Kevin McKenna wrote an article in The Guardian about the threat to Gaelic in Scotland, and it is a parallel to what has happened in the Nordic countries with the Sami language.

For hundreds of years there has been first direct persecution of Sami speakers, and in later decades while there hasn’t been outright violence against this minority, there has been a great pressure to assimilate into the majority cultures.

Since the 1980s and the 1990s this has started to reverse, and Sami has begun to grow again as people have overcome their shame about being Sami. One example is the festival Riddu Riđđu in Manndalen in Norway.

Much of the same rhetoric used against Gaelic, has also been used against the Sami language. That it is a waste of money to support a language that is spoken by so few people.

It is estimated that in Sweden, 20 thousand people speak Sami. In total there are about 80 thousand Sami in Sapmi, the areas of Norway Sweden Finland and Russia where the Samis live.

Thanks to festivals like Riddu Riđđu and artists like Mari Boine, the Sami language has started to recover. Young people are proud of their heritage nowadays, and they want to belong to the culture, and they are learning the language.

There’s a lesson to be learned for Gaelic from Sami speakers. If they want to shore up their language, and guard it against the sentiments described in the McKenna article, one good way would be for artists to embrace the language and make it cool.

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