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Norwegianization (Fornorsking av samer) was an official policy carried out by the Norwegian government directed at the Sami and later the Kven people of northern Norway to assimilate non-Norwegian-speaking native populations into an ethnically and culturally uniform Norwegian population.[1]


The practice has roots in missionary programs of the 1700s, but formally began as official government policy in the late 1800s. The practices were motivated by Norwegian nationalism and also by religious differences between Sami and the Norwegian population (Sami practicing animism and polytheism, while the Lutheran Church of Norway was the official state religion).[2]

Laws were passed prohibiting schooling in the Sami language, Sami history and Sami culture. Also, Sami families were not allowed to own or purchase land. To circumvent this law, many Sami families adopted a Norwegian last name, leading to the disappearance of many original Sami names. Moreover, Sami children were taken from their parents and sent to mandatory boarding schools in other parts of Norway.

As late as the 1950s, these laws and policies were justified by stating that Sami people were mentally handicapped: 'In the folk consensus from 1950, Samis were classified in the same category as the “mentally disabled” and “insane”.'[3]

The Norwegianization policy was finally discontinued as late as the 1980s and reparations were made in the form of financial support for Sámediggi, the Sami Parliament of Norway, and other related programs. In 1997, the King of Norway, HM King Harald V made an official apology on behalf of the government to the Sami and Kven People because of this government program:[4]

The state of Norway was founded on the territory of two peoples - the Sámi people and the Norwegians. Sámi history is closely intertwined with Norwegian history. Today, we express our regret on behalf of the state for the injustice committed against the Sámi people through its harsh policy of Norwegianization.

In 2018, it was announced that a truth commission will be established by the Norwegian Parliament, to be led by Dagfinn Høybråten.[5]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Josefsen, Eva (2001) Challenging Politics: Indigenous Peoples' Experiences with Political Parties and Elections (Kathrin Wessendorf, ed., International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.Chapter 2, Page 68) ISBN 978-8790730451
  • Hansen, Lars Ivar; Bjørnar Olsen (2004) Samenes historie fram til 1750 (Cappelen Damm Akademisk) ISBN 82-02-19672-8

External links[edit]