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Norway’s king apologizes for treatment of Sami people

October 7, 1997 GMT

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ In a rare political statement, King Harald V publicly apologized to the Sami people Tuesday for the repression they suffered under Norwegian rule.

The Sami, once called the Lapps, are believed to have originated in Central Asia and migrated north at least 9,000 years ago. For more that 200 years, they endured government efforts to wipe out their culture. In recent decades, that policy has been replaced by a program of nurturing the Sami culture, which has its own language and traditions.

``The Norwegian state is founded on the territories of two peoples _ the Norwegians and the Sami. Sami history is interwoven with Norwegian history,″ the king said in opening the third Sami Parliament.

``Today, we must apologize for the injustice the Norwegian state once imposed on the Sami people through policies of Norweganization,″ he said.

His comments were believed to be the first time a Norwegian monarch publicly apologized for the treatment of the Sami.

The Sami are scattered through Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Most Sami, about 45,000, live in Norway, with half of those in Finnmark, the country’s northernmost province.

The king’s conciliatory remarks came amid tensions in Finnmark over rights to land and water.

Tempers flared this summer over a government commission’s proposal to give the Sami a greater say in managing government land, which makes up 90 percent of the northern province. The Sami need vast tracts of tundra for their reindeer.