Pirita Näkkäläjärvi named as Finland’s Sámi of the Year

Pirita Näkkäläjärvi presenting the Sámi TV news in 2013.(Vesa Toppari/Yle Sápmi)
The Sámi of the Year honour is aimed at bringing indigenous culture and its movers and shakers to national attention, and at encouraging members of the indigenous community to cherish their culture and language.

The Sámi of the Year has been chosen to represent Finland’s indigenous people for the next year. She is Pirita Näkkäläjärvi, who was director of Yle’s Sámi-language news from 2012 to 2016, launching TV broadcasts and other new media. Näkkäläjärvi has also worked for Nokia and Metso in Finland, as well as for Merrill Lynch in the UK.

She expects to graduate in December from the London School of Economics with a degree in media and communications. Her master’s thesis is on Sámi freedom of speech in Finland.

Näkkäläjärvi is a native of Inari who now lives in Helsinki, where she recently began working for the consulting firm PwC Strategy&. Näkkäläjärvi was also briefly a member of the Finnish Sámi Parliament.

According to the Parliament’s office, there are some 9,000 Sámi in Finland, representing the only indigenous people of the European Union. There are also Sámi in the neighbouring countries of Sweden, Norway and Russia. Altogether there are about 75,000 Sámi, mostly in Norway.

Passing on the culture

The Sámi of the Year honour is aimed at bringing indigenous culture and its movers and shakers to national attention, and at encouraging members of the indigenous community to cherish their culture and language while passing them on to future generations.

The Sámi of the Year prize was handed out on Saturday at Duoji Vuoigŋa, a Sámi cultural event at Helsinki’s National Museum.

This is the third time that the Sámi of the Year award has been handed out by Helsinki’s City-Sámit association.

The first, in 2015, was Outi Länsman, a Sámi language teacher from Inari. Last year the prize went to Niillas Holmberg, a young poet, musician, actor and activist from Utsjoki.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Colonialism still present in Arctic, says premier of Canada’s Northwest Territories, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Barents bishops ask Arctic Council to promote fossil-free future, Yle News

Greenland:  Companies ill-prepared to respect indigenous rights in Arctic, study finds, Blog by Mia Bennett

Iceland:  Norwegians and Icelanders let Alaskans in on the secrets to economic prosperity, Alaska Public Radio Network

Norway: Establishment of Álgu Fund marks new beginning in Arctic Council, indigenous peoples say, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: More protected lands on Nenets tundra in Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Treatment of Sami people among Swedish shortcomings : Amnesty International report, Radio Sweden

United States: Preserving Indigenous languages in Alaska, one grocery store at a time, Alaska Dispatch News

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