Sámegillii På norsk

Article in the book Sami school history 1. Davvi Girji 2005.


The school story sees the light of day

English translation: Simon Aldridge

People tell all sorts of stories,
but nobody tells about what happened to the schools and to us during the war.

So said an elderly lady in Porsanger said this in 1986 when she was interviewed about her time at school, [1]

In this book we have collected some “school stories”. Some of this material is from the war but most of it is more recent. The storytellers are people who have experienced a school for Sami pupils – as pupils, teachers, boarding school staff or parents.

Hasn’t enough been written?

Hasn’t a lot been written about the policy of norwegianisation and about the development of a school for the Sami? Well, there has been written quite a bit about state policy and regulations. There has, however, appeared little on how this policy has worked in practice, on how it has affected pupils, teachers, other school employees and parents.
Why hasn’t there been written more? Henry Minde, who teaches Sami history at the University of Tromsø gives this explanation:
“You would probably expect to find a rich source of documents and testimonies on this subject, not least because school memories are a favourite theme of works on local history and taking into consideration how many children in Northern Norway have, through the years, met with school without understanding the country’s majority language. When it comes to light then that, until recently, school recollections from multi-ethnic areas in Northern Norway practically haven’t existed, then it is a fair indication of how traumatic this (meeting) has been for each particular person” [1]

What will you find here?

Here is a mixture of old and new. Just over two thirds has been written especially for this book, the rest consists of articles and accounts written earlier but which have been difficult to get hold of either because they were never published or were only printed in a particular context with only limited availability. At the beginning of the book are a number of articles giving a broad outline of Sami school history.
First of all we present part of Henry Minde’s inquiry into the history of norwegianization, written in connection with the Sami parliament’s processing of the Sami National Fund. After this, Hans Lindkjølen gives an account of the Church’s role in Sami school history.
Most of the book consists of former pupils, teachers and boarding-hall staff recounting their school experiences. We particularly put the spotlight on those cases where, due to the war or to norwegianization, people received an extremely unsatisfactory and truncated education and on their tireless struggle for recognition and compensation, a struggle that’s still going on even as this book is being written.

What will you not find here?

Many readers will probably ask: Why isn’t there more from this or that area? Why so little from really olden times or from the last few years? And what has happened to further and higher education? Many such questions may be asked and with good reason. Therefore, this volume is just the beginning. The aim is to cover a broad range of education for Sami throughout the whole of Norway, for all periods and all types of school. Over half of the contributors to this first volume have been teachers. In later volumes we would like to put a greater emphasis on other people connected with school, first and foremost pupils and parents but also other school employees as well as Norwegian and Sami school authorities at various levels. Work on volumes 2 and 3 is already well in progress. How many books we will eventually end up with is a question of how much material we can gather and of having finances required to pay for the work.
During work on this book many people have objected, saying that a Sami school history ought to include all the four countries in which the Sami live. However, we who have worked on this project have neither the capacity nor the language skills to cover everything. This work will have to be our contribution to the complete Sami school history; this work will give an account of what sort of education the Sami living within the borders of Norway have received. We hope that this work will then inspire somebody in Sweden, Finland and Russia to do something similar and produce a corresponding work on the education of the Sami in those countries.

The book’s language

The reader will quickly see that the language varies considerably from article to article. This is the case with both the Norwegian and the Sami texts. We have wanted the writers, as far as possible, to be able to use their own language. We have also in the writer - or - storyteller presentations at the start of each article and in the translation tried to keep as close as possible to the author’s language or the language of the area where the article is from.

Is this The Truth?

We who have edited this book want every voice to have its say. This means that on certain points, some of the articles will contradict one another both as regards the opinions held and even factual information. Each author will have to stand for what they themselves have written and the reader will have to read them with a critical eye to be able to form his or her own opinions, both about the history and about the school of today and tomorrow for the Sami in Norway.

[1] Retold according to Hanna H. Hansen: Vi trudde det sku være sånn (We thought that’s how it should be) – unpublished manuscript
[2] Henry Minde: Language, ethnicity and norwegianization in the north up to 1940; inquiry into lost schooling; Ministry of Local Government Affairs, 1993

Other articles from the book Sami school history 1