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


Finland vs. Sweden though reindeer herding not very economically ... Finland ... Finland S mi not guaranteed rights on land, water and natural resources ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Politics of Land Ownership: A Case Study of the Smi People

Politics of Land Ownership A Case Study of the
Sámi People
  • By Geoffrey Bridges
  • and
  • Colin Simpson

  • 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

Continuity as Indigenous People
  • Regardless of when occupation of Sápmi began the
    Sámi have maintained residence longer than anyone
  • Sense of continuity for thousands of years
    confers an irrevocable sense land ownership

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 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
  • 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
  • Preserve reindeer husbandry as foundation for
    Sámi culture
  • Determines where reindeer rights are present and
    who can engage in reindeer husbandry

  • 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

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
  • 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
  • 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

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

  • Conflicts caused by private landowners
    (collectively own 50 forests) starting legal
    action to keep reindeer herds off
  • Recently Sámi have lost several court cases

Major Problems
  • Lack of Legislation in each country and boundary
  • 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
  • Act as liaison between Sámi peoples and the
    representative governments of each countryh

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
  • 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
  • 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

Legislative power
  • During winter, with thick snow cover, reindeer
    dependent on lichen containing old-growth
    forests. Since 1950s, clear cutting and large
    scale building project put pressure on reindeer
    herding. In 1990s, reindeer herders started
    demanding moratoria on late winter grazing
    forests. Herders have filed lawsuits, appealing
    to the United Nations 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-ops area considered
    violation of Sámi indigenous rights. As logging
    industry has undergone recent expansion, new
    appeals have been initiated.

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

From Marginalization to Cultural Reawakening
  • Seemingly natural reaction to periods of
    attempted and largely failed assimilation and
    unfortunately successful campaigns of shaming
  • 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

  • Period often referred to as CSV, three letters of
    the Sámi alphabet
  • Later gained some connotations in connection with
  • 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

International Law and Its Implications for the
  • 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
  • Established the Committee on Sámi Rights
  • 1988 founding of Samediggi and Sámi Language Act

  • 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

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
  • Tundra ecosystem which the Sámi occupy is very
  • 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

  • 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
  • Fjeld, Faith and Nathan Muus, eds. Baiki
    International Sámi Journal, 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

  • http//www.galdu.org/govat/doc/landrightsevajosefs
  • http//www.itv.se/boreale/samieng.htm
  • http//www.pefcwatch.org/finreport/SAMI/index2.htm
  • http//virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle
  • http//www.wikipedia.org
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