Henrik, a Sami reindeer herder in Lapland
Forest Sámi, Henrik is a reindeer herder on the banks of the Muonio River, which marks the symbolic border between Sweden and Finland. This northwestern part of Lapland is the traditional territory of the Sami, who are estimated to number between 50,000 and 100,000, probably close to 100,000.
With the Inuits of Greenland, the Sámi are the las indigenous people in Europe. They live in four countries – Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia. In each of these countries, they elect their representatives in a Sami parliament responsible for defending their interests.
Banned from school until the 1970s, the Sami language, which comes in nine variants, has no word for war, but has 150 terms for reindeer and 200 for snow. The Sámi, who reject the pejorative term Lapp (Lapparna), have been victims of discrimination. In Sweden, a truth commission is charged with investigating abuses committed by the Swedish State. These abuses still persist today, especially after the decision of the Swedish Supreme Court (Girjas ruling), which recognizes their exclusive right to administer hunting and fishing on the territories where their herds graze.
For Elin Marakatt, a young Sámi journalist and writer, living in Lainiovuoma Sámi Village:
The hard condition of the nomadic life
The taiga by reindeer sled
Confidences in a kota
It’s time for lunch in Henrik’s kota (« hunting shelter » », which he inherited from his father. During this shared meal, he willingly confides the current difficulties of the reindeer breeders, an activity reserved for the Sámi in Sweden.
Faced with deforestation and the consequences of global warming, they are fighting to preserve their ancestral grazing areas (reindeer breeding area) and lichen resources, essential to their herds in winter – a 71% decrease in the area of forests abundant in lichen has been noted over the past sixty years.
Mobilization for the climate and their survival
According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, the cumulative development of mines, wind farms, hydroelectric power plants, roads and power lines threatens the sustainability of their livestock.
Gathered within collectives, including the Association of Young Saami from Sweden (Sáminuorra), the Sámi are mobilizing locally on the ground with the support of Greta Thunberg, at the European level (the People’s Climate Case) and on social networks (#BackaSápmi) to defend their way of life threatened by global warming.
On the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 9 August, they will have the opportunity to show the relevance of their fight for the survival of their way of life… and of the planet.In hashtag language, an equation summarizes their fight: #IndigenousRights = #ClimateJustice!
We must stand with the Sámi as the frontline of the #ClimateCrisis! Indigenous knowledges and worldviews are essential to achieve sustainable futures. #IndigenousRights = #ClimateJustice! @saminuorra @GretaThunberg @Fridays4future #ClimateStrike #BackaSápmi pic.twitter.com/EdQ9aZ26n9
— Florian Carl (@flc4rl) February 7, 2020