Sami culture and laws in the light of Scandinavian Enlightenment in Lapland
(University of the Arctic)
Paper short abstract:
The paper focuses on how Sami people as indigenous people have been depreciated by Scandinavian states that brought with it Enlightenment ideas to do with the nation state, progress, and Protestantism, and destroyed the traditional way of life of so-called "dark", "dirty" people.
Paper long abstract:
Sami customary laws have not been recognized since the end of the 18th century. Sami culture was depreciated and destroyed in Scandinavia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Even now in Finland, the land rights of Sami people remain unresolved human rights problem, an issue that was highlighted by the UN Human Rights Committee. Although last decade the Constitutional Committee in the Finnish Parliament asserted that the right of the state to the Sami people's land (Lapland) is doubtful, yet the recognition of the Sami people to administer hunting grounds and fishing waters remains unclear. The Sami are not lords in their own country. About half of the Sami population in Finland have been forced to move outside Lapland due to unemployment and the lack of opportunities. "I felt that I was being treated as dirt", says a Sami leader from Norway. The words "The Lapp people are childlike people (…)it is the goal of Norwegianization that they are brought to the maturity of man…"(Rector Gjølme, 1886) were applied to the whole society. Missions, religious, educational programme etc. to these ends, were deemed "ethical" from this point of view, and morally justified. The closing of borders from the 19th century, the modern education system, language policies, revived Lutheran ethics, and property law regimes from the 19th and the 20th centuries destroyed a large part of traditional Sami ways of life, knowledge, property rules, reindeer husbandry, and indigenous languages. Nowadays the feeling of injustice is strong among Sami.
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