Finland’s indigenous people, the Sami, are expressing a growing concern that their traditional way of life may soon disappear, reports IPS.
According to Martin Scheinin, who is a professor of international law at the Åbo Academy in Turku, the constitutional rights of the Sami are being ignored by sections of the state administration.
“They keep treating the Samis as a linguistic minority,” Prof. Scheinin said.
As the Sami are accorded a status in the Finnish Constitution as indigenous people, they have the right to elect their own parliament.
“The difficulty facing us is that we are facing comprehensive and complete assimilation all the time,” said Pekka Aikio, former president of the Sami Parliament.
There are approximately 8,000 Sami in Finland and a total of 100,000 Sami in Sweden, Norway, Finland and other parts of Northern Europe.
The Sami traditionally gain their livelihood through the herding of reindeer but more and more Sami are turning away from this practice and living like other Finns.
According to Prof. Scheinin, problems over land use is one of the main threats to the Sami way of life, with the government itself often responsible for deforestation of areas used for pasture by the Sami who have no land rights of their own.
“Nobody knows how the government got this land, from whom they bought it. They simply took it,” said Prof. Scheinin.