Irja Seurujärvi-Kari PhD, Indigenous Studies, UH, a former long-time vice-president of the Sámi Parliament
Some comments on Sámi Reconciliation process in Finland
Reconciliation is an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships, as the Canadian Commission defined it in its final report (2015). The Sámi reconciliation process in Finland has still many open questions, such as which issue is to be reconciled and what kind of the mandate will be constructed or who will be its leaders and members. Are there people who do not try to reach for their own interest, for their political or scientific advantages and honour to themselves? Reconciliation could not be used as a political or scientific tool, as it seems to happen now in Finland. The process can also become a big show or hard political competition. Reconciliation if it is used as therapy can sometimes be helpful but it can also cause a harmful influence on people and create new traumas. Who or what part will be a winner? Is this all worth of it? I hope we won’t get disappointed at the results.
Due to vagueness of Sámi reconciliation process and the long going debate on the Sámi definition it would have been best to complete the ratification of the Nordic Sámi Convention (2005, 2017) by three states and the Sámi. The Nordic Sámi Convention ensures a position of the Sámi as equal as possible in the Nordic states, especially concerning Sámi identification issues, the criteria for defining membership and the right to vote in the Sámi election. The ratification of the Nordic Sámi Convention after the various negotiations and agreements between the states and three Sámi Parliaments could also reconcile historical wrongs towards the Sámi by the states.
In addition, the Finnish Sámi Parliament has continuously complained the lack of resources to fulfil the aims of the Sámi Parliament Act to promote Sámi linguistic, cultural and economic rights. To start this reconciliation process again won’t be easy, it would cost a lot of money and take very long time. That’s why some former Sámi political leaders would rather use limited resources to the benefit of Sámi communities and children through teacher training, livelihoods and economics than a formal reconciliation process. Dialogue and empathy are still, as they have been since the rise of the Sámi movement 100 years ago, the best methods to build trust and relationships between different persons and groups and thus transform the world a more human and tolerant place to live in.