Sweden’s Sami people to set up commission on discrimination

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STOCKHOLM (AP) — The Sami ethnic group in Sweden’s Arctic region is getting 1.2 million kronor ($130,000) from the Scandinavian country to set up a truth commission that will shed light on injustices against indigenous people carried out by the Swedish state.

Matti Blind Berg, who heads the working group for the Sami Truth Commission, said that “it is an extremely important job to clarify the Swedish state’s abuse of the Sami people.”

Asa Lindhagen, a member of the government in Stockholm in charge of anti-discrimination and anti-segregation, said earlier this week that “throughout history, Sami have been subjected to racism and are still exposed to it today. Sweden must be a country free of racism and efforts are needed to get there.”

A year ago, Sweden announced that it would finance a process to establish an independent truth commission on the Swedish state’s abuse of the Sami people. The money will finance the preparatory work, including a collection of discrimination stories and creating the format of the commission.

Swedish Culture Minister Amanda Lind called it “a historical step … to make visible the violations and abuses that the Sami have been exposed to throughout history and which are far too little known.”

The work will be done by the Samediggi, an elected, indigenous 31-seat assembly that protects the rights of northern Sweden’s estimated 35,000 people with Sami heritage. It also acts as an institution of cultural autonomy for the indigenous people.

The Sami today live in Lapland, which stretches from northern parts of Norway through Sweden and Finland to Russia. They once faced oppression of their culture, including bans on the use of their native tongue.

Today the nomadic people live mostly modern lifestyles but still tend reindeer and some still wear their traditionally bright-colored national dress.

In 1977, the Riksdag — Sweden’s Parliament — recognized the Sami as an indigenous people in Sweden.

Sweden announced the move to finance the setting up of the truth commission on Tuesday. Similar steps to set up truth commissions have been made in Norway and Finland.

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