation Norway that the seeds of Såmi organizational life were able to take root and develop. The 30 years following the war saw the establishment of a hierarchical organizational network rooted in a common ideology of ethnic pluralism. This provided the Såmi population with the necessary constructive alternative which the pre-war protest movement had not been able to supply (Eidheim 1971 p. 43). An understanding of the dynamics and significance of the Norwegian Såmi movement entails an examination of the post-war phenomena that allowed it to emerge and that fuelled it. Also important is the way in which the movement manifested itself structurally and ideologi
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