Sápmi |

Sámi children’s culture looks for ways to be visible and accessible

Sámi children in Finland don’t have many possibilities to see children’s programs in their own language. Nevertheless, there are Sámi activists that are determined to bring more visual culture for Sámi children. Artist Inger-Mari Aikio visualizes songs to music videos, and Pirita Näkkäläjärvi and Outi Paadar want to bring culture to the internet in the Sámi way.

Ima Aikio musiikkivideo Niillas Holmberg
Niillas Holmberg, Elena Pieski and Elisa Ravna-Pieski in the shooting of Ima Aikio’s music video. Photo: Ima Aikio Govva: Inger-Mari Aikio

Artist Inger-Mari Aikio, better known as Ima, has done a historical achievement. She has produced music videos for all her songs in CD IMA hutkosat (IMAs Creations). This means twelve music videos and three years of work from the crew of 12 people.

– This might be the first time in Sápmi to have music videos for children in a massive scale like this. We don’t only have video for every song, but also a story in every video, Aikio says.

At first it seemed almost like a mission impossible, but now Aikio is happy that she decided to jump in to the suggestion of the colleague and producer Joonas Saari.

– There are only a few music videos made in Sámi language, so a dozen new videos give more possibilities for children to enjoy music also visually. It also increases the feeling of cohesion and gives the feeling that it’s wonderful to be a part of our unique Sámi group, Aikio says.

Music videos are focused for children and teenagers, and there are also animations in the videos.

Videos are starred by young artists Niillas Holmberg and Hilda Länsman, and the official premiere was in the Skábmagovat – Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival in Inari, in January 2016. Videos are collected to a DVD, and Sámi Parliament of Finland will distribute DVD’s for kindergartens, language nests, schools, and libraries.  

– It’s important for Sámi children to have all kinds of materials in their own languages, so that they don’t need only read from ABC-book about apple trees that they have never seen here up north, Aikio says.  

“Sámi children are not visible on the internet”

At the moment the only Sámi children’s shows in Finland are a TV program called Unna Junná (20 to 30 episodes a year) and a weekly radio show called Binna bánna. Radio program uses all three Sámi languages that are spoken in Finland: North Sámi, Inari Sámi, and Skolt Sámi. Both shows are provided by the Finnish broadcasting company Yle.

In addition Yle exchanges some Sámi programs with public broadcasters of Norway and Sweden.

Outi Paadar saamelainen aktivisti lasten ohjelma samiflix aamenkielinen kännykkäpeli
There are some applications available in Sámi languages. This one is The Little Red Ridinghood game. Govva: Jenni Leukumaavaara / Yle
The head of Yle Sápmi Pirita Näkkäläjärvi says that the current amount of children programs is not adequate.

– Television production should be year-round, and additionally we should have resources to do content for internet, for instance Yle’s new YouTube service Yle Folk. So far we don’t have funding for that.

Näkkäläjärvi emphasizes that television and internet have a big role in the identity building of Sámi children.

– It has a huge significance, and not only because of the language, but also because Unna Junná has made Sámi children visible for the general public. Sámi kids really do exist because they are on television. Well, actually Sámi children don’t entirely "exist", because they are practically entirely absent from the internet and iPad, which have become the biggest and the most important media for kids.

Because of this invisibility Näkkäläjärvi has a mission. She wants to have Sámi language massively on the internet.

Näkkäläjärvi has suggested for the Prime Minister Juha Sipilä a program called Digisaame.

The idea is to digitize all Sámi-language public services, including media ja children's programmes. Children’s programs would be much more cost-effective on internet than only as a television production.

The suggestion is made as a private citizen, so as a head of Yle Sápmi Näkkäläjärvi cannot actively promote the initiative. She still hopes that someone else in the Sámi community would be active. One of the active ones is Outi Paadar, a Sámi and a student living in Rovaniemi.

We want Sámiflix!

Sámi activist Outi Paadar has a dream. She wants to establish a Sámiflix service on the internet. There all Sámi children could watch programs and play games in Sámi.

Muumit ohjelma saamenkieli tekstitys
Little My is one of the characters in the Moomins. Photo is from the movie Comet in Moominland (Mumenstállu ja Seaibenásti). Govva: Jenni Leukumaavaara / Yle

For Paadar it all started with Moomins; those white and round-shaped, almost globally known characters. NRK [Norwegian Broadcasting Company] dubbed and aired Moomins television series in Sámi in the 1990’s. Sámi children, as children all around the world, were excited.

– Parents of Sámi children still ask for these programs, so I decided to try to help them.

Paadar has noticed that it’s not easy to gain access to movies and programs. Moomins and Disney movies are high value products, and the licenses are beyond the financial resources of tiny language groups like Sámi.

– At the moment our Sámi Moomins are stuck in a Dutch production company. Yle is negotiating with them, but I’m not sure how it’s gonna go. Of course I hope for the best.

Outi Paadar
Govva: Jenni Leukumaavaara / Yle

The urge for Sámiflix has grown also in Sweden. The language board of Sweden’s Sámi parliament is planning to propose Sámiflix for Sámi programs all around Sápmi. 

Success stories from other Indigenous groups

Some Sámi activists are looking to other countries for examples of positive progress. For instance, in Greenland all Harry Potters by J.K. Rowling have been translated into Inuit language.

In the United States Walt Disney’s classic cartoon Bambi has been translated into Arapaho language. This kind of progress Paadar wishes to happen in Sápmi as well. 

– Corporate Social Responsibility might help us. It would be great if Disney, for instance, would give us possibilities to translate some of the cartoons into Sámi languages.

Paadar claims that Sámi people need more capacity building in the copyright legislation. During the interview Paadar suddenly realizes that the answer might be closer than she has understood. That is to say, we are sitting in the cafeteria of University of Lapland, and this university has the Faculty of Law.

– I think I’ll go and ask if one of the students would be interested in solving the case of copyrights and Corporate Social Responsibility, Paadar says, smile on her face.

The change is on the way.

And as Ima Aikio says, it really matters to give children experiences of belonging, visuality, and visibility.

– Cold shivers ran down my spine when I saw children singing my songs in Sámi. It feels unbelievable that I’m privileged to do culture for children, and that via my songs I’ll be part of their childhood memories.

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