Sunday, Jun 12, 2022 06:15 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Jun 12, 2022 00:34 [IST]

Red Cottage and Potato Field


As a part of the Finnish-India mobility program under the project “Interdisciplinary curricula on indigenous and tribal peoples’ studies” organized by the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland, a study visit to Inari(Finland) and Karasjok (Norway) was organised on 24-25 May 2022. The program was participated by five Universities which included the Universities of Lapland and Oulu from Finland and Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, North Bengal University and Sikkim University from India. The UArctic Law Thematic Network and the UArctic Chair in Arctic Legal Research and Education provided practical support in the organization of the visit.
We were twelve of us representing the partner Universities participating in that study visit. Our team had the privilege of visiting three Institutions, including the Finnish Sámi Parliament in Inari, the Saami Education Institute and the Norwegian Sámi parliament in Karasjok. On 24 May, we were offered an introductory talk at the Saami Education Institute on educational activities performed by the Institute, followed by lively discussions on existing and future projects focusing on the Sámi livelihoods and food security issues. After the enriching discussions delicious traditional Sámi dinner was served with reindeer soup. On 25 May, we travelled to Karasjok and received a guided tour to the Norwegian Sámi Parliament, which provided a talk on the establishment, political processes, decision-makings and other functions of the Sámi Parliament. Besides that, we also had an excursion at the Sámi SIIDA museum in Inari.
All in all, we travelled approximately nine-hundred kilometres in the Sámi region starting from Rovaniemi to Inari, and then Inari to Karasjok, and finally back to Rovaniemi through Kautokeino. Seeing the exotic beauty of the landscape of the Sámi homeland areas was truly a rare experience. It was definitely an opportunity to gain the first-hand knowledge full of interesting learning experiences.
Something about the Nordic dwellings, with their bright red cottages, was appealing to me. According to the natives of Finland, there is an old saying that the concept of a good life is to have a "Red cottage and potato plants”.  While I see parallels between Indigenous people in the Eastern Himalayas who live in a vastly different environment, they, too, believe in the simplicity of existence. In fact, in one of my earlier field trips to Singalila National Park in the Indo-Nepal border, I observed that many of the people were self-sufficient and, by modern standards, have few requirements.
My journey to the Arctic Circle began in late May 2022. While it was still hot and humid in the tropical climate of India, it still felt like mid-winter in the Nordic. The prospect of a beautiful European road trip with farms and cottages along the way, the midnight sun on the arctic circle, the Aurora Borealis in the land of northern lights, and tundra region like which we read about in geography classes at school drove me to another world. This time it was my chance to explore them, but I never imagined representing my homeland in the Nordic would happen all at once. The landscape feels different, the food tastes different, yet the people feels connected.
This vast expanse of land is the ancestral home of the indigenous Sámi. In the Eastern Himalaya of Sikkim and Darjeeling, we have Tamang, Limbus, Lepcha, and Bhutia, etc., in the Nordic area, we have Sámi. The Sámi are a Finno-Ugric-speaking people who live in the region of Sápmi, which now includes substantial areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. The Sámis have a rich cultural heritage. The Sámi have traditionally worked in a range of occupations, including coastal fishing, fur trapping, and sheep herding. Semi-nomadic reindeer herding is their most well-known source of income. Approximately 10% of the Sámi are still involved in reindeer herding, which supplies them with meat, fur, and transportation (Solbakk,2007). Reindeer herding is constitutionally restricted to Sámi in certain Nordic nations for traditional, environmental, cultural, and political reasons.
According to the Sámi Act, the Norwegian Constitution (1987) grants the Sámi people specific rights such as:
• The Sámis shall have their own national Sámi Parliament elected by and amongst the Sámis.
• The Norwegian Sámi Parliament's activities are determined by the Sámi people.
• In Norway, the Sámi and Norwegian languages are equal.
Like many indigenous people of the world, the Sámis have historically suffered and gone through various types of discrimination and repression. Whereas today Sámis have come a long way securing certain provisions and a representation in larger platforms, I believe, in the Eastern Himalaya, we are far apart in securing minority voices; however, this academic visit has raised awareness of the indigenous perspectives of the Nordic region to the Eastern Himalaya and vice versa, encouraging us to learn and grow, and realising that no matter what profession we are in, we can always help promote social consciousness.
May we all build our Red Cottages and grow potatoes in the fields. (Metaphorically, whichever concept of good life fits to you, so be it))The author is a 4th Semester student, Department of Anthropology, Sikkim University, India – who participated in the Finnish-India mobility program organized by the Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law at the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland. The story is first published in Yashika’s blog at:
For more info:ámi-Parliaments-in-Inari-and-Karasjok/wtyyacen/9e0ed58c-5f12-482f-b80c-f5640d2aeeda 801f-4aa9-885b-854551c66e91

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi