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Psychosocial support for Sami proposed ahead of reconciliation commission

The truth and reconciliation commission, due to begin in 2023, is likely to stir up difficult emotions. 

Saamen lippu liehuu salossa
The Sami flag is flown on National Sami culture day, 6 February, among other significant days. Image: Päivi Leino / Yle

A working group led by the Lapland Hospital District has published its recommendations on providing psychosocial support to Finland's Sámi people during the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The commission is a body mandated by the Finnish parliament, the Sami parliament and the Skolt Sami council to investigate injustices committed against Finland's Sami people.

The proposed service would offer support in three Sámi languages, tailored to individual cultures. The service would be available to all Sámi living throughout Finland.

"The problem now is that there are very few, if any, Sámi-language psychosocial support services in Finland. According to our study, these services are barely available in the Inari and Skolt Sámi languages," said Johanna Erholtz of the Lapland Hospital District.

It is not yet clear whether the hospital district will be able to offer these services.

The commission, expected to take years, is intended to address the injustices experienced by the Sámi, to find out what happened to them and how it has affected them.

Psychosocial support was one of the conditions of the TRC's founding, as it will deal with traumatic experiences and sensitive issues experienced by the Sámi.

There are around 400 native speakers of Inari Sami, and around 300 native speakers of Skolt Sami.

More emphasis on collective support needed

Executive Director of the Sámi Social and Health Association Ristenrauna Magga contributed to the working group's final meetings.

She said that although the group's report did suggest providing collective support through third parties, it could have gone further.

"The proposal is based on the point of view and needs of the individual. I kept trying to point out that the need for collective support should be added to the proposal, because we Sámi have experienced difficult things as a people," Magga said.

The working group's report was submitted to the Prime Minister's Office and the Sámi Parliament in March.

EDIT 30.3.2021: Edited to clarify that Lapland Hospital District has not yet decided to offer the services.

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