Norway – Day Three

There aren’t a lot of photos from today because my camera died early in the afternoon. Sorry!

It was another early morning today. At 7:30 we jumped on the bus and headed for the Arran Lulesami Cultural Center, a three hour drive northeast of Bodø. If you look at the map I posted yesterday, the center is located where the arrow is pointing to – the town of Dagg, Norway. The town isn’t really that far from Bodø, but the fjords and mountains make driving quite slow. Also, the roads in northern Norway aren’t highways but simple paved roads with barely enough room for two vehicles to pass by each other. Many of us got motion sick from the winding roads and constant braking. The road wasn’t smooth either; I don’t know if there were a lot of speed bumps or what, but I went up and down in my seat every couple of minutes.

When we got the center, we were warmly welcomed and given a tour of the exhibits. Arran means fireplace in the Sami language. The homeland of the Sami is called Sampi. The number of Sami is around 100,000 – but it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact population because registration as a Sami is voluntary. The population is spread out over northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, although most of the Sami reside in Norway and Sweden.

After a lunch of what I can only describe as some sort of lamb stew (that wasn’t too bad), we listened to two men who talked about two very different subjects. One was Konrad Saett, who spoke about the ways in which Norwegian and Russian municipalities collaborate. The other was Sven-Roald Nystø.

Sven was the first president of the Sami Parliament from 1997-2005. He gave us a history of the Sami people and then spoke about Arctic issues affecting the Sami. What struck me was how similar their story is to that of our Aboriginal peoples. The Sami were a hunter-gatherer people in earlier years, and later raised reindeer. In the 1850s, the Norwegian government began a policy of ‘Norwegianization’ or assimilation, geared at making the population homogeneous. Sami children were sent to residential schools (sound familiar?) and a century later, during the 1950s, began to organize in order to regain control over their culture and rights.

The Sami are very, very well-organized and keep themselves in the limelight. They play a major role in a number of United Nations advisory boards, as well as within the Arctic Council and the Barents Cooperation. Norway has signed the convention on the rights of Indigenous People while Canada has not. Norway has settled its major land claim with the Sami people, a claim that is co-managed by the local county and the Sami.

The discovery of oil and gas in the Barents Sea will have major consequences for the Sami people. The small villages on the northern coats of Norway will eventually be infiltrated by industry, which will severely change the communities forever. Just as our Aboriginal people do in Canada, the Sami constantly lobby the national government to make sure they are consulted with and that the environmental ramificiations of any oil and gas developments are kept to a minimum.

Sven’s lecture also gave me an idea for my thesis. He talked about the two visions there are of north: the frontier and the homeland. To indigenous peoples, the north is home, while to the government and industry, it is a place to be settled and industrialized. How can these two competing visions be reconciled? I wonder if this dichotomy is a reason why Canada has not had an effective northern policy – maybe we can’t figure out how the north can be both a frontier and a homeland. Or can it?

We did not get to take the boat ride out to Musken. The weather was too cold for the 15km boat ride it would take. It’s too bad; I was really looking forward to it! A community without roads would have been quite the experience!

We were also recognized as celebrities today. A woman from the local newspaper came to see us. She interviewed Professor Garcea and one of the students and then took pictures of us. I’m telling ya – we are rock stars over here!

Tomorow we head back to Bodø University College for a day of lectures on the Arctic Council and the Barents Cooperation. We will be joined by Masters students from the university, so it should be a good cross-cultural experience! I am also hoping to actually go out for a real meal tomorrow. I haven’t had a ‘real’ meal since I left Saskatoon! Between all of the walking and small amounts of food, I think I’ve created my own Norwegian travel diet!

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