Today, February 6, is national Sami day, celebrated in the Nordic countries, as it is around the world, wherever Sami people and their friends and allies live.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, it has been celebrated for several years at the Scandinavian Cultural Center at Pacific Lutheran University outside Tacoma. The festivities for today are now re-scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 2:30 because of snow and school closings.
2017 holds special resonance. A hundred years ago, in Trondheim, the first pan-Sami congress took place. This 1917 congress was largely conceived and organized by Elsa Laula Renberg, who gave the opening address. There were others who played a role organizing and publicizing the event, including Daniel Mortenson, a reindeer herder and editor from Røros, Norway; the Norwegian journalist Ellen Lie, who managed press coverage; and Anna Erika Löfwander Jarwson, who opened up her hotel in Trondheim for Sami guests and who took care of many of the arrangements for food and drink.
Herders and their families came from all over Norway and Sweden. They debated a number of issues, including schooling for their children, herding rights, conflicts with settlers, and the use of “Sami” instead of “Lapp.”
Today in Trondheim, the festivities were attended by Sweden’s Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke and by Norway’s King Harald and Prime Minister Erna Solberg will also attend. Solberg was quoted as saying, "Previously, we have apologized on behalf of the Norwegian people for the Norwegianizing policy that was led for not only decades, but in fact hundreds of years, where we tried to remove the Sami’s cultural expression."