Sajos, Sámi Cultural Centre, Inari.

Anthropology Research Team guest and Fulbright Grantee to Finland Paul R. Burgess writes an update from Inari.

Sajos is the newly opened Sámi cultural centre and home to the Finnish Sámi Parliament Hall (Solju). Construction was completed in January, and the first Parliamentary session was held last Wednesday. Official opening ceremonies will take place in April. Sajos is an interesting step for Sámi self-governance, culture, and development in Inari.

Sajos Building

Sajos was designed with much more in mind than housing the Finnish Sámi Parliament. The growth of population and infrastructure and the creation of jobs for skilled workers are part master plan of development for Inari. A master plan is common for growing cities and villages. It aims to determine specific goals (for social development as well as physical buildings) for the particular location, and make gradual steps towards those ultimate goals with each single development project. The Sajos building was not constructed for the single purpose of housing the Sámi Parliament, and it is then no surprise it is named Sajos (meaning a site on which people camp for a longer time) rather than Sámediggi (Sámi Parliament). As the Sámi cultural centre the building houses facilities for the Sámi Education Institute, the Sámi Library, the Sámi Archive, Lapland Regional State Administrative Agency, Finland’s Sámi Duodji Shop, SámiSoster ry, the Galla restaurant, conference and event services, all in addition to the Sámi Parliament.

Parliamentary Hall

The building is then used to its full potential, as it provides many services for Sámi people to live and develop on the foundation of their own linguistic and cultural background, and generates income to offset running costs as “the largest conference and events venue in northern Lapland”.

Interior

Sajos takes direct steps towards goals and a future in which “the Sámi Homeland abounds in jobs for the Sámi-speaking population [and] draws Sámi young people to settle in their home region or return there”. From my perspective local perceptions of Sajos and its goals are positive. One project then leads to another, as one local pointed out, jobs and opportunities are increasing “but we have nowhere for these new people to live; there are no empty apartments or houses in Inari.” Sajos is a large accomplishment itself, but the nature of its development plan will bring even further expansion to Inari.

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2 Responses to Sajos, Sámi Cultural Centre, Inari.

  1. Anthony McEvoy says:

    I visited this building on Tuesday 21 Feb. I had read about it recently and hoped to visit it when I went to Ivalo. I expected it to be “interesting” but It is undoubtedly one of the most stunning and innovative buildings I have ever been in. The sheer quality of the design and workmanship was inspiring. The fact it is a multi-functional building should give small communities everywhere food for thought when it comes to designing buildings for use in their areas. Inari village is such a small urban area yet it has a world class museum in the form of “Siida” and now this design icon building as a home for their Parliament.
    Some years ago my wife and I visited Inari from our home in Ireland. My wife comes from a peripheral Gaelic speaking part of the west coast of Ireland so we are well aware of the problems that a linguistic minority, in an economically depressed area on the fringes of a country, face. We were proufoundly affected by the Inari area and we both arrived at the conclusion that the Sami languages and people faced linguistic annihilation from the more dominant Finnish culture in the not too distant future. We left Inari saddned by what we saw as the inevitable.
    However this year I have left Inari with a much more positive outlook for the Sami and their languages. While visiting the Sajos I learned about the Sami Archive they are setting up and about the “language nests” programme that utilises the power of the internet to connect Sami children in other parts of Finland with their language and heritage. This combined with improved tourist potential due to regular flights from Helsinki to Ivalo means that the Sami at least have the potential to stay in their home areas if they so choose rather than be forced by economic necessity to migrate south. As your article says “one project leads to another”. I have no doubt this is a turning point for the Sami peoples of Inari and I will follow this project with interest in the years to come.

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