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Sweden's Indigenous Sami People Held Their First Ever Pride Event

They're trying to challenge racism, heterosexuality and gender normativity in Sweden.

All photos by Sara Lindquist

Last week, the world’s first Sápmi Pride kicked off in the northern Swedish town of Kiruna and went on for four days and nights. It’s the first ever LGBT pride event organised by and for the indigenous Sami people, who hail from Sápmi, an area in Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia. Although the event sounds pretty niche, Sápmi Pride welcomed everyone to participate, even if you don’t originate from the Sami community.


Behind the initiative is the democracy project Queering Sápmi, which is set up for the protection of queer Sami people – who have a particularly hard time coming out due to the conservative aspects in their culture –  alongside LGBTQ-Sami-frontman Tobias Poggats. By his side is Pää, who's been working as a translator at Sápmi Pride. I got hold of Pää to understand a little bit more about what's been going on.

VICE: Hi Pää, how’s the atmosphere been over there?

Pää: Good – very hectic! I mean we had a debate on Friday, the parade was on Saturday, and when we spoke on Friday I had to run to translate the Sex workshop and Queer Fuckshop-thing. We've founded an organisation for the Sami queer community, actually.

Wow! That’s something totally new, right?

We’ve been talking about doing it for a while, but yeah, it’s new. It’s happening right now!

Can you tell me more about that?

We’ve set up a queer-Sami organisation that we call Queer Sámit – Sámit in the Northern Sami language means ‘Sami people’. We thought that the time was right for a constitutional meeting since so many supporters were gathered at Sápmi Pride. The organisation is by and for people of queer-Sami identity. But it’s also possible to become a support member or supporting organisation.

So in what way does this project begin where Queering Sápmi ends?

The project Queering Sápmi has been put together by Sami people from different parts of Sweden. It has managed to gather all of us together to set up the new project. But I think that Sápmi still needs to become more open and respectful than it currently is, so the idea is that this non-profit organisation will make sure that things will work out in the future.


Can you tell me about Sápmi Pride? 

I was only there as a volunteer and participant. The expectations beforehand were to make a safe and queer-Sami event where people could have fun together outside of the hetero- and white person norm, which it was.

How did the pride parade turn out?

I think there were about 200 people participating in the parade. I don’t know if there’s been any negative feedback around it since I didn’t organise the thing, but media seems to have been positive about it!

Is there a big demand in Sápmi for this kind of thing? 

I’d say there’s a big demand – even for Sami people who aren't living in a Sami context. Two-gender normativity, racist structures, the suppression of minorities and hetero-normativity are all everyday matters in both Sápmi and Sweden. People don’t recognise this unless they’re outside of what’s considered “normal”. Sweden doesn’t meet UN’s demand on indigenous people’s rights. The idea of binary genders – that there are only “boys” and “girls” is so incredibly strong. Also, the idea that all people are sexual creatures is rarely questioned. I think that all societies would become better societies with a perspective that is non-capitalist and norm-critical. And that’s what Sápmi Pride puts forward.

Have you guys heard from other minorities since this initiative started?

Not that I know of. But I read about a Roma Pride – I think, and there was the Tornedalen Pride earlier this year. I hope this will become a trend!

Thank you Pää, and Happy Pride!

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