The seat of Sami government

Indigenous people in Norway have their own legislature — but little power to legislate.


KARASJOK, NORWAY — The Norwegian Sami Parliament building is spectacular.

Set along a ridge in Karasjok, the capital of Sami territory within Norway,the building, called the Samediggi, towers over the surrounding trees.

The $25 million structure opened last October. Its main chamber is shaped like a huge lavvu — the tents Sami traditionally use on the land.

The building’s 55 offices house the departments of Sami education, culture, trade, and language. There are separate caucus rooms for the five political parties. The library has 35,000 books, cassettes and videotapes about Sami.

The 39-member parliament is elected from 13 districts in Norway. They meet four times annually, each session lasting five days.

But what the Norwegian Sami parliament lacks is power.

It can’t pass new laws or change existing legislation, and it plays solely an advisory role to the Norwegian government on issues affecting nearly 60,000 Sami in Norway.

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