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“Let’s put it straight: they stole our land.” A 43-year Sámi politician from the Swedish Green Party, Henrik Blind carved out an hour from his busy Monday morning to talk about neocolonialism in Sápmi – the region traditionally inhabited by the only Indigenous people in Europe, the Sámi. It stretches across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.
The Sámi have been using the vast areas in the north of Fennoscandia for fishing, hunting and reindeer husbandry – the essential part of their identity – since time immemorial. After the emergence of the Swedish state in the Middle Ages they were paying taxes for the land they owned.
The situation changed in 1673 when the Swedish crown issued a decree encouraging farmers to settle in the north of the country, which was perceived as uninhabited wilderness. From then on, the Sami gradually lost their land rights.
“Politicians still call Sápmi vildmark – the wilderness. The term is also used within the tourism industry. Therefore, people got used to referring to our land as such, rather than as a cultural landscape,” explains May-Britt Öhman, Sámi researcher at the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies on…
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