The Saami Youth greet the 22:nd (twenty second) Saami Conference and its participants, and we thank the conference for the opportunity to speak this morning.
In 2017, in Tråante, the Saami youth gathered for the Saami Youth conference. Five years ago, we had no idea it would be the last time for the foreseeable future, when all four regions are physically present at a Saami youth gathering. Even now, we are not complete without our siblings behind the Eastern border.
We, the Saami youth, want it to be said that never again should it take this long for us to be in the same room.
Five years, a pandemic and a war in between us, is far too long a time for Saami youths to not meet. Five years of distance has made the borders between us real and true, and breaking them down once again will take far more than we currently have.
Everyone of us knows that we need more cross-border collaboration between ourselves, our organisations, our events, all of it. We know we don’t meet as often as we should, share information as much as we should, and help each other as much as we should. We know that this is the very purpose of the borders, to divide us, to make it difficult or impractical to keep touch. But, as we felt yesterday, it only takes for us to be with each other, and suddenly things don’t feel as difficult anymore. It is very important to say out loud that we need your help.
The Saami youth call upon the Saami Council to put into place a Saami Youth Secretary to help the Saami youth civil society and parliamentary representation keep contact, to facilitate meetings between us, and to re-learn what a truly borderless Sápmi means.
The Saami youth also call upon the delegations to make their own changes. We know it is custom to reserve a seat for a youth nominee for the Saami council. We challenge you to make those seats official, to make youth representation at the Saami Council mandatory.
Saami youths are not equal amongst ourselves. Not all of us were born with our language, not all of us were born in our traditional lands, not all of us inherited what is rightfully ours. There are vast differences between us and the ways in which all of us are reconnecting and taking back what has been stolen. But we do not all share the same starting point. We need solutions to support all of us, to all of our needs.
Our society has changed. Some youth have not learned the way of “guossástallan” and a lot of traditional knowledge has been lost. But it doesn’t mean we are not interested in meeting our elders and learning traditions, the ways they have been raised. Please invite us to visit, invite us to learn, to connect. We want to address that not everyone has the privilege to have áhkku or áddjá to teach them about the culture or their Sámi identity.
The Saami youth organisations all across Sápmi also receive emails and messages from young people, who want to reconnect with their ancestry and their culture. At the moment, the pressure of helping these returning Sámi youth to find their identity, family and place in the Sámi society falls on us youth. But we are also still finding our own identities and places in the Sámi society. We need our local communities to take responsibility for helping find these youth, but also help the youth find their families and places, where their ancestors have lived. And we stress, that this phenomenon is only growing, and fast.
We must also remember that we must bring the whole of Sápmi with us. After all, Sápmi also consists of lgbtqia+, hearing and disabled people of all ages. It is important that we show consideration and adapt so that everyone can be part of the Sami community without feeling excluded. It is particularly important that we take care of and fight prejudice against those of us who are a minority inside a minority.
When we give Sámi youth permanent structures to work together, change ideas and plan activities, we also have to create space for inclusivity and accessibility. We as Sámis have always been ahead of our time. Unfortunately we also have weak places and blind spots, such as including rainbowsámi and disabled people, and creating safe spaces for everyone participating in Sámi events.
By hearing the voices that might not always be part of the conversations, we can learn and create new ways to develop Sámi society. We are looking forward to see in the future for Saamicouncil creating strategies for including rainbosámis and disabled people and increasing gender equality.
Just as Saami youth are not equal amongst ourselves, there is also inequality between the funding received by the Sámi youth organisations. Some organisations are able to hire people to work with organisations' goals, whereas other organisations are barely receiving funding to keep the organisation going. It is our mutual interest to make sure that our youth organisations are equal and have the same capacity to work with mutual issues. We need to have the possibility to actually create meeting places for the youth without the fear of ending up bankruptcy on the way.
With the covid restrictions we have had since the beginning of 2020, the youth have missed out on the important transition where they get introduced to the sami festivals, conferences and other gatheringpoints they normally would be taken on with their older friends, connecting with their relatives, and learning about the whole Saami society. The youth organisations have also become very vulnerable during these Covid years, since restrictions have also taken away the excitement and joy in working in the organisations.
Securing funding for Saami youth organisations is the most direct way to make sure that our youth return to our meeting places, just as the older generations have done. It is also the best way to make sure that our organizations remain functional and are able to sustain themselves even in times of crisis.
Empowerment comes from the little things. It’s the discussions we have at festivals. It’s the realisation that you’ve learned a new word. It’s meeting a person from another side of the border and understanding that you truly are part of the same people.
As the future of Sápmi, we Saami youth must be represented when questions about our future are raised. It is us who will carry the work and way of life in the future. We need your knowledge, we need your help to stay in touch with traditions, even those of us who have no family traditions left, that were forced to leave them behind.
A united Sápmi is a strong Sápmi. We already have borders dividing us, our lands and our ways of living. So do not let gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, or other factors split us up. We are only as strong as we are united, and weak as we are divided. We Saami youth are committed to a united Sápmi - for all of us. We want to work for our lands, our culture, our people, and the future generations.
We ask that you do the same.
(Thank you / Giitu)