mikkokarna Lapin puolustaja

The Baby Rage of the Finnish Sámi Parliament

Foreword: As you read, please pay attention to the repetition of one last name. Perhaps it will be more clear what the non-status Sami are dealing with. Self-determination is important, in principle. But what about human rights?

The events within Sámi politics began this week, when the Supreme Administrative Court (fin. Korkein hallinto-oikeus, KHO) announced that it had accepted 93 people into the Sámi Parliament electoral roll, after these people had appealed the rejections of their applications by the Finnish Sámi Parliament. The decision of SAC was not in itself surprising because the Yearbook decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court from the year 2011 gave reason to believe that the interpretations of the Sámi definition in the Sámi Act will be made with emphasis on the applicant’s Sámi identity, as long as the objective criteria of Sámi definition are met. International agreements and Finnish legislation obligates it to do so, there are no other equitable solution models.

The current leadership of the Sámi Parliament, whose policy sought to emphasize the "Sovereignty of the Sámi as an Indigenous People," got unparalleled “baby rage” (in Finnish "itkupotkuraivari") after the Supreme Administrative Court decisions became public. YLE Sápmi (Yle Sápmi performs the Sámi-language public service in the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle), which according to its mandate should produce objective news from different perspectives in different Sámi languages, got a similar baby rage. I think it is unfortunate that our tax assets are used to support such a politicized media outlet.

Two Näkkäläjärvi and day´s "specialities"

The toughest statements from yesterday came from the Sámi Parliament’s former president, Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi, who accused Finland of being a "racist country that tramples on its own indigenous people.".Later in the day, Näkkäläjärvi announced the demand that his name needs to be removed from the Sámi Parliament’s electoral roll. These statements can be understood in view of the following: the Supreme Administrative Court decisions should have allowed the continued discriminatory segregation policy driven by Näkkäläjärvi during his presidency.. Instead, the racism accusations are odd coming from the person, himself who in his blog writings and in his speeches has been recorded as referring to the Non-Status Sámi as Christmas elves and to Martians, and pushed a hard Sámi nationalistic line. Unfortunately, Näkkäläjärvi has removed the blog posts online, so they cannot be referenced here.

After Klemetti, it was time for Janne Näkkäläjärvi, who is as the chairman of the Sámi Parliament’s Electoral Commission that is legally responsible for the repealed decisions for Sámi status. Näkkäläjärvi believes that there was no connecting thread within the Supreme Administrative Court's decisions. Criticism can be agreed upon in the sense that within the Supreme Administrative Court's decision-making, apparently there were errors due to evaluating the appeals in urgency. For example, one sibling was accepted onto the electoral roll, but another one was not. In such cases, those appeals that were rejected will have to seek a new appeal of the decision from the Supreme Administrative Court, which may mean that there will be more than 100 people who will definitively be accepted to the electoral roll. Näkkäläjärvi did not see the Supreme Administrative Court's decision as "good news" and according to his opinion the decisions will affect Sámi self-determination. This can only be regarded as a positive, if it influences a view of  self-determination that means putting an end to unlawful decisions.

The most peculiar "expert opinions" published by YLE Sápmi came from master of law Anne Nuorgam, who actually is a Sámi politician without a notable academic career. How come a person with such a background can be allowed to be the credible voice in the media as giving the "in-depth analysis” of the SAC made decisions? A lot of column space has also been given to assistant professor of Rauna Kuokkanen from Toronto, who for example recommended all Sámi to protest by resigning from the Sámi Parliament electoral roll. Kuokkanen is known as a passionate supporter of the Sámi Parliament's present leadership.

The Statements of the Sami Parliament President

Naturally, the current president of the Sámi Parliament Tiina Sanila-Aikio was also vocal,on the matter. In August, I argued that the election commission of the Sámi Parliament was committing human rights violations by denying applications that meet the legal criteria for Sami status. At that time, the chairman Sanila-Aikio strongly denied the accusations and stated that decisions given to people who applied for Sámi status are justified, and that they are based on, among other things, the law, as well as a number of legal sources. The Supreme Administrative Court's decisions seems to make it clear that this has not been the case, but that the election commision decisions have been made arbitrarily, which they justify through "Sámi self-determination."

However, Sanila-Aikio did not correct the error, but accused the State of Finland of forcing assimilation. The Sámi Parliament’s propaganda machine, YLE Sápmi, currently produced a number of one-sided news, exceptionally also in English. The purpose of this simple measure was, of course, to draw international attention. At the same time, it explains the media coverage of Kuokkanen, since I seriously doubt that she is behind the translated English news of YLE Sápmi. Phishing also paid off, as today, the UN Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Estonian Oliver Loode, demanded to consider stopping the Sámi Parliament elections. According to Loode the Sámi as a people have the right to determine who to include. In this context, to outline the motives, it is also worth mentioning that this Oliver Loode is the partner to a North Sámi woman from Karigasniemi.

What exactly does not the UN understand

The statements of Sámi issues given by UN Indigenous organs are problematic, despite their persistent enlightenment work, they still do not seem to be understanding all the facts in the Finnish Indigenous case. In fact, the Sámi have never had the chance to define themselves collectively, but the definition was codified in 1962 from research based on a very narrow population. This research was mainly to study linguistic identities in a few municipalities. At that time, several members of the indigenous people had already lost their mother tongue, the Sámi language, because of forced or voluntary assimilation. However, the culture continued to live strongly, as it lives today, up in Salla and Savukoski for example, even though these municipalities are not considered part of the official Sámi homeland area. You can read my review of the situation here.

In other words, part of the Sámi population were in the first place limited outside of official Sáminess and this delimitation has taken place, and in particular been enabled by the majority of the North Sámi in the Sámi Parliament. Sámi Status e.g. Sámi identity has been reached only through and by the approval of the Sámi Parliament’s 5 member Election Commission. The Electoral Commission has always been selected by the North Sámi majority to represent the (their) "real" opinions. Therefore, it is a similar system, as if the sitting national Government would get to decide who is allowed to vote in the next election. No doubt, the Sámi have self-determination, but the self-determination cannot mean disregarding laws and regulations.

Finnish law defines who belongs on the individual level to the indigenous people in Finland, and it is the definition that the Sámi Parliament has to respect. Also, due to International agreements of human rights, every individual is guaranteed, according to legal protection, to have a chance to appeal decisions concerning that person. It is high time that the Sámi Parliament also recognizes this self-evident fact. Similarly, it is high time to clarify to the UN that some facts do not seem to enter into the discussion because,within the indigenous forums, only the Finnish Sámi Parliament’s selected politicians are heard. 

However on has to move forward

So, how do we move forward from here? First of all, the Sámi Parliament should acknowledge its mistakes and accept that the national legislative body is also bound by it. This must be kept in mind when making decisions in the future.  The Finnish government should also consider changing the Act of Sámi Parliament in cooperation with the Sámi Parliament. If the law is opened it should be done thereby, that the Sámi definition remains intervened. However, the administration of the Sámi Parliament needs reform, in particular, the Sámi Act should include binding working regulations concerning the election commission.

The ratification of ILO Convention 169, or neither Nordic Sámi Convention, in this situation is not even worth talking about, but in the preparations of the ratification it would be beneficial to set up an independent working group to study a variety of unresolved issues. In fact, there are several, and I have written about those here before.

However, the most important thing now is to recognize that our entire indigenous policy has failed. We have created a discriminatory and human rights trampling monster, that always just seems to continue its march. In addition, I would also submit a challenge to the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle and ask that you command YLE Sápmi to stop entering one-sided propaganda in all possible languages. Yesterday, the news concerning SAC decisions, has been completely absent of perspectives from researchers who challenge the views of the current Sámi Parliament's leadership. Is this really your conception of objective media?

But I do not know that the head of YLE Sápmi Piritä Näkkäläjärvi is responding to the commands, as Näkkäläjärvi is herself currently holding her own war within the international "arenas," such as on social media on the Sámi Siida of North America forum on Facebook. Oh, what a baby rage.

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Ilari Kiema

KHO has failed to respect the authority of the Sami Parliament. Self-identification cannot be just a matter of a speech act to be accepted automatically. The purpose of the international law on indigenous people is to preserve those indigenous cultures which have preserved traditional ways of live with close connection to local natural resources. Doctor Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi is highly qualified to determine who should be considered to belong to a group of indigenous people and who should not.

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