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date: 05 December 2023

Indigenous Sámi Literaturelocked

Indigenous Sámi Literaturelocked

  • Kaisa AhvenjärviKaisa AhvenjärviUniversity of Jyväskylä

Summary

Sámi literature is multilingual, transnational indigenous literature from Northern Fenno-Scandia. It is published in several Sámi languages as well as in majority languages of the Sámi area, which is located in the northern parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia. With approximately twenty thousand speakers, North Sámi is the most widely spoken and literarily used of the nine Sámi languages. Considering the limited readership, Sámi literature is exceptionally diverse and vital in the global field of indigenous literatures. The majority of Sámi authors write in their own indigenous language, whereas the majority of Maori, Aboriginal, and Native American literatures, for example, are published in English. Sámi literature has been translated into Nordic languages as well as into bigger world languages like English and Spanish.

Sámi literature has its roots in the oral tradition. The first printed books written by Sámi authors were published at the beginning of the 1900s. However, it was not until the 1970s that Sámi literary institutions were established and the number of publications started to increase. Some key Sámi writers, who started their career then, are Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, Rauni Magga Lukkari, and Kirste Paltto. In the 1980s and 1990s, the novel was the dominating genre in Sámi literature, whereas in the 2000s poetry has flourished. Since the beginning of the 21st century, two-thirds of literature published in Sámi languages is children’s literature.

In Sámi literature there are several common features with other indigenous literatures, both in their historical developments and contemporary characteristics. The breakthrough of indigenous literatures was connected with the global indigenous movement that arose in the 1960s and 1970s, and it was characterized by anticolonial and identity-political themes. Recurring themes in contemporary Sámi and other indigenous literatures are, for example, the questions of hybrid ethnic and linguistic identities, ecological concerns and the interdependency between humans and nature, and the relationship to previous generations and the land. The 2010s have seen a return to political orientation in Sámi art and literature, but universal topics like motherhood and sexuality are also discussed in contemporary Sámi poetry and prose.

Subjects

  • 20th and 21st Century (1900-present)
  • Literary Theory
  • Poetry

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