The Saami Council (Northern Sami: Sámiráđđi; Lule Sami: Sámeráde; Southern Sami: Saemienraerie; Inari Sami: Säämirääđi; Skolt Sami: Sääʹmsuåvtõs) is a voluntary, non-governmental organization of the Saami (Sámi) people, with Saami member organizations in Finland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. Since it was founded in 1956, as one among the very first indigenous peoples' organizations, the Saami Council has actively dealt with Saami public policy tasks. The secretary was previously sited in both Helsinki and Utsjoki, and now in Karasjok. The Saami Council is funded by a range of grants, and their engagements are based on decisions, statements, declarations, and political programs from the Saami Conference held every fourth year.
The purposes of the organization are to:
- promote and safeguard Saami rights and interest;
- consolidate the feeling of affinity among the Saami people;
- attain recognition for the Saami as one people and an indigenous people;
- maintain the cultural, political, economic and social rights of the Saami in the legislation of the four states and in agreements between states and Saami representative organizations
The Saami Council is actively working on promoting Saami cultural, political, economic, civil, social and spiritual rights and interests through providing statements and proposals regarding Saamis in the four countries. Beyond this, they are influencing through participating in international processes related to indigenous peoples all over the world, human rights, Arctic and environment and holds status as permanent participant to the Arctic Council. Further, the organization is represented in the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secretariat (IPS), the foundation Lásságámmi and holding an observer status at the Barents Euro-Arctic Council Working Group of Indigenous Peoples (WGIP) and the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). As there is no Saami Parliament in Russia at present, the Russian members of the Saami Council are given a permanent place in the Saami Parliamentary Council (SPR), which is basically a cooperating forum for the Saami parliaments. They are, however, not given the right to vote in accordance with the other participants of SPR.
The Saami Council emphasizes international collaboration among indigenous peoples' organizations around the world, and holds a particular close relationship to the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), which represents the Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chokotka (Russia).
The Saami Council is engaging in issues related to the Arctic and the environment with the purpose of contributing to a sustainable management that ensures both the environment and natural resources, as well as the Saamis' livelihoods for the future. They state that healthy and productive ecosystems are preconditions for the culture and identity of the Saamis.
The Saami Conference is the highest organ of the Saami Council. It consists of 72 delegates, all of them representing one of the nine member organizations in Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. The conference is held every fourth year and some of the tasks are to confirm the Saami Councils business report and accounting for the previous period, as well as processing resolutions for new issues and a new declaration for the Saami Council.
At the first Saami Conference, which was held in Jokkmokk in 1953, was appointed a working committee supposed to prepare the establishment of the Saami Council. This establishment found place during the second conference in Karasjok 1956. Other decision made at the Saami Conferences are the Saami flag and the Saami anthem "Sámi soga lávlla" and Saami National Day.
The Saami Council consists of 15 members from the member organizations. The members are appointed by the Saami Conference. The Saami Council usually gathers twice a year and is chaired by a president selected for a period of two years.
The Saami Councils and Conferences work has been of significant importance for the Saami peoples status and organization, and also poses an important platform for communication and cooperation in among the Saami society. The Saami Council has gained a position in international forums.
The Executive Board is formed by the president in addition to one vice president from each country. Their job is to lead the organization and perform the tasks given by the Saami Council.
The Cultural Committee consists of five members, of which four are proposed from Saami arts and culture organizations and one from the Saami Council. The members are supposed to pose a wide representation of the range of arts and culture branches. The aim for their function is to promote a comprehensive Saami cultural politic and to preserve, challenge and promote Saami society and culture initiatives. The Saami Council is working on strengthening traditional and modern Saami culture, in particular through providing a funding scheme funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Culture Committee is responsible for this scheme. Culture projects working in a pan-saami perspective are prioritized in accordance to the Saami Council's purpose of unifying the Saami people.
The administration consists of a secretariat chaired by a general secretary appointed by the Saami Council, and of following units:
21 Saami Conferences are held since the establishment in 1953, and for each one is made a new declaration for the Saami Council. The year and location of the conferences were:
- Jokkmokk, 1953
- Karasjok, 1956
- Inari, 1959
- Kiruna, 1962
- Tana, 1965
- Hetta, 1968
- Gällivare, 1971
- Snåsa, 1974
- Inari, 1976
- Arjeplog, 1978
- Tromsø, 1980
- Utsjoki, 1983
- Åre, 1986
- Lakselv, 1989
- Helsinki, 1992
- Murmansk, 1996 (Murmanskdeklarasjonen)
- Kiruna, 2000 (Kirunadeklarasjonen)
- Honningsvåg, 2004 (Honningsvågdeklarasjonen)
- Rovaniemi, 2008 (Rovaniemideklarasjonen)
- Murmansk, 2013
- Trondheim, 2017 (Tråantedeklarasjonen)
In order to become a member organization, the organization has to join the purpose of the Saami Councils existence. Following nine organizations har members of the Saami Council:
- Reindeer Herders Association of Norway (NBR)
- Norwegian Sami Association (NSR)
- Saami Peoples Union (SÁL)
- National Association Sáme Ätnam (RSÄ)
- National Union of the Swedish Saami People (SSR)
- Reindeer Herders Association of Sweden (BEO)
- Central Saami Association (SSG)
- Kola Saami Association (AKS)
- Association of Sámi in Murmansk Oblast (OOSMO)
Prizes and awardsEdit
The Saami Councils Honorary Award is given to a person, organization, association or institution that are considered to have contributed to the strengthening of the Saami peoples togetherness and fellowship, and to helping the Saamis safeguard their traditions, livelihoods, mindsets, languages and other non-materialistic traditions. Among others, the prize has been awarded to Áillohaš (Nils-Aslak Valkeapää), Ole Henrik Magga, and Mari Boine.
The Saami Councils Prize for Literature is awarded every second year and is the only of its kind. The purpose of the prize is to motivate Saami writers to produce Saami literature through giving them recognition and rise the attention for their book releases. The prize is awarded to books with Saami as the main language, sometimes also to books translated to Saami from other minority languages. Among others, it has been awarded to Iraida Vinogradova, Stig Gælok and Siri Broch Johansen.
- The Saami Councils homepage. Visited 17.09.2018.
- Leif Rantila (09.10.2004). «Historisk skriv om Samerådet» (PDF). Visited 17.09.2018.