As we all know, Finland is 100 years old this year and the big anniversary day is on December 6th. As part of the celebrations, the mountain Saana will be lit in the national colours on independence day. Given the remoteness of the location (in the true Ultima Thule of Kilpisjärvi with a population of 100), one can only wonder the purpose of such idea. Not many people will see it live in blue and white, simply because there are so few people around.
Saana is in the northernmost part of Finland but also in Sápmi, the home of the Sámi people. It is an imposing, unusual and powerful looking mountain. Recently someone from Southern Finland who had visited Kilpisjärvi for the first time commented to me that Saana had reminded her Uluru in Australia, previously known as the Ayers Rock. She added that she had no idea that such an incredible mountain existed in Finland.
Uluru is sacred to the Mutijulu Aboriginal community of the area. It is surrounded by ancient paintings, springs, waterholes and rock caves. Uluru is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was returned to its owners in 1985, six years after the local Pitjantjatjara and Yankuntjatjara people made a formal claim over Uluru and the surrounding area. Relevant laws were amended to recognize the two peoples as the traditional owners of the land. A ceremony was held in which the state representatives presented the title deeds to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankuntjatjara people who have since been able to govern the area, including protecting sacred sites and benefiting from the tourist industry.
Recently, the traditional owners and park managers agreed to ban visitors climbing Uluru, starting in October 2019. In the words of Sammy Wilson: “It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland … We welcome tourists here. We are not stopping tourism, just this activity.”
Considering that Saana is a sacred mountain for the Sámi in the region, the idea of lighting it in blue and white to celebrate Finland 100 seems an odd, if not a dubious decision. It strikes as the very opposite of the process that happened at Uluru over thirty years ago.