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Canada and Finland mark Sámi National Day by discussing Indigenous education

Sámi educational experts Ms Ulla Aikio-Puoskari and Ms Irja Seurujärvi-Kari meet with Ambassador Shapardanov and embassy staff.

The Embassy of Canada to Finland recently invited two prominent Sámi educational experts to share their experiences in indigenous education.

Ms Ulla Aikio-Puoskari, the Secretary for Education at the Sámi Parliament, and Ms Irja Seurujärvi-Kari, a professor at the University of Helsinki, met with Ambassador Chris Shapardanov and embassy staff. The two experts provided an overview of Sámi culture and language within Finland, and described the long-running efforts to revitalize the Sámi language.

The Sámi people are an Indigenous group whose traditional homelands span northern Finland, Russia, Norway and Sweden. Since the 1970s, the Sámi language has been part of the Finnish school curriculum. Today, schools within the Sámi homeland in northern Finland provide comprehensive education in the Sámi language.

However, as Sámi youth are increasingly growing up in cities outside of their homeland, it is becoming a challenge to ensure that the Sámi language and culture is passed on from one generation to the next. As a result, Sámi educators have adopted a number of new strategies. These include “language nests”, adopted from the Maori people in New Zealand, and immersion education approaches inspired by Canadian schools.

The revitalization of the Sámi language in Finland, the experts noted, was a key element in maintaining and celebrating the Sámi culture. Although challenges remain, Finland’s effort in this field is an important success story. The Sámi Parliament in Finland is collaborating with Sámi groups from neighbouring Arctic countries in their own efforts to preserve and revitalize their Indigenous language and culture.

The visit from Ms Aikio-Puoskari and Ms Seurujärvi-Kari was timely as Canada prepares for its upcoming Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The overarching theme for Canada’s chairmanship will be Development for the People of the North, and ensuring Sustainable Circumpolar Communities is a key sub-theme. The successful Indigenous-language education efforts in Finland’s North provide valuable insights for education in northern Canadian communities.

Canada plans to continue its engagement with Finnish groups and share cross-cultural learning on Indigenous education efforts and strategies.

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