Dispossessing the Sámi Peoples

0882fc4c1d2a09a11c7c5e21892e7eb0The ancient forest of Białowieża – the last remaining primeval forest in the European lowlands – straddles the Polish/ Belarus border, and is the last home of wild European bison. It is now under threat from a Polish government decision to log more than 180,000 cubic metres. Meanwhile, the Finnish Government has unexpectedly brought forward to today a vote in the Finnish Parliament on a new Forestry Act that will enable it to engage in an unprecedented land grab that threatens the last old growth forests of Finnish Lapland and the reindeer herding homeland of the indigenous Sámi Peoples.

While Finnish education may be the envy of the world, one aspect of it appears to leave mainstream Finnish foresters unable to contemplate any approach to forestry that does not involve turning the rich biodiversity of indigenous forests into commercial monocultures. This is an approach they are still exporting to the rest of the world with disastrous consequences for indigenous forests and indigenous peoples elsewhere. Now the same approach is being turned on their own last remaining old growth indigenous forests: the reindeer herding homeland of the indigenous Sámi Peoples.

Hannibal Rhoades and Tero Mustonen note that:

“This crisis arrives in a context in which the previous Finnish Government failed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, leaving the Sámi vulnerable. Now the current government in Finland is moving fast to completely wreck the existing rights of the only Indigenous Peoples living in the European Union. . .

“The new Act would affect 2.2 million hectares of water systems and 360,000 hectares of land, mostly in the Sub-Arctic and North Boreal areas of Finland, the Sámi’s Home Area. This area constitutes the last preserved wilderness of Europe. The Act would transfer power over this region further into the hands of state authorities, opening up the Sámi Home Area and sub-Arctic ecosystems to railway construction, and with that, potential expansion of mining, forestry and other infrastructure projects.

“The new Forestry Act would no longer require Metsähallitus, the Finnish state-run enterprise which already controls 90% of the Sámi Home Area, to liase with the Sámi Parliament and the Skolt Sámi Village Council on issues of land management and their potential impacts on indigenous people’s lives. The preparation of this Act has not been conducted with the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the Sámi People.”

Indigenous Sami leaders and Arctic scientists are asking for help from the international community:

The President of the Finnish Section of the Saami Council, Jouni Lukkari, is calling for urgent help from the international community, saying that:

“Sámi reindeer herding and the Sámi way of life are in danger of disappearing if the new Forestry Act legislation passes in the Finnish Parliament. In this case we will have few opportunities to influence the decision making over our lands. Rather, our territories will be controlled by market economy values.”

Tero Mustonen informs us that:

“Despite fierce opposition from a large part of the Finnish public, all Sámi reindeer herding cooperatives, Snowchange and a large international coalition of peoples, the Forestry Act has passed one hour ago in the Finnish Parliament.

“108 MPs voted for the Act, 64 against, 3 voted nothing. Finnish parliament has 200 MPs. The law will take effect when the Finnish President will sign it, expected to be 15th April, 2016.

“It is a dark hour for Finland, for the Arctic and climate change, as the forests the law will now condemn to clear cuts act as crucial carbon sinks for the world, in addition to being the Sámi homeland. Additionally, 2,2 million hectares of waters will be the subject of potential commercial uses.

“We will be contemplating next steps with the Sámi Council and other Sámi actors over the coming days and will send information in due time about the ways to stop this land grab, one of the largest in European history, against Indigenous peoples and nature.”

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  1. Duncan MacLaren says:

    This is the equivalent of the Highland Clearances for the Sámi people and will hasten the end of their culture, unique way of life and language. I thought the Finnish Government was one of the more enlightened Governments of the EU. By this act of ethnic and cultural vandalism, they are proving that they are tarred with the same neoliberal brush as the other states and substituting money for life, knowing the value of land and forest but not the worth of leaving both alone. I hope there is still time to stop the legislation being enacted and for the Finns to come to their senses.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      Finland’s coalition government is neoliberal in outlook. Its Finance Minister, Alexander Stubb, played a leading role in imposing punitive terms on Greece during the crisis last year.

  2. john young says:

    Do people never ever wonder what happens when there is nothing left of mother earth,human beings never cease to amaze/dismay you with their never ending grab for more/bigger/faster items,they wonder then why they are unhappy?

  3. Kenneth Coutts says:

    I read way back, indigenous people of Australia reversed a land grab .
    Obviously done originally by the British and carried on via the Australian governments.

    1. Helayne says:

      Indigenous Australians are still getting screwed by Australia’s governments…always have and always will. The people are losing big time in fights against mining, logging and other forms of industrial expansion. One small victory up North in the “wicked West” amongst many defeats, the petro- chemical/mining/agricultural companies are regrouping, you watch the Australian Govt’ repeal the Racial Discrimination Act for all the states very soon, and the NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act and other Acts relating to justice for Indigenous peoples, so they can do what they want to Indigenous Australian peoples and their lands, with impunity.

  4. annabella says:

    How can we help/ get involved?

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Thanks Annabella and all

      The Sami are contemplating their next steps and will let us know as soon as they’ve had a chance to regroup. See: http://www.yestolifenotomining.org/new-finnish-forest…/

      but as Graeme and Duncan point out, Finland now has a neoliberal Government hell bent on making life worse

  5. Alistair MacKinnon says:

    It passed:
    http://www.yestolifenotomining.org/new-finnish-forest-act-passes-in-the-finnish-parliament/

    You can get involved here at the bottom of the page:
    https://intercontinentalcry.org/new-finnish-forestry-act-could-mean-the-end-of-sami-reindeer-herding/

    They’ll soon have what we have.. a depopulated, denuded wet desert, owned and restricted to a few.

  6. john young says:

    Annabella pray to Our Lady or Mother Earth because all other avenues are corrupt.

  7. Gordon Benton says:

    Coincidentally I commented on a similar, unstoppable tragedy that has been happening to the indigenous peoples of Borneo/ Kalimantan over last half a century (“Indigenous Indonesia” in the ‘The Nation’ Mar 26, p22/23 and the reply “Little Chance of halting ‘progress’ in Indonesia)on” Tue, Mar 29, p13). There are examples of exploitation of indigenous peoples all over the world – ‘People who have no lawyers’. Today, we in Scotland, having experienced our own Clearances, have apparently insuperable problems in establishing fair Land Reform legislation, when such as large and rich Corporations are more powerful than our Government.

  8. john young says:

    USA/Australian involvement in East Timor is/was horrendous all for greed,yet we moan about those that we elect it is done in our name,the story of the above is along with so many others is so so despicable,the perpetrators can have no soul they are sociopaths/psycopaths,how can they look their children in the eye.

  9. Dave Leslie says:

    This is the sort of issue that the Avaaz international campaigning group have been quite successful with. I don’t feel I know enough about it to start an Avaaz petition myself, but I emailed Tero Mustonen to suggest they do it, and got a reply that they’re considering it.

  10. Alastair McIntosh says:

    I’ve nothing to add, Justin. You say it very well as it is. Though I might just add, as you possibly know, that the Gaelic tradition bearer and boatbuilder, John MacAulay of Flodabay, Harris, wrote a (out of print) book on Hebridean “silkie” or seal people traditions and builds a convincing case for a link to the Sea Sami. See:

    Seal-folk and Ocean Paddlers: Sliochd Nan Ron https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1874267391/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awd_BNtaxbY3CE1Z4

    1. MBC says:

      Hi Alastair, did you know about the eskimo who discovered Scotland? His seal skin canoe is in Marischal College Aberdeen if you ever get a chance to see it. He was found off the coast of Aberdeen.

      Eighteenth century newpapers occasionally mentioned similar sightings off the east coast of Britain. The Caledonian Mercury, I think it was, carried a report of an eskimo who made it in to Leith harbour and attracted an excited crowd. There were even sightings as far south as the English channel. One report stated that the man was taken aboard a ship, but contracted flu and died. This is quite a common theme in these reports. We know that when native American peoples encountered Europeans this was frequently the outcome as they had no resistance to European diseases.

      In the Northern Isles we have the legend of the silkie. Who when they came ashore sprouted legs to become people and hid their seal skin, without which they could not escape back to sea. But once in the sea, and putting on their seal skins, became seals.

      They travelled in pairs. They would lash their seal skin canoes together to make a catamaran, which was stable, and take it in turns to sleep. In the silkie legends captured silkie are always scouring the sea looking for their mate, as without them they could not return.

      One explanation might have been a mini ice age that occurred in the latter decades of the 18th century and affected all of the Northern hemisphere. Eskimos in their skin canoes could have been forced further south in the hunt for fish, following the shoals, and coming in stages to Iceland, Faroes, Fair Isle, Shetland, Orkney, North Sea.

      They analysed the wood from the frame of the canoe in Marischal College and found it was European. However driftwood from Europe could still have reached Greenland.

      I think there is some reference to a magical people called the Finn folk who came in seal canoes and who had healing lore and knowledge of medicinal plants amongst the Hebrideans.

      I would really like someday for the Scottish Government to put up a commemorative plaque and a statue to the Eskimo who came to Leith docks.

      The Eskimo Who Discovered Scotland.

      I think it’s amazing he came all that way to discover us. Feel deeply honoured.

  11. Dolores says:

    The destruction of individual peoples and families is ALWAYS the number 1 goal. WHY?

  12. makwaiskwew says:

    Remember the countless millions of indigenous worldwide who for 500 years have suffered and died through the wars, forced resettlement, disease and conquest justified by two papal orders or bulls, called Romanus Pontifex (1455) issued by Pope Nicholas V and Inter Caetera (1493) pronounced by Pope Alexander VI.

    These papal bulls are the “blueprints” for the Age of Discovery since they granted explorers the absolute right to:

    “…invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed” and to “reduce their persons to perpetual slavery”.

    http://longmarchtorome.com/

  13. Alastair McIntosh says:

    Yes, that is precisely the sort of material John’s book covers, with added material from Hebridean folklore and about the silkies’ belt, without which they could not escape. John’s theory is it was the watertight belt by which they were able, for a short time, to flip their kayaks and travel semi submerged. He mentions the Marischal Coll kayak, tho I had a feeling he said it had gone missing, but don’t have space just now to go and check. He may have private copies of the book remaining. Shld u want to email, I cld put you in touch. Scuse spelling – gnacked!

    1. MBC says:

      I told a friend of mine about the Marischal College kayak in the 1980s and he went to Aberdeen one time and reported that he had seen it. So it was definitely there then. I’ve never seen it myself.

      Silkie’s belt: Yes, I read that the kayak had a kind of skin bag thing around the hole that you sit in, that went up under the anorak thing that they wore and fastened underneath it around the arm pits or whatever. Then the outet layer of the anorak fastened around the outer hole, so there was a double layer and totally sealed against the elements.

      Which is like the legend where they say that they became seals on sea and ‘lost’ their legs. That they ‘sprouted’ on land.

  14. Todd Millions says:

    This is a good post,news from Finland has dried a bit,as the world nuc mafia tries to hide how bad Finland’s power reactor and waste projects have become.
    Would this forestry development ponzi be of a piece in this coverup- and a plausible ploy to appear too pay for the atomic programs?
    A similar effort is underway (and has being for decades) to destroy first-reports of and now the Icelandic geothermal program-by partners and fronts that are tracing back to TEPCO.
    Since machine translation fails me ,any Ideas on how too find a Finn sober enough to do a reliable translation? Should I be asking a Scot that last question?

    These areas actually and strangely relate to the Comment by MBC- The “little Ice age” in this case was the devastation volcanic eruptions in Iceland in the 1700’s J. Verne’s- Journey to the Center of the Earth,describes the effects to Iceland . The Inniu Kayaks that had already being spotted in Scotland-increased in sightings. Vagarious authors(Farley . Mowat)-had quotes of contemporary account that called them-“Pygmies”. I recall reading some reports on accounts of them going back to the 1300’s.

  15. John Monro says:

    So sad, so depressing, so utterly disheartening. There are supposedly seven deadly sins, but the worst by far must be greed – almost everything wrong in society can ultimately be blamed on greed. Galbraith has a quote pertaining to all this: “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness”.

    I don’t believe that government is separate from society or that societies in a democracy get the “wrong” government. When we continue to elect sociopathic governments, whether in the USA, Australia, UK, Finland, Poland, New Zealand or wherever, these governments are still a mirror that does reflects the wishes and desires of the majority of the population – a distorted mirror perhaps – but if we only understood this better, perhaps we’d see ourselves in a less flattering light. I understand here that there is a majority of Finnish people against this poisonous proposal, but it’s too late. Elect a sociopath, and you won’t change him – it’s a deep seated personality disorder mostly immune to change. Neoliberalism is sociopathic system in which sociopaths thrive. Much of the rest of us behave like battered wives, too inured or intimidated to fight back.

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