July 5, 2002
Reindeer crossing a road are among the common sights along northern Norway’s coastlines in the summer. Circumpolar youth are in northern Norway this week to learn how the Sámi live by fishing and herding reindeer.
(PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Nunavut youth embark on Norwegian trek

Pair to make Sámi friends, learn aspects of Sámi culture during 10-day camp

JANE GEORGE

Two Nunavut youth are learning how their circumpolar peers live at an international Sámi youth camp in northern Norway.

Fauna Kingdon of Iqaluit and Jesse Tungilik of Arctic Bay are among the 40 young people from around the circumpolar world attending the camp from July 4 to 13.

Organizers hope to create "a circumpolar network of friendship" that will strengthen ties between circumpolar youth.

The camp, sponsored by the Norwegian Sámi Council, is intended to offer a window into Sámi culture and the daily life of the Sea Sámi, who live near the coast, and the Reindeer Sámi, who herd reindeer on the tundra.

About 80,000 Sámi live in Norway.

"We want them to experience how we live with nature," said 23-year-old Lasse Wigelius, one of the camp organizers, in a telephone interview from Ivalo, Finland.

Wigelius said participants will spend a few days in the community of Gargogeahcce on the seacoast. There, they’ll get acquainted, go fishing out on the fiord, prepare and serve their own catch, participate in Sámi games and learn how to make Sámi handicrafts.

Two days will be spent walking in the mountains and over the tundra near the Norwegian-Finnish border.

On this trek, the youth will learn how to put up a lávu, a traditional Sámi tent, go fishing and make Sámi tools used out on the land — such as a walking stick, birch bark cups and willow flutes.

Organizers also plan to encourage campers to observe and catalogue waste and pollution caused by other visitors, and take notice of the damage done to the tundra.

On July 11 and 12, campers will stay in the Norwegian Sámi community of Tanabru, where they’ll be treated to a concert featuring Sámi artists and have a chance to learn how to sing the traditional Sámi song or joik.

Before leaving for home from Ivalo, Finland, on July 13, the campers will stop at Siida, the Sámi museum, in nearby Inari.

The Sámi camp is the first major event under the "Future of Children and Youth of the Arctic" program of the Arctic Council — the pet program of Canada’s Arctic Ambassador, Mary Simon.

But lack of money has been the Achilles heel of the program, said Liane Benoit, the program’s Canadian coordinator.

"It’s been very slow to get going," Benoit said. "But it will succeed if it kills us."

Benoit said indigenous participants at the Arctic Council have been enthusiastic about the program, but senior government officials — the ones with the money — have been less keen.

"Everyone knows something has to be done for youth, but they’re saying ‘Show us the beef,’" Benoit said.

The Sámi Council, one of the Arctic Council’s permanent indigenous participants, covered all but US$250 of the camp costs for each camper.

Canadians at the camp were helped with their travel costs to Ivalo by a variety of sources including the Inuit Tapiriit Kantatami, federal and territorial governments and the Nunavut Research Institute.

Benoit said the camp’s success will spur interest in the program and should make it easier to raise money for more youth activities under Arctic Council.