Thoughts on the eve of the 80th anniversary

As many know, I was born in Inari church on January 17, 1943. I spent the first 20 months of my childhood with my father Lassin Uula and my mother Magga in Ronkajärvi, after that in mid-September 1944 I had to go to the evacuation center in Ylivieska in the middle of Ostrobothnia. The return from there to burned and destroyed Lapland took place in the summer of 1945. After that, I spent time in the Riutula orphanage until Christmas 1945. After that, my mother and I lived with my mother's cousins Niila and Kristiina Länsmann in Närrijärvi until the end of April 1946. After that, I lived a rough adopted boy's life in Angel until the middle of September 1950, and after that I started a public school at Inari Church.

When I remember what the childhood world was like in Inari in the 1950s and now, more than 60 years later, I notice that the contrast is really great. What kind of world did people live in, for example, in Lemmenjoki? In the early 1950s, there were roadless wildernesses, forests, fells and marshes, far from the main settlement of Inari, Inari and Ivalo, to the west, stretching far west all the way to Norway.

During my school years, I got to know many Inari Sámi people, I became friends with Inari Sámi people. They were happy and friendly. Many of my school friends' parents had been in the war at the front, shocked by what they saw and experienced. They had suffered much; own paliskunta was divided, the regulation of Lake Inarinjärvi had ruined their fishing opportunities. They had put their hope in the state and at the same time hated it. Now everyone is looking at Inari, hope lives on. Some are afraid and others hope that the fate of the Inari Sami people will be decided there. This is what all other Sámi people are waiting for.

Many people ask how many of you are Sami, when you need an area the size of 10% of Finland's area as a living space. The questioner continues "don't you understand how few roads there are in such a large area, while there are twice as many Finns (6,000).

Regardless, I don't divide the Sámi into those who belong to a better race and those who don't, I'll let the racial fanatics do that. On the eve of my birthday, I dare to admit that I am a Sámi because I was born and raised in Inari, I have experienced happiness and sadness there, I have uttered my first Sámi words there, I am a Sámi because I have confessed my first love there, learned about happiness to become a Sámi.

Now we argue about who is the real original Sámi. Such a shame; the dispute is perpetuated by small people whose family roots lie elsewhere. Few involved in the dispute dare to admit that those involved in the dispute have much more unifying than separating factors.

This kind of Sámi policy that discriminates against the Inari Sámi has bothered me a lot. When I was younger, blind faith seemed beautiful to me, now it's repulsive, foreign to me. With the increase in life experiences, I understand that you can change your views but not your own nature.

I haven't been exemplary and I haven't gotten better over the years. After hearing something, I haven't believed everything, after all, many different stories and fairy tales were told in the Sámi community. It seems to be the custom even today. I didn't become a reindeer herder, but a journalist, politician and researcher. I became a person who was interested not only in the structure of society, but in the inner world of people, the fate of individual Sámi people.

During my lifetime, the Sámi people have visibly stepped into modern times, showing that they are the same as other people. You don't have to look for examples of the brutal side of the indigenous people in the jungles of Africa. You can find them in your own back.

Now all you have to do is look at magazines and television to see how much is being written about us Sami. Today, everyone is looking at Sami, some with hope, others with fear. The sleepy Inari village of my childhood and school days has become the real center of the Sami world. The real center of traditional Sami is emerging. The Sámi people have received official recognition for the historical main place of their own culture, Sajos, the center of Sámi culture.

A miracle has happened: the Sámi people have freed themselves from the yoke of Finnish colonialism. The Sámi have defeated centuries of Finnish rule. Everything has changed either for the better or for the worse. An example of poor development is overgrazing caused by reindeer. Everything has changed in Sámi during my lifetime.

As a little boy in Angel, could I have imagined that one day I would fly a jet passenger plane across the ocean in a few hours, that radio and TV would be available and that humans would be able to go into space. We have seen on TV how the Russians torture Ukrainians. It is difficult to understand that among civilized people there are also supporters of race theory. Unfortunately, there are also such people among us Sami - Idealism and faith in humanity is wavering. I wonder how quickly the face of the Sámi community has changed; the brakes of an organized society have proven to be too weak and disappointing.

I don't know if the one-sided development of many Sámi is due to the fact that there has been a struggle to build a new Sámi nation. It has been a battle where the enemies have not rejected any means. Is it due to the fact that in a few years it was necessary to correct the neglects and wrongs that happened over the centuries?

Today, when I look back at the past on the eve of my 80th birthday, I have wanted to understand a lot, checked and made mistakes many times. Even though those and these things once offended, I have decided that I will never turn my back on a people who alienate the world of foreign gold, oppose racial bigotry and national arrogance.

I don't regret the fact that in the summer of 1959 I almost accidentally got to the third Nordic Sámi conference held in Inari. I came from Karigasniemi by bicycle to the school yard, where dozens of Sámi people exchanged information. My little cousin Jussi of Högmann asked me to stay and follow the conference. After that, I went to the others' meeting room, where I stayed to listen to various assessments of the situation. Among those sitting in the hall, I recognized one of the Sami influencers, Pikku Jussi. Erkki Jomppanen, Iisakki Paatari, Samuli Aikio, Oula Aikio, Erkki Itkonen, Kalle Nickulin.

I read the memos prepared for the conference until late in the evening. I listened to conversations between Erkki Itkonen and Hans J. Henrikssen about the peculiarities of the Sami language. However, at the age of sixteen, I could not forget what seemed to me to be self-evident and the only truth. I listened attentively to the stories and perceptions of the Sami people from Sweden and Norway about the problems of the Sami people. In any case, the Inari conference sparked my interest in current issues of the Sámi people. Since then, I have been involved in the affairs of the Sámi people for more than 60 years.

When in the early 1970s I started writing about the unfair treatment of the Sámi people in newspapers. My critics condemned me for possessing a tendency, for political bias, for subordinating the truth to the service of a narrow ideology that did not distinguish the right view. Getting excited about the fight for the Sámi people has not been accidental for me. It has predetermined a lot in my life and if anything prevented me from getting a high school education to begin with. Instead of school, I spent all my time with reindeer herders and fishermen in forests, fells, rivers and lakes. That time taught me a lot. Of course, my relatives helped me start my life, above all my friends. But the final choice was dictated by my own character.

After school, I broke away from the time of my childhood and learned myself to know many kinds of values: real and apparent, which seemed to me to be durable. I had already seen what the position of the migrant worker is in the market economy and socialism. I learned about an idea called socialism. For my part, the transition from religion, from science to beliefs happened on the Saimaa channel in 1967.

Over the years, I realized that my love and loyalty to the Sámi tradition is connected to the fate of the culture. In modern times, Sámi culture has in some form reached all Sámi people. During the last fifty years, the Sámi have learned to think, grown spiritually.

When I was conducting research for Sapmelas magazine in the early 1990s, many readers remembered their own past and interpreted their worries and hopes, the younger ones asked a lot of questions. Such situations have inspired and taught me.

Since 1961, I have worked in Russia, Germany and elsewhere in Finland. Life has become more comfortable and peaceful. Peace has not disappeared because of mechanization, but because the Sámi, like all other people, are uncertain about tomorrow. When I started my conscious life, there were many kinds of people around me.

When I was still a schoolboy at school, children were taught that it is a sin to kill, steal, hurt parents, schoolchildren had to memorize the ten commandments. Before long, it became clear to me that life is full of contradictions that cannot be removed by relying on the articles of faith.

Today's people have lost their peace of mind, they admire artificial moons, smart phones, fear war, rejoice in inventions, television offers substitutes instead of art every day. I remember from my youth how everyone talked about the unknown soldier. It made the brutality of war more understandable. I have traveled a lot, the world has become more open to me, I have met many people who seemed important to me.

I have seen many countries where the people pleased me. Traveling has brought me a lot of joy. My writings have caused a lot of critical attention and debate. I emphasize that this writing is about my life, my searches, my mistakes and my discoveries. I don't want to teach anyone and I don't want to set myself as an example to anyone.