King Harald opens Sámi Parliament
Climate change hits Indigenous peoples especially hard
King Harald highlighted climate change and hate against the Sámi, among other things, when he opened the ninth Sámi Parliament in Karasjok.
“Today, we see several examples of the climate changing. Climate change is hitting the Arctic and Indigenous peoples particularly hard. Sámi who work in traditional nature-based industries, experience that the conditions are changing,” the king said in his speech to the 39 elected Sámi Parliament representatives.
Also present in the hall was Crown Prince Haakon.
The king highlighted extreme weather events in Sámi regions in 2020, both mild weather, cold and large amounts of ice and snow.
“The reindeer husbandry community made a great effort to save their animals,” he said.
The king also drew attention to the Sámi who have come forth to tell the stories of Sámi who have suffered psychological and physical violence.
“To come forward with such stories requires great courage and great strength. We can only imagine how difficult it must have been. Precisely for this reason, we will with humility and respect meet both those who speak up and those who choose not to speak up,” said the king
Challenges during the pandemic
It was the ninth Sámi Parliament that was opened on Oct. 20. The following day, Silje Karine Muotka was elected the new president. Muotka takes over from Aili Keskitalo.
Among other things, the king was received by the plenary leader of the Sámi Parliament, Tom Sottinen. He expressed joy at being able to be back in the plenary hall after a long period of strict distance requirements and infection control measures.
“The Sámi people call themselves borderless, but during the pandemic the borders became clear obstacles for our people. The state borders and the various states’ handling of COVID-19 have created challenges for our cooperation and the Sámi cooperation,” Sottinen said.
He believes that the Nordic states should seek advice from the Sámi parliaments in Norway, Sweden, and Finland to find solutions to remove such border barriers in the future.
“Must be convened early enough”
Present in the hall were Minister of Local Government Bjørn Arild Gram (Sp) and the Storting’s Vice President Svein Harberg (H).
“The Sámi Parliament, by its very existence for more than three decades, is perhaps the best sign that the past injustice against the Sámi people is slowly being recognized and rectified,” Harberg said in his greeting speech.
He emphasized that those in the Storting must ensure that the Sámi Parliament is convened early enough in relevant matters.
“On the other hand, we in the Storting are dependent on the Sámi Parliament actively contributing to the Storting, so it gets the knowledge and information it needs,” he said.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 5, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.