International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

Mikkel Näkkäläjärvi, Youth Delegate of Finland to the United Nations, wearing traditional Sami dress (gakti) at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015.

Meet Mikkel

Mikkel Näkkäläjärvi is a 25 year old mechanical engineering student in Helsinki, and is currently the Chairman of Social Democrat Youth in Finland. In 2015 Mikkel was the Finnish Youth Delegate to the United Nations.

Mikkel comes from Lapland (I asked, he hasn't met Santa Claus yet). Mikkel's father is a reindeer herder. Reindeer herding is an ancient tradition which is protected, with only indigenous Sami people given permits to herd the animals.

Sami people

Did you know that there are indigenous peoples in Europe? Sami people are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway.

The Sami are the only indigenous people of Scandinavia recognized and protected under the International Conventions of Indigenous peoples, and are hence the northernmost indigenous people of Europe. Their traditional languages are the Sami languages.

Traditionally, the Sami have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping, and sheep herding. Their best-known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding. Currently about 10% of the Sami are connected to reindeer herding, providing them with meat, fur, and transportation.

Young Sami at the United Nations

Mikkel, along with Inga Nymo Riseth from Norway, both wore their traditional gakti apparel at official ceremonies in the United Nations last autumn. Their outfits sparked peoples' curiosity and were a conversation starter amongst many in New York: a lot of people hadn't heard of Sami people before meeting either Mikkel or Inga.

Mikkel is a Feminist

On today, the International Day of the World's Indigenous People, watch Mikkel's speech to the UN; starting at 19.44 on the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website.

Follow Mikkel on Twitter @Nakkalajarvi to hear more on these issues.

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