Reclaiming Sámi identity

Neeta Jääskö comes from Inari in Finland. She runs her own business doing modern Sámi jewellery and design.

Her arts and crafts are much more than the creation of beautiful objects. They are also tools for reclaiming Inari Sámi identity.

In this film, we meet Neeta at a traditional market in Varangerbotn in Norway, where she goes to sell her handicraft and meet other Sámi people.

The market, the Vuonnamárkanat, builds on an old tradition of a common borderless trading- and meeting ground in this area.

Neeta would like to be able to cross the borders freely, to trade among other Sámi people, like people did in older days before the national borders were introduced. Now she must spend time in the customs, declaring her goods.

Neeta lives in Inari in Northern Finland, and this is where she keeps her workshop and pursues her work with the Inari Sámi language, and the fight for the survival of the Inari Sámi culture.

The Inari Sami language is describes as endangered, and sources estimate there are 300 speakers of the language today. As other Sámi populations, the Inari Sámi have throughout history and up until today gone through assimilation and as a consequence have lost their mother tongue.

Neeta finds herself in paradoxes. She would like non- academic knowledge to be more respected, and yet needs intellectual challenges in her life. She must leave her Inari Sámi community if she wishes to go to university to study the language further. A language she should have been able to learn within her family. The language was forcibly taken away from her grandparents, by the Finnish state.

Language is the foundation for the identity of a person, a culture, and community.

This story was first published in 2013.

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