Arctic Regions, the Sámi and Global Climate Change Debate

Collection of essays and papers written 2001/2002 within the Arctic Studies Program

Anthology, 2002

87 Pages, Grade: im Durchschnitt 1,625


Table of contents:


Part A Excursion the North Calotte
The Glacial Landscape of Northern Scandinavia and the main vegetation zones of Finnish Lapland
The Northern Society of Lapland: Impressions and Evaluations
Sámi and their Culture

Part B The Sámi and indigenous people in general
The Assimilation Process and how Indigenous Societies try to face it
The Sami as an Example
The Sami Political Movement since the early 1970’s
Sami Culture and Modernisation
- The Occupation of Reindeer Herding as an Example -
The Definition of Indigenous People
The Definition of "Indigenous People" - Are they like a normal minority? -

Part C Environmental systems, economic development and
Changing land use and the causing feedbacks in the Arctic region
Reindeer Herding vs. other Land Uses
- A general overview about the Disturbances to Reindeer Herding -
Facing Problems of Reindeer Herding
- Environmental changes, human disturbances, economic pressures and the future of Reindeer Herding -

Part D Global Climate Change Debate
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Ozone Depletion and UV Radiation
Air Pollution in the Arctic Region and its Impacts on Forests
Global Climate Change, Boreal Forests and Indigenous Communities

Part E Annex
Timetable for the Arctic Studies Program: autumn term 2001
Timetable for the Arctic Studies Program: spring term 2002


From September 2001 till May 2002, I studied within the Erasmus exchange program of the European Union two terms abroad at the University of Lapland (Lapin Yliopisto) in Rovaniemi/Finland. There I took part in the Arctic Studies Program (ASP). This is a very interdisciplinary program offered by the Arctic Center (Arktinen Keskus) at the University of Lapland. The program is open for both Finnish and international students. The full content of the ASP can be seen in the Annex (Part E). Here the full timetables of both terms are given. The researchers at the Arctic Center and the lecturers in the ASP are also very interdisciplinary and international. They are coming from many different countries all over the word (Finland, France, Denmark, United States, Great Britain, etc.) and doing research work in many different fields of sciences (e.g. biodiversity, geomorphology, climatology, sociology, economic development, law, minority rights, indigenous people (especially the Sami), tourism, environmental protection and ethnology).

Regarding the timetables of the ASP, one can see, that many different topics and subjects are includes in the ASP. You will find courses about the Arctic in general, about environmental issues, tourism, the Sami and indigenous people in general, social and economic development, politics and international relations and as well international law. In the first week of the ASP an excursion the North Calotte took place, where the students got an introduction in the topics and the geographical area of the ASP. Every term of the ASP was concluded with a research seminar.

In this book, the essays and papers I’ve written and the presentations I’ve hold within the ASP, are published. For this reason, the present book is a very interdisciplinary one, covering many different topics concerning the arctic regions.

Comparing the following articles with the list of courses in the Annex one can see that not for every lecture or seminar a text is given here. The reasons therefore are miscellaneous. First of all, the examination conditions varied from course to course. Some courses were (only) finished by a written exam or a little homework and these will not be published (here). Even if I attended every ASP-lecture, in some courses I didn’t make any examination so that nothing can be published. The papers written for the research seminars at the end of each term are about the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental arctic forum for circumpolar environmental co-operation. One of them is written together with a college mate. Both research-papers might be published later separately, so that they are not part of this book. Already publicized and by that reason not included in this collection is the “Climate Atlas of Eurasian and North American Arctic regions” which I wrote for the course “Ecological and Historical Biogeography of Arctic and Alpine Regions”.

The articles given below are not in the chronological order they have been produced during my studies abroad. They are divided into four subject areas. In the first chapter (Part A) you will find the papers written after being back from the introductory “Excursion to the North Calotte” as compulsory tasks to get the needed credit points for the lectures hold during the excursion. Part B has the title “The Sámi and the indigenous people in general” and contains the essays and handouts for all ASP-courses concerning indigenous matters.

In the third chapter (Part C) essays about environmental, social and economic topics are given. One ASP-course of the spring term was titled “The Global Change Debate; Science and Politics from a Northern Perspective”. Therefore four short essays – three to four pages each – had to be written. Those are given in Part D.

“The collection of essays and papers written within in the Arctic Studies Program” is closed by the full timetables for both terms (Part E: Annex).

Part A: Excursion to the North Calotte

In the first week of the Arctic Studies Program (ASP), we made an excursion to the north calotte, which means that we travelled through Finnish Lapland and north Norway. Our route led us to the following stops (given in the order we travelled): Pallas-Ounas-Tuunturi National Park; Karasuando (Sweden), Kilpisjärvi, Skibotn (Norway), Olderdalen (Norway), Kilpisjärvi, Hetta, Kautakeino (Norway), Utsjoki, Varanger Fjord (Norway), Inari, Urho-Kekkonen-National Park, Sodankylä. Topics had been the arctic in general, nature, landscape and geomorphology of the visited region, tourism and the Sámi as the indigenous people of this area. The following articles in this Part of the collection are written after being back in Rovaniemi as compulsory tasks to get the needed credit points for the lectures hold during the excursion.

Christian Momberger 20.09.2001

The Glacial Landscape of Northern Scandinavia and the main vegetation zones of Finnish Lapland

Around 10,000 years ago the last ice-age came to an end, the temperature rose and a global warming started. During the Weichselian glaciation, Scandinavia was laying under a big sheet of ice, which had a thickness up to 3,000 m. Also Carelia and other parts of north-western Russia, the Baltic Region, northern Poland and north-eastern parts of Germany were covered by the ice. The centre of this sheet were situated in parts of northern and central Scandinavia.

A ice-sheet means a glacier, which has an continental size, e.g. nowadays the Greenland ice-sheet, and is not influenced by the underlying topography. Only on his ends, the glacier will be follow the topography, containing a lot of sediments, taking rock parts, e.g. from the ground, with him and forming moraines, if he is staying at the same point for several years. In the centre of the sheet, the glacier flows very slow and you will have a very dry climate.

For this reason northern Scandinavia was more formed by the melting water that arose by the retreating ice, than by the ice laying over the landmass. But melting water could and can also be found on the ground of the glacier, where it flews in tunnels under the ice.

Western parts of Finnish Lapland, for example the region of the Pallas-Ounastunturi National Park, were laying under the centre of the Scandinavian ice-sheet and so only very little formed directly by the ice. For this reason, in the area of the national park you will find a very old bedrock, which was formed about over 2.000 millions years ago (Johansson, 1998). Since this time the bedrock had been eroded. In the last two million years, during the several ice-ages, the hills were only rounded. During the period of the retreating ice after the last ice-age, named the Weichselian, about 10.000 years ago, meltwater formed ice-dammed lakes. Nowadays the region of the National Park is covered by loose deposit material like till, “a mixture of particles of all sizes from clay to boulders” (Hambrey Alean, 1992), that was transported there and deposited by the ice. You can also find eskers in this area, which are a most common depositional form of the meltwater actions. (Johnson, 1998) The debris was washed and sorted into layers of different grain size by the meltwater. During the cold and dry periglacial climate, that prevailed after t]he ice had gone, sand was transported there by the wind and piled up to dunes. They are now covered with vegetation. Peatlands, which are formed by a developing subterranean ice core, can also be found.

At the edges of an ice-mass you will find much more glacial activity, the glacier could be moving very fast and the landscape will be much more formed by the ice. Here for example you can find moraines. For the reason that the ice is much thinner than in the centre of the sheet, it will follow the topography and for example form valley glaciers. Normally you will find glacial forms which are parallel to the flew-direction of the ice. At the margin of the Scandinavian ice-sheet was the Norwegian coast line, which nowadays consists of many fjords. The fjords are very deep u-shaped valleys, which were carved out by the ice of the valley glaciers. Later, when the ice had gone, they filled up with sea water from the Atlantic Ocean which penetrated into the valleys. Most of the fjords “have a shallow sill at the entrance”. (Mangerud, 1991)

Over and above that hanging valleys can be found on the Norwegian side of the Scandinavian Mountains. A hanging valley was also formed by a glacier. It means a side-valley, which had been not so deep carved out by the ice so that his mouth ends abruptly part way up the side of the main valley. At the mouth you will often find waterfalls going down “the step”.

The retreating ice, had arisen a lot of melting water, so the sea level rose up. But the landmass also came out of the sea for the reason of loosing the mass of ice with its huge weight on it. This is the reason why you can find many raised beaches in the Varangerfjord area (north-eastern Norway), which represent the different shorelines or sea level that had existed in the last 10.000 years. Nowadays the landmass still rises up in the area of the former centre of the ice-sheet, e.g. in the Kemi-Tornio region 9 mm/year compared to the sea level.

Today the rounded sloping fells of the Pallas-Ounastunturi National Park reaching an elevation of over 700 m. The lower parts are covered by forest, the higher sections are forming a treeless tundra-region. The forest of the national park consists mainly of trees with an age over 200 years, some pine-trees are even over 400 years old. (Johansson, 1998)

In northern Lapland the birches are forming the timberline. In these elevations the birches are no longer a tree - they will form dwarf shrubs. In lower regions you will also find spruces, they are the fist type of tree that disappear with the elevation, and pines. Over the timberline you can find a tundra vegetation, consisting of lichen and moss.


Johansson, Peter: Explanation to the Map of the quaternary deposits of Pallas-Ounastunturi, Rovaniemi 1998

Hambrey, Michael and Alean Jürg: Glaciers, Oxford 1992

Magnerud, Jan: The Last Interglacial/Glacial Cycle in Northern Europe, in: Shane, Linda C. K. and Cushing, Edward J. (Eds.): Quaternary Landscapes, pp. 38-75, Minneapolis 1991

Christian Momberger 03.10.2001

The Northern Society of Lapland: Impressions and Evaluations

1. Introduction - Lapland in general

Lapland, the most northern region of Finland, with a size of 98.937 km², has 191.768 inhabitants at the end of the year 2000. (Regional Council, 2001) But the number is again decreasing in the last few years. Only in the year 2000 it lost about 1,3% or 2.584 inhabitants (Regional Council, 2001) If you dived Lapland into towns and rural areas you can see, that both are losing people, but the decreasing percentage is much higher in rural municipalities than in towns (1,68% to 0,99%). (Regional Council, 2001). The loss of inhabitants is nearly only caused by a negative balance of migration.

If you will look at the jobs, existing in Lapland, you see that there will be a plus of 1,5% from 1997 to 1999. In 1999 6,4% are working in the primary sector, 22,4% in the industrial sector and 67,3% in the third sector (including services, traffic, communication, public sector). (Regional Council, 2001). In Lapland, the primary sector, including the forestry industry, agriculture and reindeer herding, and the public sector, like health service or education facilities, departments and authorities, etc., employ more people than in the national average. The unemployment rate in 2000 was about 21,0%, much more than in whole Finland (13,9%). (Regional Council, 2001)

These figures show that the development of Lapland is not very well and that there are some problems. Maybe you can call the region of Lapland an area with a lack of infrastructure or a lessdeveloped area. That’s why you should ask the question, how you could improve the situation in Lapland and how you could make the people stay in this or even getting new people coming to this region.

The answer of this question is indeed not just easy and there is not only one right solution to solve it. One reason for this is, that there are many different factors causing this above shown situation.

2. Creating new jobs and getting people to move to Lapland

One important thing for making the inhabitants stay in this Lapland is, that there will be (enough) possibilities to find a job and to reach a high standard of living as well as prospects for the future. If the people don’t see a chance to get these things, they will immigrate to regions of which they believe to have better possibilities. But for making the companies to investigate in Lapland and to offer sufficient jobs, you will need enough well qualified people living there. As you can see, the problem of losing population might become a vicious circle. But these aspects mentioned here are also relevant for new people who might come for working and living in Lapland.

However, what kind of jobs can be offered in a mostly rural area like Lapland that might be attractive.

First, I think, education and research is a very important field, that must be well developed in such a region. Therefore you can already find positive examples in Lapland, e.g. “the University of Lapland” in Rovaniemi and the “Education Centre of the Sami area” in Inari. These faculties, especially the University, attracting younger persons to go to Lapland for at least a period of time. But they won’t stay automatically here after their studies - perhaps most of them are moving (back) south, but maybe a few people will found their own company or business in or around Rovaniemi and so create new jobs. Just for that reason you should support these group of persons in their aims, for example by founding a technology park. In such an area, you can also improve and strengthen the technology transfer between this new academic graduated and so well educated persons and the region of Lapland or existing companies everywhere else. In my comprehension, a technology park provides buildings and infrastructure that could be hired for a low rate during the first few years and focuses a lot of company-founders at one place, so they could transfer their technology or knowledge between each other. These new companies might be for example supporters for bigger already existing companies, like big national or international incorporations, doing research or development work for them. The result of these efforts could be the existence of a technology-cluster in and around Rovaniemi.

Another field for creating jobs and getting new people to Lapland could be the sector of marketing and advertising. In my opinion, by using the modern means of telecommunication you will as well find possibilities for founding new companies or forcing existing ones to move to Lapland. Here the University might also play an important role by providing well-educated persons. Some founder of this sector may also join the technology park.

Connecting to these two fields, modern telecommunication plays an important role and this will increasing in the next decades. One kind of work, that should be mentioned here, is tele working. Such jobs can also be created in rural regions and far away form any industry or other business, e.g. in (northern) Lapland. And perhaps Lapland will even be interesting for those workers and the companies offering these jobs by the case of the beautiful landscape and the nature that can be found here. In my opinion, this fact and the therefore resulting possibilities for recreation is an important pull-factor for Lapland.

At least the wages are an important factor for workers or job seekers to accept an offered job in Lapland. Maybe they will know that the cost of living are less than in southern Finland, but if you can earn more money in southern region you will go or stay there.

If people, not born in Lapland, will live here for a longer time their overall welfare might not be equal compared with other regions of Finland under the conditions, existing today - the level will be a bit lower. Reasons for that might be lower wages and fewer possibilities of prospects of promotion than in other regions. On the other hand you will have less pollution and much more nature and silence in Lapland than in more urban regions of South Finland.

The most important thing for keeping these new people in this area is, that there is a well developed infrastructure - like transport-, education-, health serviceand leisure time-infrastructure - that will be equal to other Finish regions. In Lapland I think you can already find a quite good infrastructure, created by the public hand that has to be maintained. Therefore it is not a good idea to privatise facilities or companies of the public sector like it is popular today, because the than private owned companies only want to earn profit. They aren’t going to maintain the service or infrastructure in that extent it had existed before the privatisation, and they will also cut of jobs and so rising up the unemployment rate. Over and above that the working conditions will get worse, so the standard of living will decrease for some families.

Lapland may also be interesting for retired people, who could have their old-age residence in the wide, beautiful and peaceful nature of Lapland. I also can imagine myself, that there will be people, who were born in Lapland and later moving south for working, coming back after their retirement.

3. Tourism - The best solution?

Another popular and maybe even often preferred solution of this in the beginning shown problem might be tourism. But the increasing in the number of tourists, visiting a place or a region, e.g. Lapland, every year, will bring some other problems with it. So it won’t be the panacea, the best solution.

Tourism and Tourists need a well-developed infrastructure, like roads, hotels or other accommodations, shops, hiking trails in summer and ski tracks in winter, etc. And for this reason, it could be positive for the development and the standard of living in one region like Lapland, because the inhabitants could also use these infrastructures.

But tourists also cause a lot of problems, which are not only environmental ones. Tourism must not be seen separated from the existing or causing social, economically and environmental facts and factors. The causing costs and cumulative effects of tourism must also be considered if you will be successful with the aim of becoming the sector of tourism a leadership in general further development of Lapland. One example therefore might by the disturbance of the traditional way of living of one community or rural area, like the Sami region, by increasing the number of tourists and the therefore needed infrastructure - the new influences can destroy the existing traditions.

At least you should not only protect the human influences but also the biodiversity of the nature, which can be easily destroyed by tourists. An example therefore might be hikers and bikers in a large number who will destroy the nature while using them - they might create new tracks on their own or leaving every kind of trash back in the nature. Other environmental problems caused by tourism are for example an increase in (traffic) pollution and arising trash.

A region with a high frequency of Tourists in one area or especially at one place might be less attractive for many persons. In my opinion, the most visitors like more diversified areas, not consisting of agribusiness and forest plantation, and prefer little cottages opposite big hostel areas with a huge number of flats or hotel-rooms. Otherwise you might even have a decreasing number of tourists.

But indeed, Lapland is an interesting region for tourists and still can be more developed in this sector of economy. I’m thinking that especially the winter-tourism like skiing could be better developed or more advertised. Developing this sector further on will create new jobs and indeed increasing the standard of living in Lapland. Tourism for example might be an additive income for persons working in the sector of agriculture or doing hunting. But you have to be careful and you shouldn’t make the mistake to try to concentrate all tourists a one place. So in my opinion I’m not sure, if it’s positive to expand the recreation site of Sarriselkä like it’s planed.

Lapland still possesses the advantage of a diversified region in the way mentioned above and having not too much tourists at one place at the same time.

If you will meet the markets need and current preferences you can increase the number of visitors in Lapland.

4. Conclusion

It is not easy to make Lapland attractive for people to moving here or to visit this region as a tourist. The above-mentioned ways for solving this problem are not the only ones and therefore not easy to carry out. But as the past has shown, the further development of the education and research facilities, like the founding of the “University of Lapland” in 1979, could stop the wave of emigration and bring new inhabitants to Lapland. So I think the shown ways are possible solutions, which can work in a positive way. To improve the sector of tourism is, as shown above, no solution without any disadvantages, but might be also an idea if done in the right way.


Regional Council of Lapland (pub.): Lapland by figures 2001, Rovaniemi 2001

Christian Momberger 03.10.2001

Sami and their Culture

1. The Sami – a definition

The Sami are the indigenous people of Northern Europe or strictly speaking northern and central Scandinavia. Their (main) settlement areas are the most northern parts of Finland, northern and central-western Sweden, northern and central Norway and the Kola Peninsula (Russia). There are more than 75.000 people belonging to the Sami-Nation, about which are living over 40.000 in Norway, about 20.000 in Sweden, a good 7.000 in Finland and about 2.000 in Russia. (Sami Parliament, 1999) “But the number of Samis in the various countries are difficult to estimate,” (Somby, 2000) and so also the total number of Samis varies in the different publications. The definition who belongs to the Sami-Nation is not yet clear in the case of the fact, that each country has his own definition of who is Sami. In Finland for example a Sami could be only these persons who learnt Sami as their first language or have at least one parent or grandparent who has done so and also these persons, who has at least one ancestor who has been recorded as a “Lapp” in the historical land-tax book, which had existed in Finland from 1695 until 1932. (Sami Parliament, 1999) In Sweden only Sami people can herd reindeers. The Sami in Finland, Sweden and Norway have nowadays their own parliaments, which are democratically elected.

2. The Sami history – from past to present

The oldest excavations of first Sami-settlement can be found in the Varangerfjord area (northeastern Norway) - they are about 10.000 years old. The earliest Sami were settlers coming from the east, like northern Russia. The Sami-language has a common language root with the Finish, but they dived into two languages during the period before the born of Christ. The Sami people did hunting, fishing and reindeer herding and could be described as nomads’ ore semi-nomads. They also developed their own religion and their own business and trade. In the first Millennium after Christ, different Sami-languages separated from each other (Sami Parliament, 1999), so that nowadays nine Sami dialects can be found (Somby, 2000) During the last middle age the Samiregion was divided and claimed by Norway, Sweden and the so called Russia. The Sami were from now on not only controlled by the government but also by the Catholic or Russian Orthodox Church. Over the centuries the Sami formed more and more real settlements. From 1551 to 1808 whole Lapland belonged to Sweden. During this period the Sami people had to pay the “Lapp taxes” for holding their land and waters in permanent possession and delegated a member to the Swedish Reichstag. (Sami Parliament, 1999) For the last three hundred years, the states of the sami-area have tried to assimilate the Samis and taken their rights. They were forbidden to speak Sami at school until 30 years ago. In Finland also their lands rights were taken and the area outside of the existing settlements where claimed as land, owned by the state. This land was given to new settlers or changed into protected areas like national parks. The Sami in Finland over and above that lost their privileges of doing traditional business like reindeer herding, hunting and fishing in this area.

Nowadays the Sami will receive more rights and possibility to save or develop their own culture and language. Sami is being taught in school and there are several newspapers in the different Sami-languages published. There is also a Sami radio station. The problem of the land rights is today in settlement but it may take a quite long time until it will be solved.

In 1956 the Sami Council was founded, nearly every private Sami organisation are now a member, which has a consultative status in the system of the United Nations. (Somby, 2000) For example it is taking part in the word council of indigenous people. Finland was the first state, which established a Sami parliament - it was founded in 1973. It has to be heard by the Finish government and parliament in things that are related to the Sami.

3. The Samis and their culture today

“The Sami have their own identity based on history, language, costume, crafts and livelihood” (Somby, 2000). And for the reason that the culture and the language of the Sami have survived since nowadays, even there was a assimilation policy in the last centuries, you will find today many Sami artists, working in fields like art, music, literature, etc. For some Sami people, another field of work in these days is doing Handicrafts, called “duodji”. Many Samis are also still working on their traditional business such as reindeer herding and fishing - nearly 40% of the population of their home area in northern Lapland is living on these sector of economy. (Sami Parliament, 1999) The sector of tourism also provides an income for the Samis.

About 4.000 Sami people live in finish Lapland, nearly all of them in the municipalities of Enontekiö, Inari and Utsjoki as well as in northern parts of the municipality of Sodankylä. Utsjoki is the only community with a Sami majority in Finland.

In their culture and their vocabulary natural phenomena are taking a big place.

The written language was originated in the year 1619 (Sami Parliament, 1999) and during the last century you can find quite a lot of books, e.g. novels and sagas, written in Sami. Today you will find much well known international literature, translated and printed in the different Sami languages. In 1906 Isak Sabra wrote the national Sami hymn “The song of the Sami Family”. (Sami Parliament, 1999) There are also special Sami songs, called “Joiku”. One of the famous Sami painters was Andreas Alariesto (1900-1989), whose pictures can be found in the “Alariesto Galleria” in Sodankylä. Since 1986 the Sami had their own common flag, consisting of bright colours of their national dresses - blue, red, yellow and green - and symbolising the halos of the sun and the moon. The national day is the 6th of February. (Sami Parliament, 1999)

The traditional clothes, named “gáki”, (Somby, 2000) identify the people with a special area. Nearly every village has an other design of their costumes, which they will normally use only for festivities, special holidays, weddings or other important dates. Merely some older people might use them daily. They are often very colourful and made of fine wool. Differences in the decoration of the clothes are illustrating the differences in culture between the Sami peoples and areas.

The sami-handicrafts are made of natural materials like wood or reindeer skin, antlers and bones and decorated for example with textiles and pearls. They are not only produced for selling them to tourists in special shops, although for using themselves. This part of business has as well long traditions as working in the primary sector.

Reindeer herding is still done in a traditional way by the Sami who have knowledge of more than thousand years in this field. Sami people own nearly 35% of all finish reindeers.

In 1977 the educational centre of the sami area was founded in the municipally of Inari. (Sami Parliament, 1999) Its purposes are to provide education mainly for this area to maintain and develop the Sami culture and nature-based occupations. Here the education is provided in Finish and Sami and contains many different subjects, e.g. crafts and design, Sami language and culture, hotel and restaurant services, information technology, healthcare or tourism. After your studies you will a get vocational qualification. Beginning form the eighties, the lessons in primary school in the

Sami area were also given in Sami language. In 1994, the first pupils in Finland made their highschool graduate in Sami.

There are also a lot of museums in Lapland and other Sami inhabitant-areas in Scandinavia that are occupied with Sami aspects, like their way of living, their costumes and their culture. In Inari you can find the “Siida-Museum”, Sami Museum and Northern Lapland Nature Centre, which has the aims to be a home for the Sami culture and by this way to support the cultural self-esteem of the Sami (Sami Parliament, 1999). It was opened in 1998 and contains also an open-air museum; the former established “Inari Sami Museum”. The open-air museum present typical Sami buildings and tools like those of fishermen, hunters or nomads. In Varangerbotn (Norway) there is the “Varanger Samiske Museum”, which shows an exhibition about the Sea Sami and their changes from early settlement to nowadays. The “Artikum” in Rovaniemi also has a part in his exhibition about the Sami culture. Here for example you can see different costumes from Sami in Lapland.

4. Resume

During the last three hundred years, the states of the sami-area have tried to assimilate the Samis and taken their rights. They had nearly the same problems than other indigenous people in the world, e.g. the Inuit in Greenland. But in the last decades, the situation has improved and different Sami organisations were founded. Today the Sami people and organisations but also the Finish states government do many efforts to keep and develop the Sami culture and language. But the Samis pick not all decision of the Finish government up positive.

I my opinion there are a lot of cultural and other things that have survived during the worse period. The situation of the last centuries has led to the fact that the Sami nowadays define themselves as “one” minority group which only can survive by speaking with one voice by means of common organisations like the Sami council and the national Sami parliaments. But there was also a lot of assimilation in the last hundreds of years, which is still going on. One big problem in this field is, that there is today only a little number of Sami - they are forming a small minority in Finland.

I don’t know many about the culture of other indigenous people yet, so I can’t compare the Sami culture with them. Although I’m thinking that there are many things that should to be kept for future generations. So I think it is important to do much efforts as possible to improve the situation of the Sami and to support and strengthen their culture and identity. So I find it a good thing that there is the possibility to learn Sami in school.


Liv Inger Somby: Sápmi. The indigenous people of Northern Europe, leaflet published by the Sáme-diggi/Sami Parliament, Anár/Kárá johka/Giron 2000

The Sami Parliament (pub.): The Sami in Finland, Inari 1999

Part B: The Sámi and indigenous people in general

One main focus of the Arctic Studies Program (ASP) was on the Sámi as the indigenous people of the European Arctic Region. Themes were their culture and traditions, the oppression in the 19th and 20th century and the thereby caused process of assimilation, the raising political movement in the 2nd part of the 20th century, their social and economic status today and the challenges of the modern societies they have to face to. Included in the ASP were also two courses “on the Rights of Indigenous People and Minorities” in general.

The first three articles and essays are about the Sami, the last two are papers about the definition of indigenous people. The articles are both from the autumn term and the spring term.

Awakening of Indigenous People in the Arctic: Study of Identity Revitalisation’s Process Autumn Term 2001 Lecturer: Nicolas Gunslay

Author: Christian Momberger

The Assimilation Process and how Indigenous Societies try to face it

The Sami as an Example


1. Introduction

2. A Quotation from John Erling - the situation of the Sami now and in future

3. The assimilation policy and how the indigenous societies try to face it

3.1.The Sami as an example

3.2.General conclusionsfor indigenous societies

4. Conclusions

5. References

1. Introduction

Nowadays, the societies of indigenous people are still faced with an on-going assimilation policy of the national countries and their non-indigenous societies. This policies had his roots in the colonial exploration of the areas were the indigenous people lived since centuries or thousands of years. This policy made the indigenous people to give up their rights and their land and transformed the society of the indigenous people a lot. In some cases, a indigenous group or bigger part of a indigenous-society fully give up their way of living and don’t wanted to be indigenous anymore - they no longer considered themselves a belonging to the indigenous group. During the last decades, the indigenous-societies organised themselves in different organisations to face the assimilation policies and to fight for their rights. This process is regarded in chapter three. Therefore the Sami-society is used as an example.

In chapter two a quotation from the famous Sami author John Erling about the situation of the Sami nowadays and in future is given and briefly discussed. In this text, the author sees the Sami doomed to extinction.

2. A Quotation from John Erling - the situation of the Sami now and in future

“Many say we are bound to disappear. We are just remnants of a primitive people doomed to extinction. Doomed by whom?

By the prophets of development? By well-meaning democratic people? By knowledgeable technocrats? By informed anthropologists?

Perhaps more than anyone else, we are doomed to extinction by all those who have wanted to and still want to exploit our land. They still see us as an obstruction to the development they envision, of which we should be smart enough to become a part.”

John Erling UTSI: We are still alive, in: The Sami, People of the Sun and the Wind, Ajtte/Jokkmokk 1993, pp. 4-5

In this above given quotation, the author is referring to the history of the indigenous people, in this case the Sami, and the problems they (still) have today.

The history of the last centuries of the indigenous people, not only in the arctic region, was not a good one at all. They’ve lost their rights and their land and were treated as indigenous, which means, that, even if they were the first persons that settled in an area, had to give up their land and their traditional way of living. They were also forbidden to speak their own language and to face with a strong assimilation process (for the Sami as an example see Aikio et al., 1994). In some regions, like the Indians in America, they were even killed, so that some tribes of indigenous people nearly or totally died out.

Today, the assimilation policy is still going on, even if the indigenous people, like the Sami, gained more and more rights, like being allowed to speak their language and living there traditional culture as much as possible under the today conditions. The assimilation policy is a big problem, against which the indigenous people try to face nowadays in different was. This theme will be discussed later on in chapter three.

Beside the assimilation process, the question of the land-rights is in most cases, especially for the Sami, a problem the indigenous people today (still) have. The question is under discussion since many years and in Finland, a commission is still working on this case (The Sami Parliament, 1999), so the problem is not yet solved. There is also a lack of knowledge about the indigenous people, like the Sami, a lack about their way of living, their culture, their way of thinking and their habitats in general, considering the mind of the non-indigenous or non-Sami people.

But what does the author with the phrases “prophets of development”, “well-meaning democratic people”, “knowledgeable technocrats” and “informed anthropologists” mean?

Prophets of development are in my opinion those people, who pray the modern non-indigenous civilisation and its technologies and way of living as the best for now and the future at all. They think, that the Sami should or even must live like the non-indigenous people, e.g. sharing the same modern habitats and using the same latest technologies.

Well-meaning democratic people are such non-Sami persons, who are giving “equal” rights to the Sami and installing a Sami-Parliament without many rights, for the reason to provide them to gain strong power in the national parliament. These people are thinking, that they are democratic to the Sami, but in real, they forgot to consider the demands and traditional way of political organisation and participation of the Sami-society. They are also deciding the most important cases without asking the Sami about their opinion and do not give them real equal rights, which in my opinion contains to have equal opportunities and to have some traditional privileges, like the exclusive rights for fishing and hunting in their home area.

Knowledgeable technocrats are such persons, who are passing laws or making judges in a technocratic way, by not considering the still existing differences between the non-Sami and the Samisociety. By that way, they are giving “equal” rights to everyone (e.g. the Finnish and the Sami) and so abolish their special privileges or rights.

As informed anthropologists could those former scientists be seen, which had treated or recognised the indigenous people, e.g. the Sami, as primitive people.

If you look at the case of the Sami, the things listed or mentioned in the above given quotation are true. The text doesn’t praise a well future to the Sami people and even says, that they will die out at all. For the last part, I can’t agree with the author, but in deed, the future for the Sami won’t be so easy and bright. The Sami society has already transformed a lot and this process will go on. By that way, you can ask in my opinion the question, whether if there is still an old traditional Samisociety or not, because they already changed their traditional way of living in a huge rate, e.g. livelihood, and integrated much “foreign” aspects in their culture. In my opinion, the market and the economy destroy a lot of the culture and the habitat of “indigenous people”, like the Sami. At least also the environmental perspectives for the Sami doesn’t look well.

On the other hand, you may criticise, that they had excluded and still exclude themselves from the (modern) development, by exclude such members of the society, who wants to live in a modern way, like having a modern job outside the Sami area, or getting marriage with a person not belonging to the Sami-society. Even if a Sami person had lived outside the Sami-area for many years it would not considered as member of the Sami group anymore by the other Sami when coming back to its hometown or village.

But one of the biggest problems, the Sami are faced today and which is indirectly mentioned in given quotation, is the use of the land in their home area (the exploration of the land). The land, the Sami former used, e.g. for herding, will be now used for conservation (creating national parks and other restricted areas), recreation and tourism and forestry (Sami Parliament, 1999). They also lost their exclusive, traditional right of fishing in their home area and so they could not follow their culture anymore.


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Arctic Regions, the Sámi and Global Climate Change Debate
Collection of essays and papers written 2001/2002 within the Arctic Studies Program
Arctic Studies Programm (ASP)
im Durchschnitt 1,625
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Dieses Werk ist ein Sammelband verschiedener Studienarbeiten und Referate, welche von mir im Rahmen des im Jahre 2001/2002 absolvierten Arctic-Studies-Programme verfasst wurden. Das Buch ist daher sehr interdisziplinär und beinhaltet Arbeiten zu den Arktischen Regionen ganz grundsätzlich, den Sami und den Ureinwohner im Allgemeinen, der wirtschaftliche und soziale Entwicklung in der Arktis, Umweltthemen, Tourismus und internationalem Recht. Es lässt sich daher nicht ohne weiteres in ein Wissenschaftsgebiet einordnen.
Arctic, Regions, Sámi, Global, Climate, Change, Debate, Arctic, Studies, Programm
Quote paper
Dipl. Geogr. Christian Momberger (Author), 2002, Arctic Regions, the Sámi and Global Climate Change Debate, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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