The Sámi people and their right to learn mother tongue at school

Theme 4. Education
Session Name 4.8 Research as reconciliation: What is the situation in Canada and the Nordic countries?
Datetime Sep 06, 2018 02:45 PM - 02:55 PM (UTC +3)
Location IT113
Presentation Type Oral
Presenter Ekaterina Zmyvalova
Author(s) Ekaterina Zmyvalova (Umeå University, Sweden)
Abstract text

The Sámi people is one of indigenous peoples living in the Arctic. They live on their traditional land called Sápmi. Sápmi spread over a geographical territory administrated and politically controlled by four States: Russia, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Living in the territory of these four states the Sámi have been affected by the state policy of colonization. Schools have always been institutions where colonization policy is observed.


It seems that schools are one of the platforms where reconciliation processes can be viewed. This presentation demonstrates my research dedicated to Swedish and Russian parts of Sápmi. Using a comparative socio-legal method, I will compare how these two states exercise their language policy at school and realize the right of indigenous people for their mother tongue. I will demonstrate both the history of the issue and the present situation. I will also illustrate that the mother tongue teaching at school is one of the important parts of sustaining indigenous culture, processes of decolonization and reconciliation.


The project is based on the idea that law can enforce and sustain the status of a minority language in a certain community only if the implementation of law meets varying needs of the community in question. In the Sámi context, in order for the law to be able to protect or maintain the language of the Sámi community, the members of the community should be able to influence educational decisions at least at a local level, but preferably already at higher decision-making levels.

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