The Sami National Day 2017 Celebrations

Debate over Sami 'national' day - Saami National Day Celebrations

The Sami National Day (Northern Sami: Sámi álbmotbeaivi, Inari Sami: Säämi aalmugpeivi and Skolt Sami: Saa´mi meersažpei´vv) falls on February 6 as this date was when the first Sámi congress was held in 1917 in Trondheim, Norway. This congress was the first time that Norwegian and Swedish Sámi came together across their national borders to work together to find solutions for common problems.

In 1992,at the 15th Sámi Conference in Helsinki, a resolution was passed that Sámi National Day should be celebrated on February 6 to commemorate the 1st Sámi congress in 1917. Sami National Day is for all Sámi, regardless of where they live and on that day the Sámi flag should be flown and the Sami national anthem is sung in the local Sámi language. The first time Sami National Day was celebrated was in 1993,when the International Year of Indigenous People was proclaimed open in Jokkmokk, Sweden by the United Nations.

Since then, celebrating the day has become increasingly popular. In Norway it is compulsory for municipal administrative buildings to fly the Norwegian flag, and optionally also the Sami flag, on February 6. Particularly notable is the celebration in Norway's capital Oslo, where the bells in the highest tower of Oslo City Hall play the Sami national anthem as the flags go up.Some larger places have taken to arranging festivities also in the week around the Sami National Day.

Through pure synchronicity, this date also happened to be when representatives of the Sámi of the Kola Peninsula used to gather annually, meeting with Russian bureaucrats to debate and decide on issues of relevance to them. This organ, called the Koladak Sobbar, has been dubbed the 'first Sámi Parliament' by the researcher Johan Albert Kalstad. This did not influence the choice of the date as the Sámi People's Day, since the people present did not know about it - the Koladak Sobbar only existed during the late 19th century, and was only 'rediscovered' by Kalstad in the 3rd millennium.

Some Saami celebrations in the north:

Since 2005 Tromsø has hosted championships in reindeer sprint races during the days preceding the Saami National day. The races draw Saami from Norway, Sweden and Finland to compete for the title of world champion. As many as 1500 spectators flock to the main street of Tromsø to watch the reindeer racing past at speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour.

In 2007 more events were added to the schedule surrounding the reindeer race and this year the celebrations spanned more than a week from January 29 to February 6 with different events going on all around town. Saami concerts, plays, films and lectures were popular highlights of the Saami week. An outdoor market was also held during the weekend of February 4 and 5. A wide selection of reindeer meat was for sale as well as other Saami delicacies and handicrafts. A large Saami tent, called a lávvu, was also set up in the market square with a warm fire burning inside to fight off the cold.

Jokkmokk, Sweden

From Thursday February 2 to the following Sunday, Jokkmokk town hosted a lively winter market. This year's market theme was "Music on the Arctic Circle". Northern Europe's largest winter festival is a gateway to discover the Saami culture and its diverse heritage handicrafts. Every winter for more than 400 years, Jokkmokk market has attracted visitors from near and far to Swedish Lapland.

At the market place, one can find a wide variety of local products like elk and reindeer meat, Saami bread, smoked trout, and jams and berries from Norrbotten. Dog sledding, snowmobile or helicopter tours and the traditional reindeer race on the lake Talvatis are great outdoor opportunities to discover the endless landscape of mountains located above of the Arctic Circle and cradle of the Saami people.

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