The ArcticMainpage
Click to view
of this article
Historical Synopsis of the Sami/United Nations Relationship
by Christian Jakob Burmeister Hicks
Next ChapterNext Chapter
A brief Saami history
  .It is believed that the Saami arrived on the Fenno-Scandinavian peninsula just over 10,000 bpe. They are considered the first residents of this area.[1] The Saami followed their food sources that moved northward behind the retreating glaciers. They eventually inhabited all of present-day Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula southward almost to present-day Tallinn, Estonia. (Important Years in Saami History, 1996)
  As the Saami inhabited the different ecosystems they adapted to the conditions. On the coastal fjords and bays of Norway, they utilized the resources of the sea. In the mountains and forests farther inland, hunting and gathering became the norm. The inland lakes of Finland and Northwestern Russia were used for their abundant pike, trout and other freshwater fish. For some of the Saami away from major fishing areas, reindeer became the major food source. (Baer, 1994, 51)
  With time, the people who make up the dominant ethnic groups of present-day Norway, Sweden, and Finland moved into the homeland of the Saami due to pressure from competing tribes in the south. The first documented contact between these two groups came in the ninth century, when Ottar of the Norwegian Vikings traveled far to the north and east (Kola Peninsula).

Eventually, the rulers of Fenno-Scandia realized the wealth of resources available in the North. They tried to cement their land claims in Sapmi through settlement and taxation. [2] By taxing the locals, each country proved their sovereignty. At one point, three different monarchs held claim to Northern Fenno-Scandia and simultaneously levied taxes on the same Saami to prove it.

  Eventually the three nations worked out their land-claim issues in the mid-eighteenth century. (Dellenbrant, 1997, 163) Norway’s Finnmark borders became very similar to what they are today. Sweden and Russia split up the land that would later become Finland.
  In the nineteenth century Saami were viewed to be at a lower social evolutionary level than other Scandinavians. As Social Darwinism advanced it became the national desire to lift the Saami from their wretched circumstances and help them progress to modernity through education. It was also seen as a form of equality to educate the Saami as other Scandinavians. The government policy was to educate the Saami children. In Norway it was called Norweganization.[3] This policy allowed the Saami to ‘catch up’ with the Nordic ethnic majority in formal education. Saami language and culture was ‘harmful’ and Norwegian or Swedish language and culture was ‘progressive’. 
Next ChapterNext Chapter
Historical synopsis of the Sami/United Nations relationship,
by Christian J. B. Hicks.
Copyright Stefansson Arctic Institute and individual authors ©2000
Developed in partnership with the EU Raphael Programme