Happy Saami National Day!
February 6th is the official Saami National Day, which shares deep historic ties with Trondheim.
Today is February 6th, and it's time to celebrate! The Saami National Day honours the Saami, a group of about 80,000 indigenous people, and their culture. Most Saami live in northern Norway, but there are also Saami communities in Sweden, Finland, and Russia.
Trondheim has been a central location in Saami history as the National day marks the anniversary of the first congress of the Saami people in 1917, which was the first time the Saami organised themselves into a larger community. Saami from all over northern Norway and Sweden gathered in front of the Methodist Church (which still stands today) to fight for the preservation of their identity, culture, and way of life.
So what is it like to experience the Saami National Day here in Trondheim?
Friends, food, and 'joiking' around
This year, the city government and the Trondheim Saami community are having a whole host of events, including a kick-off programme at Peter Egges plass (the square where DIGS and the main library are located) full of music and performances.
Thomas Gælok, Trondheim-based Saami translator and artist, is one of the performers — but how does he usually celebrate Saami National Day? "I often work as an artist on these days, so I rarely have the day off," Thomas says cheerfully. "But I love getting together with other Saami people and have a good time together. Singing national songs, like at this event today, and maybe some joik as well."
Joik (pronounced 'yoik) is the unique Saami singing tradition which you should definitely try to see live if you have the chance. But in addition to singing, Thomas says food is a huge part of enjoying the festivities — and other attendees agree.
"For me, Saami National Day is all about getting together with friends and family and eating good food!" says Elaine Asp. Elaine founded the first Saami restaurant in Sweden and has written a Saami cookbook called HÄVVI.
During the festival in Trondheim, Elaine and her daughter Kristina set up a display at DIGS and gave people the chance to taste some delicious Saami food made from local Norwegian ingredients.
You can find more information about the Saami people and culture here in English, and on the official website of the Saami congress in Norwegian and Saami languages.
You can also check out the current exhibition at Kunsthall Trondheim which aims to bring forth indigenous, queer, and eco-feminist perspectives that have largely been excluded from the Western historical canon. And as always, it's free admission!