Sámi welcome new era with food and conversation

Ina Rehn brought with her warming reindeer skins for the cold.
Ina Rehn brought with her warming reindeer skins for the cold.

There was Sámi flatbread, reindeer sausage, and sledding on the agenda when the theme "Conversation by the Fire" brought Sámi people together in Skellefteå on Sunday. At the same time, there was great joy over the municipality now being part of a Sámi administrative area.

Skellefteå kommun 20 november 2023 14:45

On Thursday it was confirmed - the government has given its approval for Skellefteå municipality to be included in a Sámi administrative area from next year.

Ina Rehn brought with her warming reindeer skins for the cold.

– This is a Sámigathering with the theme 'Conversation by the fire', says chairperson Susanne Pingi Avander.

– We are meeting outdoors, which is a natural place for us Sámi people. We sit by the fire, make coffee, eat Sámi reindeer sausage and gáhkku, socialize and have a good time.

Susanne Pingi Avander, chairperson of the Skellefteå Sámi Association, is pleased with the new decision.

How important is it to meet like this?

– It is very important. We have children, young people, and elders who come together. It's crucial for our unity. It becomes like a second family.

"We meet outdoors, it's a natural place for us Sami people," says Susanne Pingi Avander, chairperson of the Skellefteå Sami Association.

The government's decision was met with applause, and she said they were extremely happy and pleased with it, even though they didn't expect any other decision.

– It was Thursday night. A happy surprise, and there were tears of joy. We are very happy, of course.

The theme of the day was "Conversations by the Fire."

But why did it take so long?

– It took time because Skellefteå municipality misunderstood the applications and the process. So they had to redo the applications, simple as that.

Ina Rehn, who brought the reindeer skins to the meeting, is the former chairperson of the association and now lives in Gällivare municipality.

– I am originally from Skellefteå and have roots in the South Sámi area of Västerbotten, she said.

Ina Rehn, former chairperson of the association, thinks the decision is "fantastic."

How important is this decision for the Sámi people of Skellefteå?

– We have been fighting for this for several years. It means new opportunities and new conditions for the Sámi people in Skellefteå municipality to practice their culture.

– It is fantastic.

Nine-year-old Andrew Toulja from Skellefteå is on site with his family.

While nine-year-old Andrew Toulja from Skellefteå mostly stays on the sled hill with his siblings, Fredrik Lundberg warms himself on a reindeer hide with the dogs Ella and Vilma.

The Volpino Italiano dogs, Ella and Vilma, get some warmth from Fredrik Lundberg.

Another person who braved the cold to get to Erikslidsbacken is Myr Wikström from Skellefteå.

– There is a lot of mingling. We have coffee and there are lots of good conversations; everyone is curious about what other people are up to.

He says everyone has a sense of community, but also different interests.

– That's what makes it so much fun, he says, adding:

– And then we have gáhkku!

Myr Wikström from Skellefteå is looking forward to the Sámi flatbread gáhkku, which he says is perfect.

Finally, he explains what this gáhkku, soon to be enjoyed by the gathering, actually is:

– It's a Sámi flat bread that is so delicious and warming; it's just perfect.

What the decision means

Skellefteå municipality will become a Sami administrative area on January 1, 2024. 

This means that the rights of national minorities will be strengthened according to the Minorities Act. This includes the right to use their minority language in oral and written communication with the municipality, as well as being offered preschool and elderly care in their language. The additional costs will be financed by a state subsidy.

Source: Skellefteå municipality

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