Historical archive

Work on traditional Sami knowledge in Norway

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs

The Conference of "People in changing world", kautokeino, 22.3.2011 - by State Secretary Raimo Valle

Presidents of the Sami parliaments, Conference participants!

I am very happy for the opportunity to attend this conference on ?People in Changing World? and to talk about the Norwegian government's work on Sami traditional knowledge.

International guidelines
The work on traditional knowledge in Norway today is based on guidelines issued through national legislation and international conventions and agreements. I will review some of the most important international guidelines:

The Nordic countries have committed themselves through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Articles 8 (j) and 10 (c), to preserve the traditional knowledge relating to biological diversity of the Sami people and local communities. They have undertaken to protect and maintain indigenous people's traditional knowledge which is relevant for conservation and sustainable use, so that this knowledge can be passed on to future generations.

Akwé: Kon Guidelines = Voluntary guidelines for the Conduct of Cultural, Environmental and Social Impact Assessments regarding Developments Proposed to take Place on, or which are likely to Impact on, Sacred Sites and on Lands and Waters Traditionally Occupied or Used by Indigenous and Local Communities.

The Tkarihwaie:ri code of Ethical Conduct to ensure respect for the cultural and intellectual heritage of indigenous and local communities relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity including traditional knowledge, innovation and practices.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, which was adopted in 2008, provides important guidelines for the rights of indigenous peoples to their culture, identity, language and other practices. Article 31 is particularly important in this connection. It states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage and their traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their own science, technology and culture. States shall take effective measures in conjunction with indigenous people to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights. 

UNESCO's Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions are of importance to indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge. By ratifying these conventions, the parties recognise the importance of traditional knowledge as a source of both spiritual and material wealth, and the contribution of this knowledge to sustainable development and the necessity of protecting and fostering it. The convention also points out the importance of people's freedom to create, communicate and disseminate their traditional cultural expressions and to have access to their own cultural expression to promote their own development.
ILO Convention no. 169 is the only binding instrument of international law dealing with the rights of indigenous peoples. The convention provides guidelines for Norway's work on traditional knowledge. Article 2.2 states that the authorities shall develop special measures to protect the identity, customs and traditions of indigenous peoples. Article 23 states that handicrafts, rural and community-based industries, subsistence economy and traditional activities shall be recognised as important factors in the maintenance of indigenous peoples' culture. Article 22 states that vocational training shall ensure that traditional skills are passed on to future generations. Training programmes shall be developed in cooperation with and through consultations between indigenous peoples and national governments.

The Nature Diversity Act
In Norway, the Sami Act and the provision in Section 110A of the Constitution form the basis for general policy relating to the Sami and the work to preserve and extend the traditional knowledge of the Sami people. Report no. 28 (2007-2008) to the Storting on Sami policy also deals with the Norwegian government's point of departure for work on traditional knowledge.

The new Nature Diversity Act was enacted in 2009, ushering in a new epoch in Norwegian management of natural resources. When nature is threatened, the authorities are duty-bound to consider what action to take. The act contains rules for both sustainable use and conservation of nature. An important concept in the new act is that it shall work in conjunction with other acts that regulate the use of Norwegian nature. Section 8 of the Act states that the exercise of authority that concerns nature diversity shall, as far as it is reasonably possible to do so, be based on scientific knowledge. Emphasis shall also be placed on the experience of previous generations through use of and interplay with nature that can contribute to conserving nature diversity, among other things Sami use. This provision is based on existing knowledge. The authorities should prepare the way for knowledge based on experience to play a part, through consultative rounds, for example by soliciting statements from authorities with expertise in the area. In matters that concern areas with Sami traditional use, this could be the Sami Parliament and research institutions with specialist expertise. The establishment of a good knowledge base follows from commitments according to the Biodiversity Convention.

When protected areas are established in cultural landscapes, emphasis on knowledge-based experience will be a requirement. The environmental authorities draw on knowledge about traditional use, for example in connection with the preparation of plans for care and management. When protected areas are established in regions where there is Sami use of the area, knowledge of Sami traditional use shall be drawn upon.

The work of implementing the act in all sectors remains to be done, but with this act we can claim to have acquired a tool for protecting traditional knowledge of the management of Norwegian nature. The Nature Diversity Act reflects the fact that we must safeguard nature not only through protection, but also - perhaps equally importantly - through use. This is a new way of thinking, and contingent on the knowledge base being in place.

The Árbediehtu Project
The Árbediehtu project - árbediehtu is the Sami word for traditional knowledge - is one of the programmes launched in Report no. 28 (2007 ? 2008) to the Storting on Sami policy. The project was established in 2009 to focus on traditional Sami knowledge in Norway. It is a collaboration between the Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs, the Sami Parliament and the Sami University College. The guidelines for the project are the instructions in Article 8 (j) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the guidelines in the Storting Report in question. The Norwegian government's Sami policy aims to strengthen Sami identity and contribute to a living local community (the Soria Moria Declaration). This is to be achieved by furthering traditional knowledge as a local resource. In its work, the Sami University College has emphasised capacity building, cooperation and partnership, and the importance of local knowledge bearers in this work. Actual partners are the Sami centres Saemien Sijte and Árran, Mearrasámi guovddá? (Coastal Sami centre of competence), and the Sami museum network Riddo Duottar Museat. The project's vision is that Sami traditional knowledge shall form the basis for viable local Sami communities and for administrative and political decision-making processes. (The project has a separate grant item in the budget of the Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs. In 2011 it is for NOK 1.443 million.)

Árbediehtu is publishing a method book with the title "Diehtogiisá: Neavvagat sámi árbedie?uid dokumenterenbargui? in English: ?The knowledge chest: Guidelines for documentation of traditional Sami knowledge". The book is being published in both Norwegian and Sami. The target group is all those who are interested in working on traditional Sami knowledge: Sami culture and language centres, museums, schools, institutions of higher education, local associations and individuals. The book provides advice on storage of knowledge, ethics, information and advice to local communities and knowledge bearers about free and informed consent, international and national law, possibilities for local storage and control of knowledge, methodical advice on the use of video and other equipment in documentation work. I look forward to hearing from those participating in this project about their experiences.

I would also like to mention the Ealat project which the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry is working on. This project places special emphasis on climate change in reindeer husbandry communities in Yamal in Russia and here in Finnmark, and its aim is to reduce the vulnerability of the reindeer industry in the face of climate change. The project integrates traditional knowledge and scientific data, and it will be interesting to see how these can be combined and adjusted to supplement one another. 
New building blocks in the North
The Government's High North Strategy of 2006 is intended to contribute to safeguarding the languages, cultures, industries and community life of indigenous peoples.

"New building blocks in the North" from 2009 is the next step in the High North Strategy, and one of its seven target areas is safeguarding the cultures and livelihoods of indigenous peoples. Initiatives in indigenous areas include the establishment of a cross-border programme for documenting Sami traditional knowledge in a northern perspective, the development of ethical guidelines with respect to indigenous peoples in connection with economic activities in the High North, the development of digital infrastructure for indigenous people's languages and building up capacity and expertise at institutions that are engaged in Sami research and education and in knowledge, business and cultural development in the High North. 

Livelihoods bind the peoples of the northern regions together across national boundaries. The unique experiences and knowledge of indigenous peoples must be preserved and further developed, not least to meet the challenges of the future. Forthcoming Government initiatives will pave the way for indigenous peoples themselves to take part in the processes and to benefit from the opportunities future developments in the north can offer.

The Arctic Council
he Arctic Council was established in 1996 as an extension of the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, AEPS, of 1991. The Arctic Council has been concerned with accumulating knowledge about the global and regional consequences of climate change in the Arctic. One important aspect of the Arctic Council?s work is that the Arctic indigenous peoples attend as "permanent participants" of the Council. The Sami Council represents the Sami in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Indigenous peoples are often hit harder and in a different way from others by environmental problems, while at the same time they possess knowledge that is valuable in the encounter with these challenges. Their participation in the Arctic Council contributes to a fuller understanding of the challenges to the environment and communities in the north. This is reflected in the climate study Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA - 2004). The report notes very rapid climate change in the Arctic, and it documents how the indigenous population have adapted to climate change. The Arctic Council has recognised traditional knowledge as an important source of knowledge about the effects various measures can have. Traditional knowledge is seen as an important supplement to scientific knowledge.

Thus we see that indigenous peoples' traditional knowledge has been useful in the work concerned with climate change and various adaptational strategies and, as I see it, the knowledge of indigenous peoples must play a central part in the further follow-up of the climate report.

Resource and management
I have already referred to Section 8 of the Nature Diversity Act concerning equality between knowledge based on experience and knowledge based on research. Both types of knowledge are of vital importance in the develoment of sami society. This harmonises with the "everyday policy" launched in Report no. 28 (2007-2008) to the Storting on Sami policy.

In the future such a knowledge base must form an essential part of the administration in areas where Sami live. I regard it as particularly important that traditional knowledge form an important part of the basis for decision-making and administration in the areas of climate, land, resource-management, environment, and also travel and tourism.

During this seminar, we will be taking a special look at the experience and knowledge of nature, climate and environment, management and harvesting of natural resources that reindeer herders have acquired through the ages. This will enable us to see how traditional knowledge can function in practice. An important task for the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry is to document the traditional knowledge of the various reindeer herding peoples. It is equally important that this traditional knowledge is disseminated among the indigenous peoples. It is particularly crucial that the knowledge is accepted and used in educational systems, in research, and not least in general government. The aim must be for future generations to see the value of indigenous people's traditional knowledge as important know-how for the harvesting of nature and the management of nature, the climate and the environment. We must now work for better, more correct management of indigenous people's industries and of the areas in which indigenous peoples live. Fortunately this is the goal of some of our projects.

Traditional knowledge and climate change
The CAVIAR project (Community Adaptation and Vulnerability in the Arctic Regions) is a project emanating from the International Polar Year (2007), in which vulnerability and adjustment to climate change are studied. The manner in which people in the northern parts of the eight Arctic countries are affected by climate change is considered. Aided by local knowledge, researchers find out about the problems faced by the peoples in these areas, and the opportunities they see. In Norway, Nesseby, Lebesby, Vestvågøy and Hammerfest municipalities are partners in the project.
Climate changes are important for people whose livelihood consists largely of fishing and agriculture, such as in Nesseby, at the top of the Varanger Fjord. The focus in Kjøllefjord in Lebesby municipality is on fishing - what happens if climate change puts an end to the cod? The research method aims at giving researchers input into what research we should engage in that is of relevance to the local government decision-makers. The idea is to develop "customised" local climate scenarios that local government planners can use in the work of adjusting to climate change. The aim is that CAVIAR researchers should compare experiences from the various places and find similarities that can be used by others in their work to adjust to climate change. The purpose of CAVIAR is to gather knowledge about processes that create vulnerability and to understand the possibilities Arctic communities have to adapt to climate change. CAVIAR aims to use interdisciplinary collaboration and comparative studies to identify the social, cultural, economic and political processes that are crucial to communities' vulnerability and their adaptation strategies. EALAT's work with reindeer husbandry and climate change is familiar to many. Sami terms for snow are based on reindeer herding Samis' knowledge about reindeer pastures. The CEAVVI project itself is named after the term for snow that is compacted so much that it can bear human weight! We will be hearing more about this over the next couple of days.

Business, travel and tourism
The Government's High North Strategy coupled with its travel and tourism strategy also take up tourism in Sami areas. The characteristic features of Sami tourism are that nature, Sami culture and traditions, Sami food and "Sami experiences" form parts of a concept based on cultural and ecological sustainability. Tourism featuring reindeer herding, fishing and farm life, along with ?duodji" (Sami handicrafts), and Sami food traditions, offer unique experiences of nature and culture, and provide a genuine taste of local traditions. The Government wants the tourism industry to benefit visitors, local communities, companies, employees and the environment alike.

There is also a question of ethical guidelines for mediating Sami culture in connection with tourism. Who, after all, is the owner of this knowledge? The Sami Parliament in Norway has made it a fundamental principle that Sami ways of life and products must be mediated in a genuine, credible manner that also assures an ethical level. It is important that those who own the knowledge also receive a share of the revenues, and that workplaces and business and industry benefit those who make the knowledge available.

In order for this to be possible, we must have a system for mediating traditional knowledge. One possibility is that Sami educational institutions develop guide training programmes to ensure mediation of cultural knowledge and natural resources management in harmony with local and Sami tradition. Tourism packages can be developed that are meaningful also in a Sami context, based on local traditional knowledge. When presentations of the culture are consistent with Sami interests, norms and customs, we are also assured that what is presented of Sami culture and Sami products is up to standard.

Co-management on a local level
The establishment of local co-management is of great importance to traditional knowledge and the local communities. 

A new management scheme is being established for new national parks, involving Sami participation on the boards of these parks. The new management scheme leads the path for practice in line with the intentions of Section 8 of the Nature Diversity Act to the effect that management shall be based on both scientific and experience-based knowledge. This also allows scope for uses and management of natural resources in harmony with traditional Sami knowledge. According to the new management model, national parks and other protected areas are to be managed by an inter-municipal, politically composed national park board. In Sami areas, the boards shall consist of representatives of the municipal and county councils concerned, and representatives from the Sami Parliament. The Ministry of the Environment and the Sami Parliament are consulted on Sami representation and the amount of Sami influence on the individual national park board.
A framework agreement has been established between the Sami Parliament and the Ministry of the Environment on the conducting of consultations associated with regulation of fishing for anadromous salmonids. A working committee with representatives from the Sami Parliament and others, involving the fishermen themselves, is being established to assist in the consultation processes. The committee shall use local and traditional knowledge as part of the basis for evaluation, and an expert on traditional knowledge is to assist the committee.

We are now also establishing local management of salmon fishing in the Tana River, that can make an important provision for traditional knowledge in the management of the watercourse. These are examples of implementation of traditional knowledge in some important fields in Norway. As President Olli pointed out we need to see more such implementation in various fields.

Further challenges
An important work has been done through the ?Arbediehtu-project?. But a lot of work remains. It is still an issue to raise awareness about traditional Sami knowledge in the different local communities, and within the different fields. And it is still an issue to find ways to store, teach, and use traditional knowledge that will satisfy the users as well as the knowledge-bearers of such knowledge. In my opinion the development of good information-systems will be crucial to this work. I look forward to hearing and learning more about these issues on this conference.

It is my wish that this conference can play an important part in clearing the path for Nordic cooperation in the field of traditional knowledge.

My wish for the future is that scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge shall play an equal part in management and decision-making on all levels where Sami issues are involved.

Thank you.