This year we celebrate the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages. The purpose of the year is to make the situation of the Indigenous languages of the world more visible. In order for the linguistic rights of the Indigenous people to be guaranteed and the languages preserved and transferred to future generations, strong investments, knowledge and will to preserve the languages are needed.
The different Sámi languages spoken in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia, as well as the Inuit languages spoken in Greenland belong to Indigenous languages. Like many of the Indigenous languages around the world, the Sámi languages and Greenland Inuit languages are on UNESCO’s list of endangered languages. Some of the languages like the South, Lule, Inari, Skolt, and Kildin Sámi are defined as severely endangered, others like the Ume and Pite Sámi are seen as critically endangered and others like North Sámi, East Greenlandic/Tunumiit oraasiat and North Greenlandic/Qaanaaq Inuktitut are seen as definitely endangered. West Greenlandic or Kalaallisut is the official language of Greenland and it is defined by UNESCO as vulnerable.
Multilingual Month calls out to the Nordic organisations, institutions and individual agents on the fields of arts and culture as well as the educational field to participate in the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages by highlighting the situation of the Indigenous languages in the Nordic countries, by arranging events in relation to the theme, by spreading information in the Sámi languages and Inuit languages and by increasing contents and programs in Sámi languages and/or Greenlandic languages in their activities!
The Sámi and Greenlandic languages, literatures and cultures should be made visible in the schools and universities in the Nordic countries, as well as in Nordic media and culture! We can all contribute in various ways to strengthen the visibility and awareness of the Indigenous of the Nordic countries.
Some ideas on how to promote indigenous languages in the Nordic countries
- Learn phrases in Sámi or in Greenlandic! On the trilangual web page (Finnish, Swedish, English) Say it in Saami, by the poet Niillas Holmberg and the documentary film maker Katri Koivula, you get concrete help for different everyday situations – in all three Sámi languages spoken in Finland. Oqaasileriffik, the language secretariat of Greenland, offers a helpful web page with information on Greenlandic and a dictonary.
- Learn about the Sámi people, Sámi languages and Sámi culture. The oktavuohta-website offers information in Finnish on Sámi issues for educators and others interested. The site is produced by the Sámi Parliament and the Finnish National Agency for Education. The site samer.se, produced by the Sámi information centre in Sweden offers information on Sámi culture in Swedish. Say it in Sámi also gives a short introduction into Sámi culture in English.
- Promote literature in the Indigenous language of the Nordic countries and invite Sámi and Greenlandic writers to perform at literary events arranged in the Nordic countries. Information on the Sámi literarary fields and ideas on how to promote Sámi literature can be found in Johanna Domokos report Čálli giehta ollá guhkás – A Writing Hand Reaches Further. Recommendations on the improvement of the Sámi literary field, which she has written and edited for Culture for All. The report is written in English and the recommendations for improving the Sámi literary field can also be found in various Sami languages, Finnish and Swedish on the Nordic Multilingual Month’s website. At the web site of the Greenlandic writers’s union you find information (in Danish) on Greenlandic writers. Check also the project Allatta! for young aspiring writers in Greenland.
- Include Sámi and Greenlandic languages, artists and cultural agents in the events, the courses and the program that you organize. Add information on these languages and culture in all the information and materials that you provide through your different communication channels!
Rita Paqvalén is the Executive Director of Culture for All Service. She has a background as a researcher and lecturer in Nordic literature and is one of the initiators of the Nordic research network DINO – Diversity in Nordic Literature. Since 2013 Paqvalén and her team at Culture for All has been working with several projects related to multilingualism in the field of literature and culture in the Nordic countries, and has produced publications, as well as arranged several seminars and events in relation to the subject. Culture for All is the initiator of the Nordic Multilingual Month and one of the main organizers of the Finnish version of the month Satakielikuukausi.