The Norwegian delegation at the opening ceremony. 
Photo: NorwayUN/Kjersti Mosli.The Norwegian delegation at the opening ceremony. Photo: NorwayUN/Kjersti Mosli

Indigenous peoples fill the UN for two weeks

Last updated: 5/24/2013 // The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) meets at the UN every spring to discuss different issues of relevance for indigenous peoples worldwide, such as education, language, culture and rights. 2000 delegates participate this year. Norway’s delegation consists of representatives from the Sami Parliament, Gáldu Resource Centre and from the government.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is a high-level advisory body that deals with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights. Every second year the session has a thematic focus on a specific issue, while the other years it deals with implementation of policies discussed in previous sessions. 2013 is an implementation year. Rune Fjellheim, Anne Britt K. Hætta and Inger Eline Eira Buljo from the Sami Parliament explained that this year’s session will discuss implementation of the policies discussed in previous sessions related to issues such as health, education and culture.

Read more about this year’s session here

Anne Britt K. Hætta, Rune Fjellheim and Inger Eline Eira Buljo from the Sami Parliament

In 2014 the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) will take place in New York, and in preparation for this, the Sami Parliament has invited representatives of indigenous peoples worldwide to an international preparatory conference in Alta in June this year. Read more about the conference here.

Norway’s Mission to the UN co-hosted a side event about the launch of adolescent-friendly UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Sámi Pathfinders

Three young girls from the project Sámi Pathfinders has been at the UN during the first week of the forum. For a year three Sámi youths travels around Norway to inform other youths in schools or other arenas about the Sámi culture and history, as well as talking about how it is to be a young Sámi today.

 “The highlight is to come to New York during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues”, Sarakka Gaup said. They see it as a great opportunity to meet other indigenous youths who may face some of the same challenges they face, and learn from each other.

One of the challenges the girls see when they travel around in Norway is that people’s knowledge on how it is to be Sámi today is low. The project aims to inform people that to be Sami is not to be one specific thing, live in certain areas or talk a specific language. Rather that the culture is something you carry inside you, the girls explained.


Sandra Marja West, Naina Helén Jåma Wigdahl and  Sarakka Gaup with UN school teacher. Photo: Risten Länsmann

The Sámi Pathfinders experienced the same challenge when they visited the UN school and talked to a class of eight year olds. The class had been learning about different indigenous people in advance of the visit, but the girls said the teaching material was not up to date. With a book about the Sámi culture called “the vanishing culture far north”, the girls realized that there are some myths they need to fight. But the girls enjoyed being at the UN school, and the teacher was so pleased with the visit that they want the pathfinders back next year.

In New York they have also participated at the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus where they feel the voice of young indigenous people gets heard. After a week at the UN the girls say their engagement has increased. Sandra Marja West will continue to work with this. The following year she will be a coordinator for the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus and gather youths from Greenland and Sápmi to next year’s permanent forum.

The project was founded in 2004 and each summer three new pathfinders are presented. Read more about the project here.

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