Pirita Näkkäläjärvi Column: Sámi Of The Year

Pirita Näkkäläjärvi is the 2017 recipient of the Sámi of the Year award. Originally from Inari, she was previously head of YLE's Sámi-language news. Pirita now lives in Helsinki, and works as a consultant.

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Credit: Pirita Näkkäläjärvi

I was named the 2017 Sámi of the Year on Saturday. What an honour and what a responsibility!

First and foremost, the title is an honour.

The person awarded is determined through a process, in which anyone can suggest who should be named the Sámi of the Year. Then a short-list is compiled and a committee coordinated by the City-Sámit Association in Helsinki makes the final decision by consent –  honouring the traditional Sámi way of decision-making.

This is the third time that a Sámi of the Year has been awarded. In 2015, an energetic, innovative and bubbly Sámi language lecturer Outi Länsman from Inari became the first Sámi of the Year. The year after, the title was passed to the profound, radical and multitalented artist Niillas Holmberg from Utsjoki. Both represented the Sámi in their own personal ways.

With this experience, Finland’s Sámi indigenous people have decided that the institution of the Sámi of the Year is something worth continuing. Awarding one person with the title seems like a good way reach the majority population in Finland.

Secondly, the title of the Sámi of the Year gives me a responsibility to look to the future.

The title is less an acknowledgement of something done in the past, but rather a means to build something new in the future.

For me, the title of the Sámi of the Year is a platform or a tool that the Sámi society granted me for a year. The person receiving the platform is given a great opportunity to use it as they see fit to spread awareness about the Sámi indigenous people in Finland.

So far social media has been my main playground in spreading factual information about the Sámi. On Twitter I post links and answer peoples’ questions. I try to be patient and I have never blocked anyone expressing opinions opposite to mine or challenging my indigenous Sámi worldview.

There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing about issues and exchanging opinions and information!

On Facebook I write longer analyses especially about Sámi politics, both proactively based on my ideas and reactively to news coming from the Sámiland in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia.

The timing for the start of this column could not be better, as it coincides with me being named as the Sámi of the Year. I am looking forward to my year ahead, as well as sharing my world with you in these columns!