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The national congress in Trondheim in 1917

RIJHKETJÅANGHKOE TRÅANTESNE 1917 - The national congress in Trondheim in 1917

In February 1917, the Sámi people held their first nationwide political meeting to discuss Sámi interests. The establishment of the Sámi national day on 6 February stems from this national congress. Of the topics discussed at the meeting in Trondheim, the organisation question was crucial. Reindeer grazing and the Lapp Act were raised as separate items, as was the schooling question. The congress brought together 150 representatives from Saepmie (the area inhabited by the Sámi).

The national congress in 1917 was the result of a grassroots movement in the Southern Sámi area. From the beginning of the century, many voices had been raised for Sámi rights, and Elsa Laula Renberg from Helgeland was the instigator of a national congress. County (fylke) level Sámi associations were founded throughout the Southern Sámi area. In the course of 1907–1908, Lapp associations were formed in both North and South Trondheim county, and the Helgeland Sámi Association was formed in 1910. The shared vision of the associations was to form an overarching national association. This vision was not realised, but it was an important topic at the national congress in 1917.

The agenda item concerning reindeer grazing was a burning issue, because the meeting coincided with court cases on reindeer grazing rights – many of them in the Røros Sámi area. The reindeer herding legislation that was passed in the 1880s and 1890s, and the introduction of reindeer grazing districts in 1894, had a brutal impact on reindeer herding, both practically and economically. Sámi reindeer herders faced major challenges and felt that they would make more of an impression by standing together. Nevertheless, the first nationwide organisation, the ‘Sámi Reindeer Herders’ Association of Norway’ (Norske Reindriftsamers Landsforbund), was not established until 1947.

Schooling was another major topic of discussion. The State had so far taken no responsibility for arranging education for Sámi children. The Sámi Mission school at Havika near Namsos was established in 1910, and was the only educational facility aimed specifically at Sámi pupils.


Photos (from left)

1. Delegates assembled at the bottom of Bergmannsgata in connection with a meeting in Røros, probably in 1922.

2. In 1925, the Røros Sámi women’s association ran bazaars in Grønnsalen at Røros.

3. Two of the delegates to the first Sámi national congress in Sweden. The meeting was held in Östersund in February 1918, the year after the national congress in Trondheim.

4. Brurskanken Sámi women’s association 1917. Many Sámi women, with Elsa Laula Renberg at their head, were drivers behind Sámi organisation and the national congress in 1917. 

5. From the national congress in Trondheim, 6-9 February 1917. The meeting brought together some 150 delegates.

6. From a mission meeting near Tomasvatnet in Nordland. These gatherings were used as meeting places in the work of organising the Sámi population.

  • 1/6
    Lars Danielsen
  • 2/6
    Ukjent
  • 3/6
    Nils Thomasson
  • 4/6
    Hifling- Rasmussen, NTNU UB
  • 5/6
    Alf Schrøder
  • 6/6
    Lars Danielsen