Introduction to Special Issue on Saami Claims to Land and Water
International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 103-106, 2001
4 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2011
Date Written: 2001
Saami claims to land and water in Norway pose fundamental challenges not only to political action, but also to the academic fields of law, political science and political philosophy.
There are several reasons why the question of Saami claims to land and water merit scholarly attention at this point in time.Firstly, appropriate handling of Saami claims is an important political issue in its own right, not least for the sake of the Saami presently living in Norway. Saami claims are on the Norwegian agenda due to several extensive Official Reports by the Norwegian Royal Saami Rights Commission . In the 1970s Norwegian government interest in a hydroelectric dam in the Alta river conflicted with the need of Saami reindeer herding. The popular support and protest for the Saami cause led the government to appoint the Saami Rights Commission aimed at assessing Saami claims to land, water, political influence and autonomy. The Saami law of 1987 established the Saami Parliament, a largely advisory body. In 1988 the Saami were recognised in the Norwegian Constitution (Art. 110a). Land and water that holds both instrumental and spiritual value for this particular indigenous people, and the details of the institutional arrangements requires careful reflection. Kirsti Strøm Bull provides one important contribution highlighting the practical challenges of designing appropriate legislation. She argues that the proposed provisions from the Saami Law Committee do not to a sufficient degree safeguard the interests of the reindeer herders due to the nomadic nature of their use of land, and the legal basis of reindeer herders of customary use. The article by Else Grete Broderstad addresses another challenge: the need for common arenas of deliberation and practical reasoning for political decision-making. Alternative forms of power splitting and power sharing provide different opportunities regarding the incorporation of Saami political concerns in society as a whole.
Keywords: Saami, Norway, Land, Water, minorities
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