Summary of the Sami's situation.
In all countries Sami's have full citizenship, on the other hand
the Sami are not fully recognized as an indigenous group by all governments.
Who avoids the international legislation for indigenous peoples and agreements such as the ILO or Rio declarations, by referring to the Sami's as a minority.
Anita Leirvoll and Henrik Olsen,
Seasami's from northern Norway.
Photo: Webmaster, Aug 1997.
The Norwegian government recognize the Sami's as an ethnic minority
and as a separate people at the same time.
Norway is therefore the only nation with an indigenous Sami population who
follows the UN declaration of indigenous people, and the human rights
It has not always been so, but the legal status of the Sami has been
improved considerably during the last decades.
A major step forward came in the 1960s, when the Sami's right to
preserve and develop their own culture was officially acknowledged.
Since then the Sami language has been taught in the schools, and
several Sami institutions and museums has been created.
In 1980 two committees were appointed to look into Sami-Norwegian
cultural and legal issues. Part of the mandate of the first of these
committees was to pave the way for the subsequent Sami Language Act,
which presented a proposition for a Sami language law to the Norwegian
As a result Sami's in Norway can now use their own language in contact
with authorities, and -if asked- the government have to provide
documents and translation into the Sami language for all offical
It might sound like everything is good and well between the government
and this nations native population, but Norway is simultaneously the
country that (in recent years) have come closest to an armed conflict
with the Sami's.
This happened in 1980-81 close to a town named Alta in one of the most
northern regions of this country.
The reason was the construction of a hydroelectric powerplant in Alta
river, something which the native communitys in the area considered to
destroy important parts of their most valuable land.
The construction machinery was sabotaged, and an explosive charge was
used in an attempt to stop the constructionwork.
All protests was not of a violent nature however, quite to the
contrary, it was only used when the authorities declined further
discussions and proposals from the Sami's when these measures was
One Sami fled with his family to Canada to avoid legal prosecution,
and was subsequently adopted by a amerind tribe, after a few years he
could return to Norway (the rest of the family returned earlier) after
the government had issued an amnesty for these actions.
The powerplant was finished however and is the largest one in the area
producing a whopping 550GWh.
Magnus and Anna Laestander from Ran Sami
Sweden does recognize the Sami as an ethnical minority but have not
signed the UN declaration for the indigenous peoples rights.
A separate education organisation exists and one museum named "Ajjte"
which simultaneously functions as a researchfacility.
community, the middle part of Swedens "Lapland".
Photo by Robert Lundgren, probably around 1915.
In the most northern part of Sweden's "Lapland" the mining industry continue their
production unabated, and the activities at the Swedish space centre
ESRANGE demands that certain areas othervise used by the Sami
communitys have to be evacuated when they fire soundingrockets.
In the southern part of "Lapland" (also Västerbotten) the largest problems is the forestindustrys cleancutting, a few mines have been closed in this area during the last decades, although renewed prospecting and testdrilling is a cause for consern. In 1999 one such have resulted in plans for a new mine within Malå sami community.
One location was proposed to be chosen for long term storage of
radioactive waste from Swedens many nuclear powerplants.
A local referandum have however canselled the plans, as of September
On short term the south Sami culture must be seen as the most threatened minoritygroup in Sweden, both as seen from a cultural
viewpoint -such as the language- but also as the survival of the Sami communitys in the area.
More information about recent legal proceedings can be found here.
Stop the free small game hunting!
Return our native rights now!
In 1993, the government stole the native huntingrights from us Sami's. And yes it was in 1993, not 1893, the government in Sweden still are at it with a complete disregarding for native and human rights.
The following year they also took the native fishingrights.
Even thought several government represenatives have admitted that this wasn't such a good idea after all, they let the madness continue in part since the hunting and fishing organizations strongly lobby to keep the new lands where they can persue their hobbies.
There can be no compromises in the issue - the native hunting and fishingrights must be returned!
Scan of a sticker protesting the free huntingrights on native lands.
Sami artist performing at the grand opening of a
The Sami of Finland have no rights to land, waters and traditional
sources of livelihood according to Finnish law.
Finnish persons without native ancestry can own reindeers and -at
least superficially- live like a native in this country. Several state appoined committee's (in 1952, 1973 and 1990) has
recommended that this situation should be settled by a law, yet this
matter have been left unresolved.
Sami tourist resort in Vuotso/ Vuohccu, Finland.
Image by webmaster June 1997.
So with the present situation, the rights of the Sami as an indigenous people are not in conformity with international human rights
agreements -to use an understatent.
At the same time Finlands government and its cultural institutions is supporting the Sami culture better than most countries insofar they
economically support the publication of Sami textbooks and dictionarys in larger numbers that any other nation. A few of those have even been published in russian to the benefit of the Sami's who live on the other side of the eastern border.
Kildin of Russia at an international native festival
The history of the Sami's of Russia are a combination of the most
horrible violations of human rights as well as benevolent acts as far
as providing means to support this culture.
This might seem as a contradiction, yet this information is derived
from first hand information directly from the older generation still
living on the Kola peninsula who has experienced these times -mainly
during the Stalin era.
Part of this might be understood if one knows that Sami's, as well as
a few other native groups, actually was used as a living piece of
propaganda to show that the Soviet union was a state which not only
accepted but actively supported other cultures and lifestyles.
Yet the Sami lived in the more accessible parts of northern Russia so
they have been more affected by mining and industry than other "circum polar tribes" living farther to the east.
After the fall of the Soviet union there has been some changes for the Sami communitys, a few familys have returned to a more traditional way of life, but the majority have chosen to remain within the Kolchoz'es (collective communitys) that the communists created.
Far more alarming is the cleancutting which now is made in vast areas without any control from the authorities, and as well as in other areas they obviously put profit before enviromental concerns. Poatching of private and collectively owned reindeers is another problem according to Sami's in the area.
Sadly this have become widespread since the russian part of the population have difficulties getting enough food -at least of decent quality- since the distribution of products and commoditys has faced a partial breakdown in this country.
The Sami infopage.
Last revision Nov 11, 2000.