SEPT. 4 SWEDEN’S INDIGENOUS SAMI PEOPLE ARE FIGHTING BIG BUSINESS
This week’s blog begins a long, long time ago…waaaay back in the Ice Age. (To clarify: We are not referring to the Ice Age cartoon movies. You know, the ones with the hilarious sloth, caring wholly mammoth and dashing sabre tooth tiger.) We’re talking about the actual Ice Age, which covered the earth from 11,000 BC to 8,000 BC. Afterwards, human hunters and gatherers flourished in the newly created lush grasslands. Today, most peoples from this era have evolved into modern folk, but a few pockets of hunter and gatherers remain on the planet. The islands of Borneo and Papua New Guinea have the largest such populations, but there are large numbers in the rain forests of the Amazon and Congo Rivers as well.
In highly civilized Europe, only one such group remains. The Sami People inhabit the semi-tundra lands of Northern Scandinavia. Also known as Lapps, their homeland is so horribly cold and violently dreary, the remote people have been ignored by all. Roman Emperors, Medieval Kings and Soviet Dictators alike have left them alone. This tradition continues today. The collective governments of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia still allow the nomadic reindeer herders to roam freely without regard to international borders. However, a sudden announcement last month has sent the normally tranquil relationship between the Sami and the Scandinavian governments into turmoil.
What happened? The Swedish Government granted permission to a British Mining Company to start digging an open pit iron mine on Sami land. To house the miners, a camp will be built in the town of Jokkmok, which is located on the Arctic Circle, deep in tribal lands. All of these decisions were made by the corporation and the government without any consultation with the Sami people whatsoever. Under the law, Sami people have the right to use the area for grazing, but “cannot claim ownership” of Swedish land. So this group is powerless to do anything other than non-violent protest.
Not so fast, says Fred Boman of a Swedish Mining subsidiary. Let’s look at the numbers. The proposal is to develop twenty square kilometers in the Sami reindeer herding region of 4,000 square kilometers. Do the math. It comes to 00.5% of Sami land in Sweden. We here at the DUNER BLOG are pretty sure that the 4,500 reindeer will continue to find enough grass to eat and survive, despite losing a half of a percent of their grazing area.
While it is highly unlikely anyone can stop the mining companies from digging for iron ore, the Sami People want the world to know of their unfortunate situation. They feel that other native groups in other First-World Nations have much greater political rights. The Government of Sweden claims they are just trying to help an economically depressed area by bringing in jobs and commerce. However, the Sami know better. Sweden has the world’s 12th highest GNP per capita. They can afford to treat Europe’s only remaining indigenous group better.