Sami parliament asks for commemorative coin

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by Marius Ringsrud

January 9, 2014 – In 2017 the Norwegian Sami population will celebrate the 100-year jubilee of its first national meeting, conducted February 6th 1917 in the mid-Norwegian city of Trondheim. This first national Sami meeting was arranged by the Sami woman Elsa Laula Renberg, and the national meeting of 1917 is a milestone in Sami history. First commemorated in 1993, February 6th has been marked as an annual Sami memorable day.

The Sami flag, which is used on this important day, was first officially approved during the 13th Nordic Sami conference in 1986. This colourful flag is a symbol for all Sami people and was not limited to national borders. The flag, which illustrates a Sami magic drum and the poem “Beaivvi bártnit”, is maybe one of the most known symbols of the modern Sami culture. Perhaps this flag could be seen on a future commemorative coin?

A banknote
On 18 January 2011, the Sami parliament sent a letter to the central bank (“Norges Bank”) in Oslo asking for the possibilities for a commemorative coin or banknote to be issued in 2017. This coin or banknote was supposed to commemorate the 1917-meeting in Trondheim, and the Sami parliament proposed the depiction of Renberg as a motif on a potential future coin or banknote. Renberg is a significant person in Scandinavian Sami history. In addition to her work in Norway she also constituted the Swedish Sami association in 1904. In the letter, they also stressed that the Sami parliament must be consulted when choosing text on the future numismatic piece.

However, the central bank rejected the proposal of a commemorative banknote only 10 days after receipt. The reason for this is that Norwegian banknotes commemorate great personalities from Norwegian history, as for instance the painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944) and the scientist Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917), but the notes cannot be linked to special jubilees, as for instance this 1917-2017-jubilee. The possibility of a commemorative coin, however, is further investigated.

A Sami coin
A royal resolution of 27 May 2011 transferred the power of deciding future commemorative coins from the central bank to the Finance Ministry. One could claim that this would increase the political power over commemorative coin production; however, it might only be for other practical reasons. The Sami commemorative coin application was then dispatched to the ministry from the central bank in June 2011. The Sami parliament has, on several occasions, reminded the ministry about the application, but still awaits an official reply from the ministry.

In 2010, CoinsWeekly reported that Sami parliament representative Gunn-Britt Retter stressed the need of Sami text on Norwegian coins. Retter’s suggestion ended in a nationwide debate. The central bank decided then, according to a comment in the media, that Sami text on Norwegian coins was not in their current plans. The Sami interest in Norwegian numismatics is exciting and we await the results of the decision of the 2017 commemorative coin case with interest.