The Saami Council (Northern Sami: Sámiráđđi) is an umbrella organization for Sámi organizations in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The Saami Council was founded during the 2nd Sámi Conference held in Karasjok, Norway on August 18, 1956 as the Nordic Saami Council. After the first Russian Sámi organization was accepted as a member in 1992, however, the word Nordic was dropped from the official name. Saami Council has a Permanent Participant status on the Arctic Council.
Historically the Sami never had a unified state but rather lived in clans. The Sami operated as a hunter-gatherer society that relied on the abundance of freshwater fishing available in the numerous streams and lakes of Northern Scandinavia and the reindeer herds that migrated across Lapland. Eventually the countries of Norway, Sweden and Russia realized the rich natural resources that were available there and began to exert their control over the region via taxation. Because the Sami were and are often nomadic, herding reindeer to and from feeding and breeding grounds, they were of forced to pay taxes to multiple sovereigns every year. In the 20th century Sami herders were often denied access across the border due political conflicts, namely Soviet Russia during the Cold War. It was issues such as this that spurred the creation of the Nordic Saami Council on August 18, 1956.
Organization and structure
The Saami Council consists of a fifteen-member body that is nominated by member organizations. The Council usually meets once or twice a year but when not in session the executive board of the Council makes decisions on any issues. The Secretariat is chosen by the parliament of the current president’s country and is in charge of managing Saami cultural organizations. The Saami Council annually provides financial support to Saami artists and Saami language organizations in all four countries.
The Sami Parliamentary Council
In 2000, under the umbrella of the Saami Council, the three Saami Parliaments of Sweden, Norway and Finland along with representatives from the Russian Saami Committee created the Saami Parliamentary Council. The purpose of the Saami Parliamentary Council is to “safeguard the interests of the Saami and strengthen Saami cooperation across the borders. The objective is also to coordinate the voice of the Saami internationally and in particular vis-à-vis other indigenous peoples in the world. The chairmanship rotates between the three countries. Over a four-year period, each of the Saami parliaments will hold the position as president or vice president for a period of 16 consecutive months.”
Information on the Saami Council activities Purposes of the Saami Council Saami Council was established in 1956 and in general its purposes are:
- to promote the interests of the Saami as a nation
- to consolidate the feeling of affinity among the Saami people
- to attain recognition for the Saami as a nation and to maintain the economic, social and cultural rights of the Saami in the legislation of the four states. (Norway, Sweden, Russia and Finland).
This objective can be achieved through agreements between these states and the bodies representing the Saami people, the Saami parliaments.
Climate change has been negatively impacting indigenous arctic peoples disproportionally more than most other people in developed countries. This is due to the reliance of the Saami on their reindeer herds which eat the abundant ground lichen throughout the winter. But because of higher temperatures freezing rain and higher snowfall make it difficult or impossible for reindeer to dig to the ground.
Saami Council is one of the six organizations of indigenous peoples who are represented in the Arctic Council. At the recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 21 the Arctic council is pushing for Article 2.2 of the negotiations deal to include language that recognizes climate change as a human rights issue and not just an environmental issue as “the melting of the Arctic is impacting all aspects of Inuit life therefore the final text must make the rights of Indigenous peoples operative and keep it in Article 2.2.” “We have the right to be cold” argued Okalik Eegeesiak, Chair of the Council.
Along with negotiations over article 2.2 the Saami Council has joined other indigenous groups, NGO’s and developing countries setting the agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The final deal will only says that countries should pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C and does not include any legally binding stipulations.
The Saami Council has 8 member organizations, each of which is represented on the council by at least 1 delegate.
- Norwegian Sami Association
- The Reindeer Herders’ Association of Norway
- The Federation of the Sámi People
- sv - Saami Association of Sweden
- The National Association of Samiland
- Saami Association of Finland
- Kola Sami Association
- Association of Sámi in Murmansk Oblast
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