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Sápmi Norwegian municipalities in dire need of Sami language competences

Report concludes serious lack of Sami language skills and cultural knowledge among workers in 13 Sápmi Norwegian municipalities making it difficult to enforce local rights.
Tromsø by night. Its university is doing a good job educating lawyers in Sami language and culture, says report.
Photo: Munir Rani/Unsplash

Copenhagen, Denmark (TP)

Locals living in the Sami self-governed area in northern Norway have difficulties communicating with municipality workers in their native tongue. And the lack of workers who speak Sami language or have Sami cultural knowledge is critical, according to a newly realised report by research institute NORCE.

Norway’s municipality- and district department ordered the report in 2021 to get a scope on Sami language and culture competences among municipality and state workers in the Sami self-governed area in northern Norway.

Norway’s secretary of state, Nancy Porsanger Anti says that Norway will react on the issue.

‘The report we have received from NORCE is a solid foundation for the continuing work of strengthening the Sami language,’ she says.

Need of ‘triple-competences’

There are 13 Sápmi municipalities out of a total of 356 Norwegian municipalities. The 13 Sápmi municipalities have a language law securing the locals rights to communicate with regional and national authorities in their native tongue.

But the study shows that it’s very difficult for at least seven municipalities to meet the locals with these rights. These local bodies lack police staff, teachers, nurses and doctors with what the report calls ‘triple-competences.’

A worker with triple-competencies is described as a person with a professional set of skills combined with knowledge of Sami languages and culture. While there a plenty of workers with proper professional skills, teaching them Sami languages and cultural knowledge have proved relatively fruitless despite the municipalities offering courses for free.

However, municipalities are reporting that it’s easier to create workers with triple-competences by providing people who already speak a Sami language with professional skills. Some municipalities are offering stipends and permission with salary for hired staff to take specialized educations on the side.

Sami language blooming in judicial system

It’s not all gloom and doom. The report highlights positive results in the judicial system covering these municipalities.

University of Tromsø established Sami-rights in their program, which over time have increased competences among common lawyers, Sami lawyers and lawyers with abilities to use Sami language in law practice.

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Lasse Sørensen (Founding Editor-In-Chief)

Suvi Loponen (Deputy Editor)