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Sámi Truth and Reconciliation Commission begins work

The TRC was launched in 2021 with the intention of identifying and assessing historical and current discrimination against the Sámi people.

The Sámi Truth and Reconciliation Commission has begun organising hearings related to historical and current discrimination against the indigenous group. Image: Kirsti Länsman / Yle
Yle News

The Sámi Truth and Reconciliation Commission is finally starting the work it was created to address, following a bumpy start that saw the stepping down of commissioner Miina Seurujärvi in May.

The five-member commission will hear the experiences of the Sámi people, including the experiences of the residential school era, when Sámi children were 'Finnishised' — or forcibly assimilated into Finnish culture.

The commission's task is to identify and assess historical and current discrimination against the Sámi people, including the Finnish state's assimilation policy and violations of the indigenous community's rights.

On Wednesday, the commission organised a hearing with the Skolt Sámi villages assembly and it plans to start individual hearings towards the end of next year.

Anni-Siiri Länsman, who was elected commissioner in September, noted that the hearings include people of all ages.

"When planning the process, there was a lot of talk about the need to get started quickly so that the elderly have time to participate. This could give young people the impression that their experiences are not as important," Länsman explained.

She added that it is important to listen to how young Sámi people in Finland live today and what kinds of experiences they have had.

"We are building the future for them," Länsman said.

Another new member of the commission, Heikki Paltto, said that hearings are organised not only in the municipalities of the Sámi region but also in cities. The hearings will last throughout the spring, possibly being completed by summer.

The Sámi are an indigenous group mostly residing in Finland's Lapland region as well as neighbouring areas of Sweden, Norway and Russia. One of the main points of contention during this autumn's political cycle has been the Sámi Parliament law.

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