SDÁ 1-2010: Erika Katjaana Sarivaara

Máttuid giela gáhtten: Stáhtusmeahttun sápmelaččaid sámegiela

Erika Katjaana Sarivaara (Sámi allaskuvla)

Viečča artihkkala dás (pdf).

Saving the language of our ancestors: Language revitalization of ‘Non-status’ Sami on the Finnish side of Sápmi

In this article I present and provide a space for the voices of an invisible group of Sami descendants. They are people who have reclaimed the Sami language after it has not been used in their families for several generations. They actively speak Sami and their ancestors were Sami, but they are not considered to be Sami according to official definitions which are based on language inheritance. I call this group stáhtusmeahttun sámit or ‘non-status Sami’. This is the starting point of this article which gives insight into the issues which I address in my PhD, of which this article is a part.

‘Non-status’ Sami have revitalized their Sami language skills mostly as adults. The history of colonization has been silenced, yet it was harsh on the Finnish side of Sápmi. As a result of this colonial history, many Sami were forced to change their livelihoods and language and «become Finnish». I stress that a large part of the population in Northern Finland are actually descendents of Sami who have been assimilated. Out of this population, a small and politically marginalized group has reclaimed their Saminess by studying and using the Sami language.

I argue in this article that language revitalization is borderless. Even though these Sami descendents are limited by political and social borders they have still been able to successfully reclaim their ancestral language. Reclaiming the ancestral language can heal the pains of the past and revitalize Sami identity.