Truth and Reconciliation Commission should continue says Sami Parliament in Finland

The Sami Parliament Assembly meeting on June 23. The Parliament will elect two new commissioners to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in August. (Johanna Alatorvinen/Sámediggi/Saamelaiskäräjät)

The Sami Parliament Assembly in Finland has decided to continue its support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the body announced last week.

The commission was established in October 2021, but was affected by resignations in May.

The commission was originally set up with five appointed commissioners: two by the Sami Parliament in Finland, one by the Skolt Sami Siida Council and two by the Finnish government.

But this spring, the two commissioners appointed by the Sami Parliament, Miina Seurujarvi and Heikki J. Hyvarinen, resigned.

In an interview with YLE News, Finland’s public broadcaster,  Seurujarvi said the current iteration of the commission lacked sufficient resources and support for Sami who participate.

On May 22, the commission’s Secretary General Anni-Kristiina Juuso also resigned.

Sajos, the Sami cultural and administrative centre and home to the Sami Parliament of Finland in the Arctic village of Inari.
(Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The Sami Parliament Assembly met last week with Heidi Eriksen, Director of the Sami Psychosocial Support Unit, the five original appointees to the Sami Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as one of the Commission’s secretariat planners.

On June 22, the Assembly decided they’d continue to support the process and elect two new commissioners at an extraordinary plenary session in August.

“We had an in-depth discussion on the future of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and there were also differing views among the members on the future of the Commission,” Tuomas Aslak Juuso, president of the Sami Parliament in Finland, said in a statement.

“We will continue to discuss the matter in August.”

Many Sami are reindeer herders and colonial policies from the past continue to effect them, their culture and their traditional lands today. (Ville-Riiko Fofonoff/The Sami Parliament in Finland)

The Sami are an Arctic Indigenous people whose traditional homeland spans the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia’s western Arctic, an area they refer to collectively as Sapmi. The colonial policies in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia continue to effect Sami life, culture and land use today. 

There are an estimated 10,000 Sami living in Finland, with more than 60 per cent of those living outside of the Sami homeland area.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Finland was partly modeled on the Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canadian commissioners Marie Wilson and Wilton Littlechild were among the advisors. 

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: “We still have a lot of healing to do with our fellow Canadians” – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation observed September 30, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Psychosocial support for Sami proposed ahead of Finland’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Yle News

Greenland: Greenland, Denmark initiate investigation into past relations, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Can cross-border cooperation help decolonize Sami-language education, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sami in Sweden start work on structure of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Alaska reckons with missing data on murdered Indigenous women, Alaska Public Media

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