Sami people | injustice and the king’s apology | Sapmi

In 1997, His Majesty King Harald V of Norway came to the Norwegian Sami Assembly with an essential and overdue apology.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
Henrik Sara, his wife, two daughters and a third young lady outside their tent. Mikkel Bonga with the pipe. Cedar's mine, Badderen, Kvænangen, Troms, Norway. | Photo: Hanna Resvoll-Holmsen - digitaltmuseum.no FBib.01005-070 - Public domain.

The Sami is an ancient people of hunters and gatherers, particularly associated with the reindeer and reindeer hunting – and in more recent centuries also reindeer herding. Historically, the Sami settled across the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and in north-west Russia. Sápmi is the name of the Sami’s traditional territory. Today’s overall population is estimated at between 80,000 and 115,000: 50,000 to 65,000 in Norway, 20,000 to 40,000 in Sweden, 8,000 in Finland and 2,000 in Russia. In Norway, around 3,000 people are currently actively working with the traditional reindeer herding. Throughout Sápmi, there are 10 different Sami sub-languages.

The traditional Sami way of life is a fascinating gateway into the earliest Nordic civilisations, as they evolved after the last ice age, some ten thousand years ago.

In recent years, the Norwegian authorities have made an active attempt to right some of the many past wrongs done to the Sami people. Like so many minorities around the world, the Sami suffered ridicule and forced assimilation.

The Norwegian constitution

In 1988, the Norwegian national parliament added a new clause to the Norwegian constitution – with a specific mention of Sami rights: «The authorities of the state shall create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and way of life». The Norwegian Sami Assembly was established in 1989.

Today, the Sami culture and identity are again on the rise – but for many, the wounds of the past are difficult to heal.

An overdue and public apology

In 1997, King Harald V of Norway stood before the the Norwegian Sami Assembly to publicly apologise for the appalling behaviour of the Norwegian majority – particularly during the last two centuries. Below, you will see part of his speech, translated into English.

«The Norwegian state is founded upon the territories of two peoples – the Norwegians and the Sami. Sami history is closely interwoven with Norwegian history.

Today, we must apologise for the injustice previously inflicted upon the Sami people by the Norwegian authorities – through a hard assimilation policy.

The Norwegian State, therefore, has a particular responsibility for facilitating the Sami people’s ability to build a strong and viable society. This is a historical right based on the Sami’s presence in their cultural regions, which stretches far back in time».

His Majesty King Harald V of Norway | Photo: Jørgen Gomnæs - det kongelige hoff - copyright.

His Majesty King Harald V of Norway | Photo: Jørgen Gomnæs – det kongelige hoff – copyright.

Recommended read: The Norwegian reindeer | and the Norwegians

Below, you will find a video from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation containing part of the king’s speech (additional commentary in Sami with Norwegian subtitles) – used by kind permission – all rights reserved.

Members of the the Norwegian Sami Parliament 2017-2021. | Photo: Kenneth Hætta - sametinget.no - cc by.

Members of the the Norwegian Sami Parliament 2017-2021. | Photo: Kenneth Hætta – sametinget.no – cc by.

Main source: nrk.no | stortinget.no | snl.no
Main photo: Henrik Sara, his wife, two daughters and a third young lady outside their tent. Mikkel Bonga with the pipe. Cedar’s mine, Badderen, Kvænangen, Finnmark, Norway. | Photo: Hanna Resvoll-Holmsen – digitaltmuseum.no FBib.01005-070 – Public domain.

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

Once upon a time in the distant past, imagine yourself sitting in a small boat, facing this mighty gateway into the bowels of the land.
Kløvhest is a Norwegian noun that means packhorse. Well into our own time, the Norwegians used horses to help transport goods through a challenging landscape.
This is our second video-slideshow with vintage photos of the Norwegian farm horse. Enjoy!
On the historical Norwegian farm, the skoklefallsday is the last day of planting in the spring. Literally, it means the day that the shafts attached to the workhorse's harness come off.
The Black Death – mother of all plagues - ravaged humankind in the mid-1300s. A Norwegian scholar takes us through the lead up to the disaster.
In 1935, Aslaug Engnæs published a guidance book on how to milk the cow.
Norway's mainland coastline, with its many fjords and islands, is the second longest in the world - next only to Canada. Here are some more facts for you.
Mead and beer are both alcoholic drinks known from Norwegian history. The Norwegians call them «mjød» and «øl». But do you know the difference between the two?
When I was a boy, it was the workhorse that pulled the heaviest weight in agricultural life. And this had been the reality for as long as anyone could remember.
The first Norwegian Buhund breed-standard came in 1926, based on a dog that had evolved, lived, and worked with the Norwegians since time immemorial.
Skjemat is a Norwegian noun that means food eaten with a spoon - often before or after the main course at dinner. It could be porridge, soup, dessert, and more.
In the year AD 1537, King Christian 3 of Denmark-Norway embraced the Lutheran Reformation, and the Norwegians went from being Catholics to Protestants. The king confiscated the Catholic Church’s considerable wealth, a welcomed addition to the royal coffers. Norway more or less ceased to exist as a sovereign state and became a province under Denmark.
Lystring is a Norwegian verb that means catching fish or other water creatures in the dark, using a fire torch to attract the fish and a multi-pronged spear.
Norway is a land of water, with almost 1 million lakes and ponds of all sizes. Join us in exploring the 5 largest of her lakes, and some more Norway facts.
When there were no makeshift or permanent dwellings nearby, the Sami hunters and herders sometimes slept under the open sky.
The Norwegian farm horse was a reliable and powerful companion. But by the late 1960s, they were almost all gone. Enjoy this video-collection of wonderful vintage photographs.
In this video-collection of historical photos, we reminisce about the dairy cow on the old Norwegian farm. We recommend that you watch with the sound on. Enjoy!
Uekte and ekte are Norwegian adjectives that in one context means illegitimate and legitimate - as in a child born outside or inside a marriage.
Neither the great Atlantic Ocean nor time or social conventions could separate a love that was meant to be.
Are you looking for a Norwegian-to-English dictionary that includes old-fashioned words and dialect words? Then Einar Haugen’s book is your best pick.
On 9 April 1940, German forces attacked Norway in the early hours of the morning. The Norwegian armed forces attempted to stave off the attack, but they were in no way prepared for this monumental task.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history