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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Protecting the rights of the Sami people in Finland
Dave Walsh, the editor of the Forest Rescue Station weblog in Finland has been in touch to let this site know about the state forestry company's efforts to take over reindeer grazing areas used by the Sami people.

The Sámi Reindeer Forests of Arctic Finland are amongst the few remaining areas of ancient forest left in Europe.

The Reindeer Forest is under siege by the Finnish government's own logging company, Metsähallitus. Sámi reindeer herding co-operatives have identified areas of forest vital for the free grazing of reindeer - areas that continue to be logged by Metsähallitus. Up to 70% of the timber logged by Metsähallitus in Sámi areas goes into the production of pulp + paper - ending up as magazine and copy paper throughout Europe.

The sami people have their own language, traditional clothing, handicraft, and music, and are distinctively different from other ethnic groups in Scandinavia. Although the sami have full citizenship in Norway, Sweden + Finland they are denied the rights guaranteed to indigenous people in the UN Declaration of Human Rights in Sweden and Finland. In these two countries the sami are considered an ethnic minority, and not a separate people.

Only Norway provides the protections enshrined in the UN's declaration, and logging interests are now asserting themselves in sami areas that have traditionally been used for hunting, fishing + reindeer herding.

Visit the Forest Rescue Station weblog to find out more...

P.S. You might be interested to learn that one sami word, tundra, is widely used in the english speaking world, and that the word lapp is a derogatory term of abuse which refers to patchy and worn clothes.