Politics of land ownership a case study of the s mi people
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Politics of Land Ownership: A Case Study of the S á mi People. By: Geoffrey Bridges and Colin Simpson. Location. The Sámi are the indigenous people of Sápmi or Lapland, which is located in Northern Europe, and includes part of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula in Russia

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Politics of land ownership a case study of the s mi people l.jpg

Politics of Land Ownership: A Case Study of the Sámi People

By: Geoffrey Bridges

and

Colin Simpson


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Location

  • The Sámi are the indigenous people of Sápmi or Lapland, which is located in Northern Europe, and includes part of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula in Russia

    • Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia

  • Population estimates range from 30 – 70,000

    • Norway – 40-45K

    • Sweden – 17K

    • Finland – 5,700

    • Russia – 2K

  • Thought to have inhabited northern Scandinavia for thousands of years – considered the indigenous population of the area

  • Archaeological evidence suggests people around Lake Ladoga reached the River Utsjoki in northern Finnish Lapland before 8100 BC, though some estimates range as recent as 2500 yrs ago


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Continuity as Indigenous People

  • Regardless of when occupation of Sápmi began the Sámi have maintained residence longer than anyone else

  • Sense of continuity for thousands of years confers an irrevocable sense land ownership


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Importance of Nature

  • Traditional Sámi religious beliefs are animistic and pre-date the Christian era

  • To be successful in endeavors one must maintain a close balance within nature

  • These beliefs were held until the 18th century when Lutheranism became popular

  • The Sámi maintain a close link with nature in that their economy, traditional clothing (gákti), and language (examples of words based on reindeer herding technology) all have links to elements of nature


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Legislation/Acts/Bodies

  • Nature Conservation Act

    • Uncultivated land commission – committee to organize legal relations between the state and inhabitants regarding high-mountain areas and other unenclosed areas in the Nordland and Troms counties

      • Determines whether state owns land

      • Determine boundary lines

      • Only state can bring cases before the commission

      • Unbiased organization

  • Uplands Act – regulates how states property rights in the state commons are managed

    • Rights of use restrictions depend on desired use (i.e. agriculturalists associated with state commons have rights of pasture)

  • Reindeer Husbandry Act – facilitate ecologically sustainable exploitation of reindeer pasture resources, in best interests of reindeer herding population

    • Preserve reindeer husbandry as foundation for Sámi culture

    • Determines where reindeer rights are present and who can engage in reindeer husbandry


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Cont.

  • Cultural Monuments Act- protect cultural monuments as part of cultural heritage

    • Relevance to Sámi- protects monuments older than 100 yrs

    • Protects areas associated with tradition, and beliefs


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Rights to Land and Water

  • Traditional Economy –based on direct relationship to nature and natural resources

    • Follow reindeer herds and exchange between agriculture and fishing by Sámi coastal societies

    • Due to Norwegianization and modernization pressures many Sámi lead modern lives in cities inside and outside of traditional Sámi area

    • 10% still practice reindeer herding

  • The main basis on which the Sámi themselves claim rights to the use of the land and water in their area comes from a philosophy of usufruct rights

    • Since they have maintained constant occupation in the lands they have utilized for their way of life they belief that they have every claim to them

    • Traditionally, governments in Scandinavia have been reluctant to acknowledge these rights

  • 1978: new Reindeer Herding Act in Norway; determined who could herd, where, and at what times


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Cont.

  • Finland vs. Sweden – though reindeer herding not very economically important, very culturally important

    • Finland

      • Sámi have no special rights; If they are reindeer herders, they are allowed to use state land, though land remains property of the state

      • Because reindeer ownership not limited to Sámi, they compete with Finnish herders over public land

      • Herding only allowed in reindeer husbandry area; in Sámi lands, ~90% of land in reindeer husbandry area owned by state

    • Sweden

      • Only Sámi can engage in reindeer herding

      • Land rights based on traditional land use

      • No geographical limit to reindeer herding area


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Cont.

  • Conflicts caused by private landowners (collectively own ~50% forests) starting legal action to keep reindeer herds off

  • Recently Sámi have lost several court cases


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Major Problems

  • Lack of Legislation in each country and boundary issues

    • Finland – Sámi not guaranteed rights on land, water and natural resources

    • Norway – Alta Affair led to trouble between the government and the Sámi because the government had encroached into Sámi lands

  • Sámi Parliaments: representation in Finland, Norway, and Sweden

    • Represents those who can trace Sámi heritage within their families by a number of means

    • Sámi Parliaments lack any sufficient legislative power

    • Act as liaison between Sámi peoples and the representative governments of each countryh


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Feelings of Marginalization

  • Contemporary feelings of marginalization among the Sámi stem from the following:

    • Largely unsuccessful attempts at assimilation

    • Feelings of not having proper access to the legislative bodies that make laws affecting them (Alta Affair)

      • Creation of a watershed system by damming a river; would result in serious relocation of families

      • Serious encroachment into Sápmi as means of economic gain for those other than the Sámi

    • Language and cultural shaming of all things Sámi

      • Speaking in Sámi while in school was actively discouraged

      • Any history taught would have been those of the non-indigenous peoples

      • Many Sámi learned to see their cultural heritage as something shameful and backward

      • Specifically in Norway, a process was begun around the 1850s to make all the Sámi completely Norwegian


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Legislative power

  • During winter, with thick snow cover, reindeer dependent on lichen containing old-growth forests. Since 1950’s, clear cutting and large scale building project put pressure on reindeer herding. In 1990’s, reindeer herders started demanding moratoria on late winter grazing forests. Herders have filed lawsuits, appealing to the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee; outcomes generally unfavorable for the Sámi.

    • However, appeal by Muotkatunturi co-operative, UN Human Rights Committee concluded that any additional logging in co-op’s area considered violation of Sámi indigenous rights. As logging industry has undergone recent expansion, new appeals have been initiated.


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Emergence of the Sámi Parliaments

  • Samediggi

    • Finnish Sámi founded the Sámi Parlamenta in 1973 – “oversee Sámi rights and promote Sámi economic, social, and cultural well-being”

    • Norway – Samediggi formed in 1989 – has greater influence than that of Finnish counterparts

      • Very influential

      • Influenced situation of Sea Sámi – wanted to divide the water rights for sea fishing into areas rather than to ethnic boundaries

    • Sweden – Samediggi has 31 members (4 yr terms)

      • Appoints board of directors for Sámi schools, represents reindeer herding interests

      • Has no power to decide on issues of land use


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From Marginalization to Cultural Reawakening

  • Seemingly natural reaction to periods of attempted and largely “failed” assimilation and unfortunately successful campaigns of shaming Sámi

    • Also grew out of having not had access to other cultural outlets such as modes of dress

  • During the 70s and 80s Sámi gained more and more political influence

  • Led to feelings of wanting to rediscover their “Sáminess”


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Cont.

  • Period often referred to as ČSV, three letters of the Sámi alphabet

    • Later gained some connotations in connection with radicalism

  • Combined movement can be seen as a means of preserving cultural heritage

  • Also grew out of pan-national Sámi unification

    • Sámi acted as major players in the formation of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples

  • Unification led to more bargaining power for the Sámi


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International Law and Its Implications for the Sámi

  • Why the Sámi have a case based in international law, at least partially

    • The ILO Convention states that ownership of land can be claimed by those who have deep cultural and historical ties to the area

    • In order to be effective governments have to ratify it

  • Norway

    • With conflict over Alta River, Sámi considered it a literal struggle for their land and water rights

      • Established the Committee on Sámi Rights

        • 1988 founding of Samediggi and Sámi Language Act


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Cont.

  • 1990 – ratified International Convention on Indigenous Populations of the International Labour Organization (ILO)

    • Sámi recognized as an aboriginal people (not merely ethnic minority)

    • Respect and equality and just treatment in preserving language and culture

  • Sweden, Finland and Russia have not yet ratified ILO convention


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    Prospects for Sámi Future

    • Holding on to traditional lands is a key link to Sámi identity

    • With reindeer herding becoming less economically viable the Sámi way of life is becoming endangered

    • Tundra ecosystem which the Sámi occupy is very fragile

      • Many years in the future human impact could have a devastating effect

      • If environmental harm is not curbed Sámi could easily lose their lands due to further encroachment of government authorities

      • If the Sámi lose their lands then they essentially lose their entire way of life


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    References

    • Bergsmo, Trym Ivar. Four Seasons With the Reindeer People. Pantagruel Forlag: 2001.

    • Bjoerklund, Ivar. Sápmi: Becoming a Nation. University of Tromsø: Norway, 2000.

    • Einarsson, Níels, Joan Nymand Larson, Annika Nilsson, and Oran R. Young, eds. Arctic Human Development Report. Stefansson Arctic Institute: 2004.

    • Fjeld, Faith and Nathan Muus, eds. Baiki: International SámiJournal, The . Issue 26, Spring 2005.

    • Jernsletten, Johnny-Leo L. and Konstantin Klokov, eds. Sustainable Reindeer Husbandry. University of Tromsø: Norway, 2002.

    • Klokov, Konstanutin and Birgitte Ulvevadet, eds. Family –Based Reindeer Herding and Hunting Economies, and the Status and Management of Wild Reindeer/Caribou Populations. University of Tromsø: Norway, 2004.

    • Lehtola, Veli-Pekka. The Sámi People: Traditions in Transition. 2004. Selections from this book (translated from Finnish).

    • http://arcticcircle.uconn.edu/SEEJ/sami1.html


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    Cont.

    • http://www.galdu.org/govat/doc/landrightsevajosefsen.pdf

    • http://www.itv.se/boreale/samieng.htm

    • http://www.pefcwatch.org/finreport/SAMI/index2.html

    • http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=25786

    • http://www.wikipedia.org


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