Marja-Liisa was born in Partakko in Inari on August 9, 1967. Her father was Sammlii-Kaabi Eljis (Eljas Mujo) and her mother is Piätárii-Heendâ Heeihâ Elsa ( formerly Aikio, now Väisänen). Her father and grandfather Heendâ-Heikkâ, Heikki Aikio, drowned while driving by snowmobile when Marja-Liisa was four years old. After this Marja-Liisa lived with her mother for a time in Utsjoki and Nuorgam. They later moved to Kuhmo where her mother remarried.
She began her elementary education in Partakko in 1974, continued in Utsjoki and Nuorgam and the remainder of her schooling was completed in Kuhmo. She did her matriculation examinations at Kuhmo Secondary School in the spring of 1986. Marja-Liisa graduated from Oulu University with a Masters degree in philosophy on March 25, 1992. In the same year she moved with her husband to Holland. Marja-Liisa is the first Inari Sámi to obtain a Masters degree and is the most learned Inari Sámi. As a part of her degree she completed, with merits, a study of the use of deverbal nouns in the Inari Sámi language. She completed a Licentiate in philosophy in 2001 and her licentiate work dealt with the two-syllable -mi- in the northern Sámi language and the two-syllable -mi- and -me- nominals in the Inari Sámi language, as well as their histories. She is at the moment writing her doctoral thesis on species names in Inari Sámi for mushrooms, plants and birds.
She has also caused the Inari Sámi language to become a university study by planning and carrying out a unit of 15 teaching credits which is the equivalent of a first year university syllabus. Since then some students have completed this syllabus in Inari Sámi. The purpose is to put into effect a university study program in Inari Sámi in the future.
It is significant to Marja-Liisa that she has been able to preserve and promote the Inari Sámi language far from its native environment where she has lived, in Kuhmo, Oulu and Holland.
Written Works and Research:
-Edited a large Inari Sámi dictionary, based on the dictionary of Erkki Itkonen, “Inarilappisches Wörterbuch, as well as Pekka Sammallahti’s and Matti Morottaja’s “Säämi-Suom sänikirje”. This book is still in manuscript form.
-A book, Anarâškielâ kielâoppâ (Inari Sámi grammar), still in manuscript form.
-A translation into Inari Sámi children’s cateschism, Sun ana mist huolâ (He Takes Care of Us), 1991.
-A translation into Inari Sámi, Evaŋgelium Matteus mield (The Gospel of Matthew), 1995.
-A translation into Inari Sámi of a textbook on environmental studies, Luándukirje (The Book on Nature), 2003.
-Translated and edited into Inari Sámi, Kirkkokietâkirje (A Church Handbook), still in manuscript form.
-Translated and edited Kirholij toimâttâsâi kirje (A Book on Religious Ceremonies), still in manuscript form.
-Novels written for the journal Anarâš.
-Scientific articles for various publications about the Inari Sámi language.
The Sámi Institute awarded Marja-Liisa the Israel Ruong Grant, which is granted to young Sámi language scholars. The grant was awarded to her on October 26, 1999 in Kautokeino by her long term teacher and friend, PhD. Tuomas Magga. Besides being a young language scholar, she is also the first Inari Sámi who studies her own language. Although she has been added to the ranks of such notables, famed for language research, as M.A. Castren, A.V. Koskimies, A. Andelin, Elias Lönnrot, A.J. Sjögren, Frans Äimä, T.I. Itkonen ja Erkki Itkonen, she is distinguished from them in that she is herself a Sámi and an Inari Sámi. This fact gives her a different perspective and viewpoint about things from the previously mentioned scholars.
Marja-Liisa now lives in Holland with her husband Henkjan as well as two daughters, Sofia (b. 1996) and Ester Anne (b. 2004), with whom she speaks Inari Sámi at home.
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