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Fighting for recognition: The Sámi people's struggle to preserve tradition

In partnership with The European Commission
Fighting for recognition: The Sámi people's struggle to preserve tradition
Copyright euronews
Copyright euronews
By Aurora Velez
Published on Updated
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The Sámi people live in Lapland, in the far north. They are fishermen, reindeer herders. There are about 80,000 of them. Many of the decisions made in the European Union directly affect them, which is why they participate in a European project to strengthen ties.

Sapmi is a very large region, spanning from Norway westwards towards the northern points of Russia.

As the Sámi people are an indigenous culture living across borders, making a stance on issues such as the war in Ukraine can be divisive. Especially when the actions of countries do not reflect the views of the Sámi people.

"It's important to acknowledge that the Sámi people as people living across several borders, national borders, and we are a people that have never been in a war with anyone. And that the national states are not made by us," says Elle Merete, the head of the EU unit at the Saami Council.

"And it's also unfair to put that kind of pressure on us to choose not to help our brothers and sisters on the Russian side in order to comply with the sanctions."

The Sámi people and the region also face unique challenges caused by climate change. For instance, located close to the Arctic Circle, many areas in the region are under severe risk from melting glaciers.  

For Merete, the Sámi people's livelihoods and way of life have been ignored.

"We are in the middle of a climate crisis and part of the solutions that the global community's offering us is also an encroachment to our land use," Merete says.

"For instance, wind farms, wind turbines. There are hydropower plants or mines that are opening up under the name of the green transition. But I think we need to be mindful about how these challenges or the new solutions are actually putting extra pressure on the Sami people. And if we see on a global level, we see that the areas where the highest biodiversity is found in areas where indigenous peoples are managing their natural resources. So I would say that we are part of the solution, but we just need to make sure that we are part of the discussions and the decisions."

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