The Norwegian Government does not accept the rights of indigenous peoples to land


The President of the Sámediggi Plenary is dismayed at the Government's introduction of a bill concerning the management of government land in Finnmark, Norway's northernmost county (the Finnmark bill). He characterises the work the Government has done and the draft legislation as destructive of Sámi culture and rights in Finnmark.

"The Government has launched a bill concluding that the Sámi people have no special rights to land and resources in Finnmark. This is directly opposed to the Sámi people's own understanding of the matter and the Sámi Rights Committee's view and reports. We therefore reject the Finnmark bill. In no way will we have anything to do with robbing future generations of their rights. We, the Sámi people, have never given up our inherited rights to land and resources," says Nystř.

The President of the Sámediggi Plenary is of the opinion that the proposal is in direct conflict with Norwegian judicial precedent and national and international law regarding the rights of indigenous peoples. He is discouraged that the past 23 years of work regarding the rights of the Sámi People and development of Norwegian and international law is not reflected in the draft legislation. The Norwegian Government set up the Sámi Rights Committee in 1980 to clarify Sámi rights to land and water in Finnmark. The Committee was established as part of a compromise between the Sámi people and the Norwegian Government in connection with the construction of a power station on the Alta River in Finnmark. As a result of the Committee's work, Norway was the first state to ratify ILO Convention no. 169 concerning indigenous peoples and tribal peoples in independent states in 1991.

"The Government's bill on land and resources in Finnmark is not worthy of a state based on the rule of law. We will fight plans to develop Finnmark as a Norwegian colony and supplier of raw materials at the expense of the rights of indigenous peoples. It would seem that the struggle against the damming of the Alta River in the 1980s, and the Sámi people's loyalty to Norwegian authorities, has been in vain. But I hope the international community and the indigenous peoples of the world will oppose what the Norwegian Government is doing. Norway can no longer speak with credibility about promoting the rights of indigenous peoples in other countries while the Norwegian Government itself is not able to do the right thing with regard to its own indigenous people," says Nystř.

The Finnmark bill contains provisions that allow anyone within the EEA to freely harvest the wealth of the county. The bill contains no restrictions on the state's ability to regulate non-renewable resources (mineral extraction). The state retains expropriation rights regarding the so-called Finnmark property while compensation or restitution may not be claimed by the Sámi people. Despite the limited ability the Sámediggi Plenary has been given to exercise a certain influence over local administration of land areas, the Government can at any time intervene and take administrative decisions that are opposed to the Sámediggi Plenary's view and the interests of the Sámi people.

"This is unacceptable. National policy with respect to different areas in society (fishing, national parks, shooting ranges and military activities, mineral and petroleum extraction) and the Finnmark bill indicate that what the Government is most concerned with is opening the area for the commercial plundering of Sámi resources. This will in time contribute to changing the premises for development of indigenous peoples' culture and society in a dramatic way," says Nystř.

More sources for information about the Sámediggi Plenary, the Finnmark bill, the Sámi Rights Committee's reports and other things may be found at: