Celebrate Sámi Day

Celebrated every February 6 since 1993, Sámi National Day (Sámi Álbmotbeaivi) commemorates the first international, pan-Sámi organizational meeting held in Trondheim in 1917, considered the beginning of the Sámi rights movement.

It will be celebrated locally from 4 pm to 8 pm this coming Thursday at Pacific Lutheran University’s Scandinavian Cultural Center in Tacoma. (See link for directions.)

Sámi National Day (Sámi Álbmotbeaivi)
Thursday, February 6, 2014

Scandinavian Cultural Center, PLU, Tacoma

4 pm Opening and Anthem
4:30 pm Exhibit Tour
5 pm Concert by Risten Anine Gaup
6:15 pm Sámi Documentaries

The celebration will open with welcoming remarks and the singing of the Sámi national anthem, followed by a guided tour of the new Sámi exhibit and time for refreshments and socializing. The talented Sámi joiker Risten Anine Gaup (above) will perform around 5 p.m. Two short documentaries will be screened beginning around 6:15 pm, followed by a short discussion.

Props to PLU professor Troy Storfjell and the Scandinavian Cultural Center for arranging the celebration. I plan to be there and hope it is well-attended!

Here is a taste of Sámi music and art for those unable to attend. For many outside Scandinavia, their first time hearing joik, the long suppressed folk music of the Sami, was when Nils-Aslak Valkeapää (1943-2001) performed at the 1994 Lilyhammer Olympics. His friend the Sámi scholar Harald Gaski said “it is in the totality of his expression that you understand Nils-Aslak best.” Listen to his haunting joik from “The Sun, My Father” here as you contemplate the paintings below.

In describing Valkeapää’s poetry (the man was a creative force!), Gaski mentions parallels to Chief Seattle’s apocryphal but famous speech of 1854 in which he asks rhetorically: “How can you sell or buy the air? If we do not own its freshness and the glimmer in the water, how then can the White man buy it from us?”

It’s a question that haunts, given the continued ravaging of resources in the name of profit, in Sapmi and everywhere. But there is hope. The indigenous worldview or cosmology that prioritizes beauty, balance, and harmony over individualism, competition, and materialism never went away and still offers a future on this planet. I love the abstract tension in these two paintings by Valkeapää and the way they suggest both the power of nature and lightness in which the people and animals appear on the land.

Lihkku Sámi Álbmotbeivviin (Happy Sámi National Day!), wherever you find yourself.

Celebrate Sámi National Day on Wed, Feb. 6th at PLU

On February 6th, Sámi National Day, or Sámi People’s Day (Sámi Álbmotbeaivi), is celebrated throughout Sápmi, the land of the Indigenous Sámi in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The celebration commemorates the first international, pan-Sámi organizational meeting held in Trondheim in 1917, marking the beginning of the Sámi rights movement. Sámi Álbmotbeaivi has been celebrated since 1993. This year, on its 20th anniversary, Pacific Lutheran University and the Scandinavian Cultural Center will celebrate the day for the first time.

Events are free and open to the public. Several members of our Pacific Sámi Searvi will attend and lead the singing of the Sámi national anthem. Please join us! (Get directions.)

Schedule:

  • 2:30 pm Refreshments and a brief talk by Professor Troy Storfjell
  • 2:40 pm Singing of the Sámi anthem (new English version!)
  • 3 pm The one-hour documentary Herdswoman (in Swedish and Sámi with English subtitles). 
  • 4 pm Panel-led discussion of the film
  • 7 pm Sámi Professor Harald Gaski will present this year’s Bjug Harstad Memorial Lecture, titled “Celebrating the Return of the Sun and the Recognition of a People: The Sami National Day in the Context of Myth and Poetics.” Gaski will explain why the Sámi consider themselves the descendents of the sun, and provide some background for the selection of February 6 for the Sámi National Day. He will also show how myths have played an important role in the work of Sámi multi-media artist Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, setting his work in an international Indigenous context. (Harald Gaski is Associate Professor of Sámi Literature at the University of Tromsø in Norway, and an internationally well-known expert on Sámi literature and culture, and a leading researcher in the emerging field of indigenous methodologies.)