Tag Archives: Sami

When is a Sami not a Sami?

New Statesman Sami observations article cutting

 

I have an article in this week’s New Statesman magazine, about the Sami people’s struggle for land rights.

While living in Enontekiö I regularly came across people from local Sami reindeer herding-families, and wrote about my experience at the autumn reindeer separation here.

It soon became clear that the fight for land rights – through the ratification of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 169 – loomed large in local politics.

Local businesses, like my hosts Hetta Huskies and Cape Lapland, were worried that the Sami may decide to limit access to the wilderness if they took control of the land. Already use of reindeer grazing land by non-herders can be the source of some friction.

Sami families – rightly – maintained that they had a right to land that they had populated for centuries. But do some Samis have more rights than others?

Full text can be found on the New Statesman website here, or after the fold.

Continue reading

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The reindeer gathering

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Lapland is reindeer country. They roam free across this flat land, docile as cattle, standing in the roads or digging for lichen in the deep snow.

But they are not wild animals, or not entirely. Many are owned by the Sami people, the indigenous group once known as the Lapps, who live throughout Arctic Scandinavia and western Russia.

The reindeer herders are – or, for the most part, were – a semi-nomadic group, migrating north to the coast with their animals for the short Arctic summer, south to the forests over winter.

Modern life has not been kind to the Sami. Main roads and national borders have sprung up across centuries-old migration routes, while many of the traditional ways have become lost after generations of Sami children were sent to Finnish language boarding schools in the south – from which many never returned.

But Sami culture lives on. Recent government initiatives have pumped money into Sami-language education and cultural revival.

Here in Enontekio, the elderly Sami ladies can be spotted their embroidered smocks and bonnets in the supermarket, browsing the sweet selection. The Sami men, oozing testosterone, can be found in the only bar in town, or blearily winding their way home again on their snowmobiles.

Reindeer herding here is still very much a way of life. Although the majority of the Sami reindeer herders now keep a permanent home – a house, a car, a comfortable bed – life is still dictated by the changing seasons; the movement of the reindeer. Continue reading

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