Native Village
Youth and Education news

December 2009  Volume 4

By Brenda Norrell

Condensed by Native Village

British Columbia: The Saami people are indigenous to northern Europe. They have been nomadic reindeer herders in their homelands since time immemorial --   well before other populations colonized their territories

Now the Saami people say a mining project in Sweden threatens their traditional way of life and violates their basic human rights, as recognized by the United Nations.

Blackstone Ventures Inc., a Vancouver-based mining company, plans to test-drill for minerals In Northeastern Sweden. The drilling will take place on pasture lands invaluable to the Saami people.  The Sammi communities have not agreed to the rillings. Nor do the Saami recognize the Blackstone's right to drill without permits and a work plan approved by the reindeer herders.

"This is the heart of our land," says spokesperson, Marja Skum. "This is where the reindeer come to calf, and where they find the richest pasture. Our forefathers have lived with the reindeers on these mountains since time immemorial. We are determined to pass the legacy on to the next generations. Therefore, we have no choice but to do everything we can to stop this mine. If a mine is established in the planned area, we will no longer be traditional reindeer herders. We will lose the most vital part of our identity."

Many organizations are helping the Sammis' fight the project. Anders Blom is the Director of the Swedish Sami Association (SSR), an umbrella organization for Sammi herders, communities, and associations

"As a nomadic people, reindeer herders roam their reindeer over vast areas," says Blom.  "... Blackstone has picked the absolute worst place to prospect. The planned mine is in an area that the communities can simply not replace. That is why we will assist the communities to the best of our ability to stop this project."

The United Nations verifies that reindeer husbandry is fundamental to Saami culture and cultural identity. Because of this, no industrial activities are permitted which make it difficult or impossible for Saami communities to pursue reindeer husbandry.

"Blackstone's planned mine would essentially prevent the impacted communities from pursuing traditional Saami reindeer herding," says Anders. "Thus, it would be detrimental to the reindeer herders' cultural identity. As a consequence, the mine is illegal as it would violate the reindeer herders' right to culture. We are positive that international bodies will halt the project. We will use all legal means available to stop the plans for a mine in the area"

Swedish Sami Association:

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