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Directorate for Cultural Heritage

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Indigenous groups, national minorities and cultural remains

Norway has one indigenous group, the Sami, as well as five national minorities and several more recent immigrant groups. Working with the different groups, the Directorate aims to preserve a representative selection of their cultural remains.

Sami turf house (gamme) and an abandoned gamme site. From an old summer settlement for reindeer herding Sami at Kvænangsfjellet mountain, in North Troms. Photo: John Hood.

Sami cultural remains

The Sami cultural remains bear witness to a rich and varied history, with an emphasis on fishing and hunting in older times – and later with the addition of reindeer husbandry and domestic animals. Examples of Sami cultural remains are burial sites, milking and branding sites for reindeer, sites with traditional stories attached to them, as well as different buildings, such as farm houses, sheds, barns, turf houses (gamme) and storage houses (stabbur).

Sami cultural remains are found over a wide area – at least from Hedmark county in south Norway to Finnmark county in the north. Since most of the Sami buildings in the Sami core areas of Finnmark and North Troms were burnt down during the end of the Second World War, the composition of Sami buildings will vary according to history and geography. Where Sami settlements and usage are still intact today, many of the Sami remains are part of a living tradition that may have very deep roots.

The Directorate has over-arching responsibility for managing Sami cultural remains, while the regional authority for this task has been delegated to the Sami Parliament, Department of cultural remains, area policy and environment. In a similar way, the counties are responsible for non-Sami cultural remains.

Sami cultural remains are automatically protected by law when they are more than 100 years old. The goal of the preservation programme for Sami remains includes establishing a register of all Sami buildings that are automatically protected by law by 2017, and developing a plan for preserving and maintaining these buildings. One question to be considered by the programme is whether to preserve and maintain all Sami buildings older than 100 years. It will also contribute towards a discussion of whether the 100 year-limit for automatic protection of Sami remains is suitable.

National minorities and cultural remains

The official Norwegian national minorities (Jews, Qvens, gypsies/Roma, Forest Finns and travellers/Romani), as well as other minority groups and more recent immigrant groups have all left a variety of traces. The Directorate aims to select a number of these cultural remains for lasting preservation, in cooperation with the minority groups themselves.

A working group from the Directorate has carried out the task of studying the cultural remains of the national minorities. The goal of the working group has been to select some of these remains for future preservation. Selecting the remains not only requires knowledge of minority remains, but also close cooperation with the different minority groups. Establishing a network with the different minority organisations and the regional authorities has therefore been a central component of the work.

The task of listing and preserving minority remains will now continue as part of the Directorate’s ordinary work.