How the government's Norwegianisation policies harmed indigenous people in Norway

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
How the government's Norwegianisation policies harmed indigenous people in Norway
A commission has revealed the harmful impact that Norwegianisation has had on indigenous people. Pictured is a Sami reindeer herder. Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

The Norwegianisation of the Sami and Kvens has had severe consequences, which are being felt to this day, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report has found.


Beginning in the 1700s, the Norwegian government carried out the official policy of Norwegianisation, which aimed to assimilate the non-Norwegian-speaking population into an ethnically and culturally uniform society.

The policy was initially targeted at the Sami people of northern Norway but later also directed towards the Kvens. On Thursday, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered its report on the policy and its impacts to Norway's parliament.

"Norway does not have a history to be proud of when it comes to the treatment of minorities," Dagfinn Høybråten, who chaired the commission, said of the report's findings.

The policy aimed to suppress the language and cultural practices of several minorities. There are around 80,000 Sami, 15,000 Kvens and 10,000 Forest Finns in Norway today.

"Norwegianisation policies and injustice have profoundly negative consequences for the group's culture, language, health and traditional industries. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's investigation shows that Norwegianisation has affected much more widely and has been more intrusive in more areas of society than previously known. Children and young people, in particular, have been affected by Norwegianisation measures throughout the history of Norwegianisation," the commission said in a statement.

The report said that more needed to be done to increase the awareness and knowledge of the culture of the Forest Finns, Sami and Kven.

The Sami have traditionally been involved in semi-nomadic reindeer herding, fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding. They speak the Sami languages; there are around ten different Sami languages. The Kvens are descended from Finns who emigrated to the northern parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway. Only in 2005 was the Kven language recognised as a minority language in Norway.


Forrest Finns are the ancestors of Finnish migrants who settled in the forested areas of Sweden and Norway. Their language became extinct in the mid-20th century.

Indigenous people continue to face discrimination in Norway today. Last August, a report from the Norwegian Institution of Human Rights found that 11 percent of residents held negative attitudes towards the Sami and that hate speech against the group was widespread.

"The commission hopes that the report itself will increase the knowledge base of the entire population and that the proposals for measures will be followed up as a contribution to a continued reconciliation process. This will be a challenge for both the Storting and for national, regional and local authorities and the rest of society," the commission writes.

President of the Norwegian Parliament, Masud Gharahkhani, has said that Commission's report confirms Norway's failures towards minorities and indigenous peoples.

"How good we are at protecting indigenous peoples and our minorities is one of the most important signs of whether we live up to our duties and values. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was appointed because we realised that we as a society have failed in that task. Today we get serious confirmation of this," he said.

The commission was initially set up in 2018, with the report taking five years to finalise.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also