In Norway, the Sámi population plays a significant role. The Sámi are an Indigenous group that originate from the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola Peninsula, known collectively as the Sápmi region. Their ancestry goes back at least 2000 years and for centuries Sámi communities led semi-nomadic lives, relying on hunting, fishing, gathering, and trapping. Especially for the inland population, reindeer herding has been a distinct Sámi tradition. Although highly integrated into their respective countries, Sami culture remains a distinctive cultural entity, united by shared historical, cultural and linguistic ties and a Sámi identity. The Sami population is estimated to between 70,000 and 100,000 with the majority living in Norway’s northwestern coastal regions.
This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples highlights the right to education. Built in the new the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the promotion of education for Indigenous population groups, who disproportionally are lagging behind on global educational targets. The UN underscores that “indigenous peoples are custodians to rich cultural diversity, carrying unique wisdom of sustainable living and respect for biodiversity” and that “indigenous knowledge systems hold many answers to mitigating the consequences of climate change”. This is why their preservation is just the more important today.
Access to quality education for all indigenous children is vital for the advancement of the world’s indigenous people. Although the indigenous heritages in Australia, New Zealand and Norway are highly differentiated, the challenges we face in elaborating policies that manage to deliver culturally appropriate education services to our indigenous peoples are highly similar. Much can be earned by sharing of the experiences of past and present efforts. Indeed, this was the main purpose for the visit by the Norwegian deputy minister for Indigenous and minority affairs, Anne Karin Olli, to New Zealand and Australia earlier this year and underlines an important area for bilateral cooperation between our countries.