UArctic Teacher Education Thematic Network and the UNITWIN/UNESCO network on teacher education organized a UArctic congress side event for teachers, teacher educators, Sami representatives and UArctic thematic network members and other interested parties to discuss and network under the theme “Indigenous Languages in Urbanized Areas” on September 3rd in Oulu.

The side event included three keynotes, which gave a wide insight on the indigenousness from early childhood education to teacher education and on revitalizing indigenous languages. University lecturer Erika Sarivaara from the University of Lapland was the chair of the event. The aim of the side event was to raise discussion about the indigenous languages and their status in the urbanized areas.

Emeritus professors Sue Dockett and Bob Perry from the Charles Sturt University Australia spoke about the theme “Supporting Indigenous Early Childhood Education: Language and Culture: An Australian Example. In their keynote and in the following discussion the issues of the indigenous communities and how to bring them closer to the school and education system were discussed.

Sue Dockett and Bob Perry;  Erika Sarivaara

Marja-Liisa Olthuis from University of Oulu (Giellagas institute) held the second keynote. She spoke about revitalizing languages, and pointed to the significance of using native speakers as experts in the revitalization process. It is noteworthy that both this and the previous keynote expressed the importance of the elderly and how the elderly should also take part in the revitalizing process, for example by visiting schools.

The third keynote was by Liisa Holmberg from the International Sami Film Institute ISFI and she spoke about indigenous teacher education. She pointed out that the in order to teach about indigenousness, you need to be deep in the world, and she gave an example of how in the Sami education institute reindeer herders became teachers themselves. It was discussed how the Finnish schools should acknowledge the Sami people more and embrace the richness of the Finnish culture together with the Sami culture and the Sami language.

All three keynotes generated conversation about the issues concerning indigenous languages in urbanized areas. It was discussed how there should be for example “info packs” for teachers, so they could tell their pupils about the Sami people, their culture and their languages. The keynotes and discussions during the side event highlighted the importance of making the indigenous languages and people more seen and heard. Furthermore, it was noted that next year is the International Year of Indigenous Languages and that the Thematic Network could organize something within this theme.

In sum, the side event spawned discussion about indigenous languages, and how we could make them more recognized in the urban areas and outside the language communities. The side event was successful and gave a lot of food for thought when planning the Thematic Network’s future actions.