Sámi National Day (6 Feb), the Jokkmokk Winter Market, and the movie Frozen
The erosion of rights and culture seemed to last until the 1950s when at least in Sweden, there was an "organised Sami political struggle for increased influence and autonomy" that began "with the establishment of Sami associations that eventually lead to the establishment of Sametinget (Sami Parliament) in 1993."
I had an interesting conversation with a member of the Swedish Foreign Ministry a couple of weeks ago. He described the Alta Dam controversy as a serious turning point in recognizing Sámi sovereignty. It took a few years, but eventually Norway, Sweden, and Finland all recognized formal Sámi governments and their own parliaments; Russia has not.
On 23 January 2020, the Swedish Sámi won an important court decision. A description from a news article follows:
The case, which has been going through the courts for more than a decade, concerns conflicting claims about who has the right to make decisions about hunting on lands traditionally used by the indigenous Sami people for reindeer herding.
"We have reached the conclusion that this Sami association, Girjas, have the exclusive right to administer hunting and fishing in the area that is contested," judge Anders Eka told AFP on Thursday at the Stockholm courthouse.
"Both in terms of hunting themselves and to decide on permits for other hunters," Eka continued.
The state, which normally handles hunting and fishing permits, has claimed the right to administer hunting and fishing should fall to it as the owner of the land.
In the ruling, which was met by applause from representatives of the minority group dressed in colourful garb, the court said the right extended to the association's entire area, with the exception of arable land, and that it could henceforth be exercised "without the state's approval".
One of the reasons why the Saami Council and the Saami Parliaments contacted Disney after Frozen 1, was to make sure that our culture and our history would be presented in an appropriate way. After receiving a positive response from the Walt Disney Animations Studios, we therefore established a cooperation group, which included representatives of the Saami Council and Saami Parliaments, Saami film institutions, and legal advisors. Through the cooperation between our group with Walt Disney Animation Studios, we could ensure that things were carried out on a proper way.
Yes, I think after making the movie Moana, in which Indigenous cultures of the Pacific were displayed in a contested manner, Disney may have realized that involving Indigenous peoples from the beginning might be a beneficial working method. These movies are a way of telling our stories – although they obviously are fictional. Frozen 2 is not necessarily a story from Sápmi, but through our cooperation we could ensure we were not culturally appropriated.
As I've learned about all of this, I'm pondering the challenges faced by Indigenous peoples, and the similarities. As a lawyer, the language of hunting and fishing rights from "time immemorial" is the same language used in U.S. cases protecting tribal rights to hunt and fish. In Finland, the Sámi parliament requested and was granted the ability to set up a Truth & Reconciliation Commission in Nov. 2019; Canadian First Nations have had such a commission for a while. Sámi language is now taught in northern schools, and can be studied in the universities. Indigenous rights have been recognized in courts. There is a long way to go, but a lot of progress towards at least recognizing Indigenous rights in this region.