Skolt Sámi Language and Culture Conference
Skolt Sámi Culture Across Borders –project organises a conference in collaboration with various Skolt Sámi actors. The main objective of the conference is to bring the Finnish, Norwegian and Russian Skolt Sámi together to cherish their common heritage, and to discuss how to meet the challenges of the future as one people.
The main theme of the conference is how the revitalisation of language and culture strengthens communality/feeling of solidarity over the borders. The aim of the conference is to empower the Skolt Sámi community towards Skolt Sámi language and culture work. The conference aspires to deliver concrete tools for solving challenges of the future. The conference will be organised at the Sámi Cultural Centre SAJOS in Inari, Finland on June 14th and 15th 2012.
Skolt Sámi Culture Across Borders – project functions in Finland, Norway and the Russian Federation. Its aim is to revitalise and develop both Skolt Sámi culture as well as Skolt Sámi language. In Finland, the project is implemented by the Sámi Education Institute (Sää´mvuu´d škoou´l’jemkõõskõs in Skolt Sámi). The Norwegian partner is the East Sámi Museum (Nuõrttsaa`mi mu`zei in Skolt Sàmi) in Neiden. The project is carried out between 2010 – 2012 lasting 33 months.
Skolt Sámi People
The Skolt Sámi are a people residing in three countries: in Finland, Norway and Russia. The changes in states’ border lines have affected greatly the lives of the Skolt Sámi. According to the estimates, there are altogether approximately 1000 Skolt Sámi in these three countries.
It is hard to estimate the exact numbers of the Skolt Sámi. This is due to the different criteria the states have in determining ethnicity. Another matter making things more complicated is that due to the pressures and assimilation by the majority culture(s) many Skolt Sámi have lost their contact with their Skolt Sámi roots.
There are approximately 600 Skolt Sámi in Finland who reside both in the Finnish Sámi Homeland as well as outside of it. The majority of the Skolt Sámi live in a specific Skolt Sámi Region (Skolt Sámi Act 24.2.1995/253, 2 §), that is, the Skolt Sámi villages Sevettijärvi and Nellim as well as Keväjärvi Skolt Sámi settlement. Sevettijärvi is the heart of the Skolt Sámi Region where Skolt Sámi language and culture are a natural part of everyday life. The majority of the Skolt Sámi residing in the Skolt Sámi Region does indeed live in Sevettijärvi.
Still for the time being, Sevettijärvi in Finland can be considered as the only village in the world where unique and traditional Skolt Sámi culture and Skolt Sámi language have remained alive.
In Norway, the estimated number of the Skolt Sámi is 150 out of which less than one third resides in Neiden, in the Municipality of South Varanger, and one third lives in other parts of Finnmark County.
According to different sources, in the north-western part of Kola Peninsula in Russia (e.g. Murmansk, Olenegorsk, Montchegorsk and Verhnetulomsk), the estimated number of Skolt Sámi residing there is approximately between 250 and 1000. The lower figure is most likely closer to reality.
Skolt Sámi Language
The Skolt Sámi language belongs to eastern Sámi language group. In Finland, there are approximately 300 persons who speak Skolt Sámi as their mother tongue. In Russia, there are only a few Skolt Sámi mother tongue speakers and the language has wholly disappeared from Norway. UNESCO has classified Skolt Sámi as severely endangered language in 2010. (UNESCO, Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger 2010)
Alarmingly, children form only a small proportion of the native Skolt Sámi speakers. Interruption in intergenerational language transmission is the cause for the fact that the language has not developed to become natural, healthy and living language as part of strong Skolt Sámi community during the great societal change. The number of future language transmitters will decrease to virtually nonexistent from the current situation unless efficient revitalisation of the language is started.
It was only in the 1970s that the development of written standard Skolt Sámi language begun in Finland. Even in the 2010s, Skolt Sámi remains more spoken than written language, even in Finland. Furthermore, the majority of the Skolt Sámi cannot read or write in their own language.
The two-day conference will be organised in the Sámi Cultural Centre SAJOS in Inari on June 14th and 15th in 2012. During the first day of the conference, the Skolt Sámi Culture Across Borders – project will summarise the results and solution models created by the project. Additionally, the future challenges of Skolt Sámi language from the perspective of language revitalisation and teaching are dealt with. During the day, different language revitalisation processes are looked into.
On the second conference day, the restoration and empowerment of Skolt Sámi culture will be discussed. How can a culture that has survived until today be strengthened and developed? What is the meaning of traditional livelihoods that support Skolt Sámi culture and language under the ever increasing pressures of the majority culture(s)? What kind of support the Skolt Sámi of different countries need in revitalisation work of the language and culture?
The conference will have interpretation in the following languages: Skolt Sámi, Finnish, Norwegian/English and Russian. The speeches should be delivered in advance to the translators/interpreters.
The Chairman leads public discussions in the conference as well as summarises the lectures and discussions of the day. The speeches/addresses and discussions are recorded for the conference publication which will be published afterwards.
Conference Publication, Petition
The speeches of the conference speakers need to be delivered in advance. The speeches and discussions will be later collected into conference publication. The conference will deliver a petition to the decision-makers of Finland, Norway and Russia in order to strengthen and preserve Skolt Sámi language and culture as part of living Skolt Sámi everyday life.
Skolt Sámi Culture Across Borders – project finances part of the conference costs. Further financing will be applied from various financial sources in Finland, Norway and Russia during the spring 2012.