Sami reindeer herders to be given more freedom under new proposal

saamipeople-090809A government appointed work group has declared that the indigenous Sami population of Sweden should be granted further freedom to undertake activities other than their traditional reindeer herding, as reported in The Local last week.

Current legislation stipulates that the Sami herders are forbidden from partaking in activities other than reindeer herding, which was found to be antiquated by the working group. The group declared that in modern society it had become more difficult for Sami to support themselves through the solitary practice of herding and that the rules governing the people and the practice were in need of updating.

There are approximately 20,000 Sami in Sweden, mostly located in the country’s north, where their traditions have brought them increasingly under fire from animal rights activists.

The working group’s proposal allows for those Sami who are not involved in herding to become a member of the sameby or ‘Sami village’ scheme. At present there are 51 samebys in Sweden. Samebys are the financial and administrative collectives that have sole reindeer herding rights. These collectives comprise of roughly 10 percent of the Sami population and also control fishing and hunting rights within their zone.

The head of the governing board of the Sami Parliament Sara Larsson voiced both praise and disappointment at the proposal: “There are some good things there, but we had hoped for greater reforms which take into account the land and water rights of all Sami”. Larsson also criticised the group for not requesting that Sweden join the International Labour Organisation’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention. She did however praise efforts to encourage samebys to pursue activities outside of reindeer herding.

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