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Indigenous Scandinavian leader's advice to push case for First Nations education

Giovanni Torre -

Indigenous people around the world can educate and inspire one another in the struggle for change, Sámi Parliament of Norway member Mikkel Eskil Mikkelsen says.

Mr Mikkelsen, a member of the parliament's Governing Council, is in Adelaide for the World Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education running this week.

On Wednesday he was a keynote speaker at the conference.

"The Sámi parliament is a place where the Sami people come together," he told National Indigenous Times.

"Our own parliament is for discussing the issues most important to the people, and we see this as an important part of our work; to give a voice to the indigenous people's ambitions and issues of the day. It is very central to us.

"We have seen the impact of the parliament in building relationships, in creating understanding, and influencing politics at the national level.

"And giving Sami people opportunities to take part in international works, such as at the United Nations and other forums."

Mr Mikkelsen said a whole range of opportunities have come to Sámi people through parliament.

For Wednesday's conference speech he drew on the Sámi people's experience working with the education system in Norway.

"We try to influence the education system and create spaces for Sámi education and learning," Mr Mikkelsen said.

"If we get push-back, in our parliament we discuss how we work around that.

"Even though the government won't always create those spaces we are able to do that ourselves, and I gave examples of how we have been able to do that."

Sametingsrd Mikkel Eskil Mikkelsen.

The Sámi leader said parallels between Indigenous communities around the world was a central theme at the conference.

While the largest Sámi population is in Norway, the Sámi homeland Sápmi spans northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia's Murmansk Oblast, including the Kola Peninsula.

The Sámi people have been engaged in long-running struggles with other national governments, fighting to defending their land rights, water and fishing rights, and the environment.

They have also faced discrimination and campaigned for their civil and political rights.

The Sámi parliament in Norway was established in 1989.

Sámi parliaments have also been established in Finland in 1973 (known Sámediggi, Sämitigge or Sääʹmteʹǧǧ in the different dialects of the Sámi language) and Sweden, where is it called the Sámediggi, Sámedigge, or Saemiedigkie, in 1993.

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