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Sámi politics refers to politics that concern the indigenous Sámi people in Scandinavia, Finland and Russia. In a more narrow sense, it has come to indicate the government of Sámi affairs by Sámi political institutions. This article deals with Sámi political structures, with an emphasis on the contemporary institutions.


Pre-parliamentarian Sámi politics


Nomadic times

Originally, the Sámi were semi-nomadic - moving between fixed settlements as the seasons passed. Several groups would often join up in the winter, making winter settlements (dálvvadis - n. sam) larger and more diverse than the spring-, summer- and autumn-settlements (the báiki - n.sam). In several dálvvadis, such as Jåhkamåhkke, large winter markets were established and towns grew up.

The "Finnekonger"

Norse sources from the 1100s and onwards, such as Heimskringla and Volundarkvida, talk about finnekonger ("Sámi kings"), which in contemporary history writing are interpreted as particularly wealthy Sámi, who were perhaps also chieftains. Archelogical findings do indeed confirm that a certain degree of class society arose among the Sámi, due to the fur trade, in the early Middle Ages. Little is known about the formal status of the "finnekonger", however. The name is in any case misleading, as nobility has never been a part of Sámi culture.[1]

The Siida system

From old, the term siida (n. sam), refers to a unit of people who travel together and/or share a seasonal settlement. Vainö Tanners early 1900s account of the workings in this polity refer to it as "primitive communism", as there was an extensive sharing of goods and land - though certain parts of the land was private, and not common to the siida's members. Norraz (e. sam), a meeting of all households' leaders, served as parliament, government and court.[2]

Other sources speak of siida-isids, people who were primus inter pares in the union of households. This person may be simply the head of the wealthiest or otherwise most successful household, a natural leader[3] or even elected by the council of families. They are sometimes referred to simply as "village elders".[4]

Elements of the siida system have survived among the Sámi who turned to reindeer herding and have remained semi-nomadic to this day.[5] Most Sámi, though, gradually settled down in villages from the middle of the 1500s. Reindeer herding and settlement in villages were different strategies aimed at countering the same problem: The extinction of undomesticated reindeer, which had been a key source of income for the nomadic groups.[6]

1500s - 1800s: Rise of the states

Late 1800s-1950s: Early NGOs

1950s-1980s: The Sámi Council and grass roots struggle

The Parliamentary Structures

Modern Sámi politics are mainly based on the Sami Parliaments (Sámediggi in Northern Sami, Sämitigge in Inari Sami, Sää´mte´ǧǧ in Skolt Sami). These are representative bodies for peoples of Sámi heritage in Finland, Sweden and Norway. There is also an ongoing attempt to set up a Sámi Parliament in Russia. The three Sami Parliaments also have a common political framework called the Sámi Parliamentary Conference.


The Sami Parliament of Finland was opened on 2 March 1996, so far the last Sámi parliament to be inaugurated. However, in reality this parliament was based on an elected "Sámi delegation" which preceded all the other parliaments and inspired their creation. The parliament is situated in Aanaar. It currently has 21 representatives, who are elected every four years by direct vote from the municaplities in the Sami Domicile Area.


Sami Parliament of Norway

The Sami Parliament of Norway was opened on 9 October 1989, The seat is in Kárášjohka (Karasjok). It currently has 43 representatives, who are elected every four years by direct vote from 7 constituencies: Nuortaguovlu (Eastern region), Ávjovarri (Steep Mountain), Davveguovlu (North region), Gáiseguovlu (Mountainous region), Viestarmearra (Western Sea), Åarjiel-Saepmie (South Sápmi) and Lulli-Norga (South Norway). Unlike in Finland, the constituencies cover all of Norway - the last district encompassing the parts of Norway situated outside of Sápmi.


Sami Parliament of Sweden

The Sami Parliament of Sweden was opened on on 26 August 1993. The seat is in Kiruna. The parliament has 31 representatives, elected every four years by general vote.

Russian Committee for a Sámi Parliament

On December 14 2008 the 1st Congress of the Russian Sámi took place. The Conference decided to demand the formation of a Russian Sámi Parliament, to be elected by the local Sámi. A suggestion to have the Russian Federation pick representatives to the Parliament was voted down with a clear majority. The Congress also chose a Council of Representatives that were to work for the establishment of a Parliament, and otherwise represent the Russian Sámi.

The Sámi Parliamentary Conference and Council

As of 2001, the parliaments have been united through the Sámi Parliamentary Conference. In this annual meeting, a plenary of all Sámi Parliamentarians meet - together with observators from the Sámi Council and the Russian Sámi associations. Between sessions, a Sámi Parliamentary Council operates.

The Presidents

The three first Sámi Presidents of Norway

The contemporary leaders of the Sámi people are the Sámi presidents. Each Sámi Parliament elects a President among their own numbers, so the Sámi political system today could be considered a cooperation between parliamentary democracies which are part of three sovereign states.

The Sámi Presidents cooperate through annual meetings, where the ministers responsible for Sámi affairs in Finland, Norway and Sweden also take part. These meetings are organized through the Nordic Council of Ministers. The formal leadership of the Sámi Parliamentary Council rotates between the Presidents.

The Finnish side

Current president on the Finnish side of Sápmi is the North Sámi Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi, a Licentiate in Philosophy from Eanodat.[7]

The Norwegian side

Current president on the Norwegian side, and of the most powerful of the Sámi parliaments, is the North Sámi Egil Olli, a farmer from Karasjohka. He represents the Labour Party.[8]

The Swedish side

Current president of the Sámi in Sweden is the Lule Sámi Lars-Anders Baer, a lawyer from Luokta Mava siida in Johkamohkki. He represents the Sámiland Party.[9]

The Russian side

The committee to establish a Sámi Parliament in Russia is headed by East Sámi Natalia Sovkina.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Hansen, Lars Ivar og Olsen, Bjørnar: Samenes historie fram til 1750. (Cappelen 2004): 125
  2. ^ Hansen and Olsen 2004: 178-181
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hansen og Olsen 2004: 209
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^

External links


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