Tale ved den offisielle åpningen av FNs internasjonale år for urfolksspråk

Sametingspresident Aili Keskitalos tale ved den offisielle åpningen av FNs internasjonale år for urfolksspråk i Paris.

Nyhet | publisert

Buorit olbmot, buorit giellaberošteaddjit. My greetings to all caretakers of Indigenous languages.

I am truly pleased and gratified that the UN has designated a special International Year of Indigenous Languages. Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples establishes that indigenous peoples are entitled to revive, use and develop our languages. It is important to celebrate indigenous languages and render them visible during such a year of international recognition. I hope that doing so will greatly enhance the attention devoted to our languages.

In the IYIL2019 Steering Committee, I represent the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic Region, the Inuit and the Sámi peoples. I also have the honour of co-chairing the Steering Committee, together with some very dedicated Indigenous and State representatives. Although we, the Indigenous peoples of the world, live under very diverse conditions, we share experiences of colonialism, assimilation policies, loss of language, culture and lands. However, we also share experiences of revival, of emancipation, of vitalization of language and culture.

There is a Sámi saying that describes this: Similar souls recognize each other. This year will offer us opportunities of sharing and inspiring each other.

Indigenous peoples are still experiencing formidable challenges related to using our languages in day-to-day life. Many of our elders have lost their native language, the language of their hearts. Many of our people have grown up without any opportunity to learn their own language. This is a painful truth, and it is the reason why language policy is so close to my heart in my political work. I think I share this ambition with many of you present here today. We will work hard to promote our languages so that they are seen as equal to the majority languages in the states we live in.

Language skills are fundamental for human beings. Language develops from the time we are born and throughout our lives. Through language, we communicate with others, express emotions, thoughts and dreams, engage in interaction, understand, and make sense of the world around us. Language is part of the development of our identities and it ensures our sense of identification with others, as well as saying something about who we are as individuals. Language also has a bearing on the development of our motor skills, and on our social and emotional development. In other words, language is decisive for us as human beings, collectively and as individuals. Whether we learn one or more languages during our lifetimes, one common denominator for all of us is that good language instruction will have an impact on us for life.

I speak to you as a Sámi woman, an Indigenous leader, and as a mother. The Sámi languages are one of our Parliament's highest priorities. The Sámi languages are important for the individual language user, for the Sámi people and for the development our communities. The Sámi languages are not simply a question of communication; they are closely intertwined with the Sámi identity, cultural heritage and sense of belonging to something greater. The Sámi languages are a symbol of the bonds we share, our heritage and our ties to our ancestors. Sharing a language gives rise to a sense of belonging, regardless of which Sámi language one knows or how little or how much command one has of the language.

My hope is that this year will help enhance the visibility and recognition of indigenous languages the world over. I also hope this year will give us the strength and energy we need to continue our valiant efforts to preserve our languages.

I would like to conclude by sharing with you a few words of the language of my heart:

Ii mihkege

Ii mihkege
nu čiekŋalit
seaillo olbmuid luhtte
go eatnigiella
mii jurdagiid luvve
lebbe miellamet
liniidahttá eallinvuogi


resides so deeply
within us
as our native language.
It releases our thoughts,
opens our minds,
and gives us
a way of life.

Paulus Utsi

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