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Pirita Näkkäläjärvi named as Sámi of the Year

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.

Yle Sápmi, Yle Ođđasat, Pirita Näkkäläjärvi
Pirita Näkkäläjärvi presenting the Sámi TV news in 2013. Image: Vesa Toppari / Yle Sápmi

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.

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