Representantives, indigenous leaders, politicians, Ladies & Gentlemen
2019 is both special and important for indigenous peoples as the United Nations (UN) have designated this year as the Internation Year of Indigenous Languages. Despite their cultural differences, many indigenous groups share common problems also related to language. Language loss and being ashamed of speaking their own language have been one of the consequences of colonialism and the assimilation policies indigenous groups have been exposed to, and many indigenous communities are still facing prejudice, stereotypes, racism and discrimination. Languages around the world continue to disappear at an alarming rate, including many indigenous languages. Because of the critical situation of indigenous languages there is a urgent need to preserve, revitalize and strengthen these languages.
The UN’s declaration on International Year Of Indigenous Languages 2019 (IYIL) aims to promote indigenous languages by celebrating them in different ways. This global initiative focus on raising awareness, honouring and making indigenous languages visible. It is important to raise positivity around this topic, which can further help to change existing negative attitudes. Although this year focuses on indigenous languages, it also affects the people and communities using these languages as language is deeply linked to our identy, history, traditions, culture, our way of thinking and living. It is also a vital component of traditional knowledge and ways of transferring it to one generation to another. At the same time, it contributes to a rich cultural diversity.
Having this in mind, also we, indigenous people, must encourage authorities and other actors to get involved with these celebrations, by for example initiate a collaboration with them focusing on indigenous languages and having them becoming a partner for the UN international year for indigenous languages. In this way, they show support for indigenous languages and communities and are helping to build positive change regarding indigenous peoples and their languages. Especially this year it’s important to make our languages even more visible in the larger community and to raise awareness of indigenous and minority languages.
Language also plays a major role in our social life, not to mention it’s our way of communicating with each other. As det world evolves and modernizes, so does our languages. The world today is highly digitalized and has a huge impact on our languages. Technological developments give us many opportunities in terms of offering new tools for learning, but it also give us some challenges. As in the real world, majority languages dominate the digital world as well. Language tools made by big companies are often not adapted to limited diffusion languages. Therefore, it is necessary to keep our languages alive also in the digital world. The Sámis are very fortunate because we already have multiple digital tools available for us, for example Sámi keyboards and Sámi dictionaries to mention some. But I would like to emphasize that even if we are talking about a minority language, such as Sámi, it is possible to make good technologial tools even for language of very limited diffusion.
In Norway, the Sámi Parliament has started a language strategy called “Giellalokten”, which aims to make the Sámi languages visible in every part of the society, both the Norwegian and Sámi. We wish to emphasize the Sámi languages we have in Norway. Furthermore, the project aims to raise awareness of the use of Sámi languages in everyday life, increase peoples knowledge about Sámi language and culture, and raise the status of Sámi languages. Our groundview is that Sámi and Norwegian should be equal languages. Giellalokten contains a number of language measures that apply to different part of society. It places particular emphasis on language learning offers and courses for children and youth, visibility and collaboration and recruitment and capacity building. Giellavahkku or the Sámi Language Week, which is held 21.-27th Oktober, is a part of the Giellalokten strategy. We have invited different actors and institutions in Norway to make the Sámi languages visible, by for example encouraging them to arrange their own events.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) is also currently working on mapping and documenting the consequences of the assimilation policy in Norway that lasted for over 100 years, and is further going to propose reconciliation measures. The purpose of this Commission is to reveal and investigate the Norwegianization policy and the injustice made by the Norwegian Government against Sámis and Kvens. This work is expected to be completed by year 2022. I am happy that this work has been implemented because the assimilation policy had a direct impact on Sámi and Kven language. Having this Commission is an important but necessary step forward, not only for the Sámi and Kven people, but also for the whole country.
Sadly, the Sámi history is not very unlike the history of other indigenous peoples and I truly hope that IYIL19 becomes a success and that our indigenous languages developes and evolves more than ever this year.
Happy international year of indigenous languages. Giitu. Thank you for your attention!