Visiting Author: John Nystad – On current local issues in Kárášjohka/Karasjok 2/2

29.3.2018 12:00

This is the concluding part of John Nystad’s speech in the closing seminar Recognising Indigenous Rights and Local Perspectives project at the Arctic Centre, Rovaniemi, 14 February 2018. The text is based on his experiences in the current issues in Kárášjohka/Karasjok as a local Sámi politician and the deputy mayor of Kárášjohka/Karasjok. For further information concerning Davvi wind power station and the land rights claim to the Finnmark Commission, click the highlighted keywords.

Continues from the previous blog 1/2 

4. 2017 Controversial proposals for a large wind power development in Finnmark by Davvi Wind power station in Norway and ST1 in Finland that would seriously affect reindeer husbandry in Kárášjohka/Karasjok.

At the end of the 1960s a Kárášjohka/Karasjok reindeer district lost large areas of reindeer pasture land due to the building of the Adamsfjord Hydro-electric Power Station in Finnmark. Now the same reindeer district faces an even larger threat from the proposal to build a gigantic wind power park. The proposed wind park development would sever the traditional reindeer migration routes from south to north in spring and the reverse in autumn for Kárášjohka/Karasjok’s reindeer herders. On top of that, the herders would also lose valued pastureland. A unanimous Kárášjohka/Karasjok Council has condemned the proposed wind power development.

The two commercial developers plan for wind power generation on the mountain plateau of Finnmark that is essential to reindeer herding. The development is not designed to generate electricity for Finnmark, northern Norway or indeed Norway. Norway does not need more electric power as it is self-sufficient. The electricity from the proposed wind park in Finnmark will be exported to southern Finland.  However, during discussions between the mayor of Utsjokki and Finland’s minister for energy, the mayor was informed that there are other plans to supply southern Finland with electricity from the Baltic countries using sea cables and not by power lines from northern Finland. I hope that’s true! Time will show. Or, are the plans to export it to EU/Europe by Suomi/Finland, maybe?

5. 2017 Kárášjohka/Karasjok Municipality forwards a claim to the Finnmark Commission

The mandate of the Finnmark Commission is to determine existing property and usage rights that people in Finnmark have acquired through long-term use. In March 2017, the governing coalition on Kárášjohka/Karasjok council sent a proposal asking the council to consider sending a claim to the Commission for collective property and usage rights on behalf of the inhabitants of Kárášjohka/Karasjok. This claim is a subsidiary claim for those properties and land areas not already claimed by private persons, reindeer siida or districts and various organisations. The claim is to ensure future generations the right to land disposition. It may also be understood as a way to give the municipality control over its natural resources. Another opportunity to make such a claim will never arise.

The background for Kárášjohka/Karasjok council’s claim is that Finnmark Estate,(FeFo) established in 2005, “manages” 94% of the land area of Finnmark. Lately Finnmark Estate has been willing to go to court to prevent collective land rights that have been granted by the Finnmark Commission. Kárášjohka/Karasjok council’s claim to collective rights may be the way forward for other Finnmark municipalities. I am attaching the wording of the Council's mayority decision, passed in the summer of 2017, to my contribution. 

What have I learned as a local Sámi politician during the past 5 years?

Most wind power development applications to The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate are planned in the northern areas of Norway. The land required is cheap to acquire. The areas affected are located suitably far away from the densely populated areas of the south. The small populations up in the north have few elected members of parliament to promote their views on such developments. At the same time national and multi-national companies compete with each other for access to the resources of the north.

In September 2016 I was officially invited to a meeting in Kárášjohka/Karasjok with Vola, Lindroth, Sinevaara-Niskanen and others. I was asked if there are political issues where there is a conflict of interest between north and south. I referred to the Finnish-Norwegian negotiations on fishing rights in the River Tana. In retrospect, from a Sámi perspective, I can only conclude that the Norwegian state practises structural discriminatory policies.

Far too much of a local Sámi politician’s time goes into argumentation against applications to exploit our natural resources, time that should be used for maintaining and developing our local Sámi community. The same may be said about time spent arguing against national predator policies that protect animals and birds that kill reindeer, resulting in social challenges and psychological stress among reindeer herders that are not recognised nationally. The past 5 years as a local Sámi politician lead me to the conclusion that the north is subject to a systematic and structural policy of discrimination by the south.  

I thank you for your attention!

John Nystad
Deputy mayor of Kárášjohka gielda/Karasjok municipality
Finnmark, Norway

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