The Sámi politician

As a reindeer herder, Mariann is cautious about the development of the petroleum industry, which may jeopardise traditional areas for the reindeer. For her family, the reindeer herding is the very foundation for culture and language.

Reindeer migrate over vast areas. The land that has traditionally been a scene for these movements, is now drawing the attention of investors and entrepreneurs who want to take part in “the new oil and gas adventure”.

Mariann Wollmann Magga lives with her family in Bjørnevatn outside Kirkenes. She is a reindeer herder, a member of the Norwegian Sami Parliament, and a data entrepreneur with the company Rein Data.

The future of the north holds a conflict of interests between those who have used the land in traditional ways, and those who wish to use it for industry purposes. For Mariann and many others, this is seen as a threat to their very existence as Sami people.

Reindeer herding, and the different outcomes of nature, is for Mariann a natural basis also for the Sami culture, language and traditions. Seeing how this culture is marginalised, Mariann chose to engage politically, and is a member of the Norwegian Sámi parliament.

She has also been highly engaged in Sámi children’s right to learn their own language in kinder garden and school. Mariann herself has been learning the North Sami language as a grownup, since her parents found it wise not to pass on the language to their children. At that time, it was said that learning several languages at a young age would damage the cognitive development of the child. And the Sámi language was seen as useless and also shameful.

This story was first published in 2013.

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