Definitions are very important in Finland because they guide the activities of the state and authorities, the distribution of resources, and the attitude and teaching of the Sámi culture, especially with regard to the Sami. In fact, it is also a procedure if no definition is drawn up. The intangible cultural heritage itself is a neologism, and the Sami traditionally have no need to distinguish between knowledge, skill and cultural heritage.

What, then, is the Sámi intangible cultural heritage? Ultimately, the definition of the intangible cultural heritage of the Sámi, if the Sámi community and the states decide to do so, is a matter of the Sámi community of three countries and of entities controlling the intangible cultural heritage, such as artisans and yogis and artists. The intangible cultural heritage is part of the core of the Sami culture and the Sámi identity. It is part of the livelihoods, the Sámi language, different cultural spheres, education and cultural form. In addition, intangible cultural heritage is strongly linked to nature, its knowledge and perception. Layered and holistic are the basic structures of the Sámi intangible cultural heritage. The intangible cultural heritage of the Sámi is also characterized by its community and cultural interiority. Intra-cultural information is not desirable to be taught to outsiders, nor is it desirable to be taught on a school bench or promoted specifically. It is part of the Sámi culture and self-evident to the Sámi. The intangible cultural tradition has not been performance-driven, joik was formerly private and communal, as well as the katrilli dance of the Skolt Sámi.

The intangible cultural heritage cannot be separated into its own sector. The question is, then, whether Finland really wants to protect and understand what the Sámi intangible cultural heritage is and is it prepared to take steps to protect it.

The intangible cultural heritage cannot be protected or safeguarded by listing, communicating or disassociating, for example, the duodji tradition from the Sámi identity, language, livelihood and nature. The protection of the intangible cultural heritage requires the protection of the Sámi identity and cultural form, which has been a very problematic and difficult issue for Finland throughout the history of the independence of the Finnish state, as research and legislative developments show. The responsibility for protecting the intangible cultural heritage of the Sámi cannot be entrusted to a single agency, for example, the Ministry of Justice plays a decisive role as the Ministry of Sámi Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, respectively. There is no Sámi Secretary of State for Sámi Affairs in Finland, as in Norway, for example.


Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi

Sámi intangible cultural heritage and i…