A Sami protest against Norwegian coin politics

October 14th, 2010 – Gunn-Britt Retter, a representative for the Sami parliament ("Sámediggi" or "Sametinget") in Norway, stressed the need for Sami text on Norwegian coins in an interview on Norwegian Broadcasting some weeks ago. Retter’s motion was further supported by Vice President Laila Susanne Vars of the Sami parliament on September 19, 2010. The debate about Sami text on Norwegian coins raises an old conflict between the Sami population and the rest of Norway. The Sami people have been forced to defend themselves against a 250 year long attempted assimilation to Norwegian culture and religion.

Flag of the Sami. Source: Wikipedia.

Flag of the Sami. Source: Wikipedia.

Norway has three official languages; bokmål, nynorsk and Sami. Bokmål, which is spoken by a majority in Norway, has a history dating back to medieval times and was named "bokmål" in 1929. "Nynorsk" ("new Norwegian") has a history back to the mid-19th century and is a mix of different Norwegian dialects. "Sami" is spoken by the Norwegian Sami population. Furthermore, Sami can be divided into three different languages: Eastern, Southern and Central Sami.

Norway’s many languages have been used as an argument against Retter’s motion. Retter replies that the EU’s monetary union has achieved linguistical success in spite of many very different languages. In addition, others argue that the Sami people’s culture is very different from the Norwegian majority’s culture and they consequently feel threatened by Sami demands.

On the other side, the central government in Oslo has learned about the value of Sami culture, and in 2009 Sami government and organizations received 766, 6 mill. kroner. In addition, as a consequence of a hearing from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture in 2008, export of Sami antiquities is very hard to carry out. In their comments to the hearing, the National Library and the official Sami museum RiddoDuottarMuseat, welcomed laws that forbid export of Sami antiques / books with no regard to age. Finally, the State budget of 2011 promotes Sami languages as a prime focus for the Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs, and therefore, the ministry increases the state support for Sami languages education and promotion with 10 mill. kroner.

The National Bank has made a comment in the media, and coins with Sami text are not in their current plans. Even so, the Sami parliament representative Retter has brought a very interesting philosophical question up for debate.

Marius Ringsrud, fil.mag.

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