SAMI / It is not only the Bergen International Literature Festival that is celebrated on 6 February. The day is also the Sami national day: sámi álbmotbeaivi. "Social structures make the Sami language drown", says author Sigbjørn Skåden, who participates in LitFestBergen


Although there are an estimated only forty thousand Sami in Norway, they have made their mark in the field of literature and art, especially in the last five years. The award-winning author Sigbjørn Skatan (b. 1976) is one of them.

Like many others Sami Skatan has grown up with Sami as a second language. Thanks to his parents, he writes fiction in both Northern Sami and Norwegian, in addition to using Sami as often as he can in everyday life; he speaks exclusively Sami with his son. Skagen's mother is one of the few in their region (Ofoten / Sør-Troms) who has deliberately used Sami as everyday language in the home and thus helped to reverse the effect of Norwegian policy:

- Norwegianization policy was of course a child of his time, Skatan begins, and gives me an introduction to the policy that was conducted in Norway from about 1850.

- The purpose was to make Norway monocultural, even though there were cultures that had existed in Norway's territory long before state formation. North of Trøndelag there was really no national border before 1751, says Skatan, who I would call a form of actionist for Sami languages. Since becoming deputy leader of the Norwegian Writers' Association, he has used Sami in many contexts, where in the past only one of the country's official languages ​​was used, ie Norwegian.

Children who were caught speaking Sami at school were most often physically punished.

- In practice, it was prohibited, among other things, to speak other than Norwegian in Norwegian schools. Children who were taken into speaking Sami at school were often punished physically. The official Norwegian research policy was ended in 1959, when the ban on speaking Sami in school was lifted.

Others were also affected by the Norwegian policy. Norway's historical policy towards, among others, the country's Roma population is also absolutely terrible.

#Svanviken work colony for travelers (Romani people, Tatars) was first closed in 1989, an institution where residents – who lived there under threat and coercion – were often sterilized.

Minority languages

On Bergen International Literature Festival # seven out of a hundred actors engaged in program posts with or about Sami Language or art. The fact that Sami has such a natural place on the program in Norwegian literary public was far from obvious. How much does this have to do with Sami origin?

- From being a rightsless and undesirable language in Norway, the Sami language and Sami language users have today received a number of formal rights. Today, many of the major challenges in continuing and strengthening the Sami language lie precisely in the fact that Sami is an origin, and that social structures cause the Sami language to drown, points out Skatan, who will talk about two of his books in LitFestBergen.

The actor should not speak Sámi on stage – but he is allowed to thematise choosing languages ​​in everyday life and literature:

- There are few Sami language arenas. Global popular culture, which children and young people are passionate about, must almost always be consumed in languages ​​other than Sami. Popular books for children and youth are almost never translated into Sami, and it is rare that popular children's films are dubbed Sami. Many Sami children walk around communities where they hear little Sami outside the home, and where the popular culture they consume is almost never Sami language. It causes Sami to have a status problem, since things that are perceived as cool are rarely found in Sami, and it also means that very many Sami users do not have a strong continuity of language usage, since there are so few places and contexts where they can use exclusively Sami.

- Sami is an official language in Norway. What does this role mean in practice?

- Sami is more and more often referred to as indigenous language, to point out the strengthened political and legal protection and rights inherent in indigenous status in relation to other minorities.


- Some call independence an anarchic value. Is the Sami Parliament, for example, a form of one anarki in practice – where the Norwegian state has less to say?

- Sami autonomy is something that challenges the national state authority, which I think is just healthy. In Norway, there is talk of a certain Sami self-government. For example, there is a Sami parliament that in some areas acts autonomously and manages the resources they are given, but it is an autonomy that lives on the graces of Norwegian politicians and opinion; no real Sami autonomy really exists.

There is no real Sami autonomy.

At the literary festival Skatan will talk among other things nature use, climate change and consequences for the Sami. But of course also about the consequences of Norwegian policy on language use in everyday life and art. For Skatan is involved in the community, and his name is constantly appearing in connection with the artistic collective. He has contributed text to a Hedda Award-winning performance artwork: Blodklubb.

- I like to work with artists from other artist groups and have been involved in many cross-artistic projects. "Blodklubb" is one of these, a theater concept I have created in collaboration with the theater company Fresh Scenes. "Blodklubb" consists of a series of audience-involved theater happenings that thematize genetics in different ways.

For one must still talk about genetics and society. Despite books like Marte Michelets What did the home front know?, which nuances Norway's hero status after the Second World War, we have far from putting all the cards on the table when it comes to Norway's brown history. Maybe that's why certain ideas, like hereditary hygiene, living at its best? And perhaps that is why the increasing diversity of voices on the established Norwegian stage is so important. The strong element of Sami actors is an example.

There has definitely been a strong development in Sweden and Finland, where Sami culture has previously had very little room in the public. In Norway, Sami culture has so far had a clearer place in the public for decades, but I feel that this has been an upswing here in the last five to six years as well, and that the willingness to include Sami culture has become stronger – especially on places outside the traditional Sami area, but also at a national level. One can probably say that in many contexts Sami culture is starting to gain more of the natural space it should have in Norway, ”concludes Skatan.

Sigbjørn Skatan (b. 1976)

Author Sigbjørn Skatan was one of the founders of the youth association Stuornjárgga Sámenuorak, which in 1999 started the Sami cultural and music festival Márkomeannu. He debuted as a writer with the epic long poem Skuovvadeddjiid gonagas (2004). The poem was performed on Riddu Riđđu in 2005. In 2007, it was published in Norwegian entitled Skomakernes king, re-written by himself. The ship received the Havmann Prize for Watch over those who sleep in 2014.

Book releases: Skuovvadeddjiid gonagas, Skániid girjie (2004) The King of the Shoemakers, Skániid girjie (2007) Prekariáhta lavvlla, poetry collection 2009 Ihpil: Láhppon mánáid bestejeaddji – diary novel, Skániid girjie (2008) Ihpil: The fort: Prekariáhta lávlla – lyric, Skániid girjie (2010) Sámit / Samer – fact book for children, Cappelen Damm (2009) Watch over those who sleep – novel, Cappelen Damm (2012) Bird – novel, Cappelen Damm (2014)

Also read: Takes freedom of speech seriously


Subscription NOK 195 quarter