Column by:
Olof T. Johansson

Time for a Sami managed national park!

The time have come to look at new ideas. Around the world the indigenous peoples are allowed some variety of selfdetermination, everywhere but in Sweden. The creation of a tribal park might be an interesting challenge which might become a proof that we're able to manage the preservation and developement of our mountains.


For some time there have been discussion to change the status of Vålådalen nature sanctuary into a national park. The idea isn't to create a better protection for the nature in this area, but to elevate the status so that they will be able to attract more tourists.
With this fact known, the locals as well as the native communitys have been rather sceptical to these plans. When the state administration then failed to present a plan for the creation of a national park my friend in the Sami community Per-Erik Jonasson stated: "Well lets create a Sami tribal park instead."
After considering this proposition for a while, i arrived at the conclusion that it is a splendid suggestion. It could be the first step toward a Sami territory under our own management.

International commitment

Trough the creation of a Sami tribal park Sweden would finally begin to follow the international treatys and conventions for the rights of the indigenous peoples. It is six years since Sweden participated in the Rio conference, and it might be time that the nation shows that they were serious by proclaiming that they intend to "acknowledge and strengthen the rights of the indigenous people as well as their society."
The Swedish government are investigating if they are going to sign the ILO-convention 169, in which there's several paragraphs about native propertyrights, as well as landrights to traditional lands. Also the rights of the indigenous rights to participate in the preservation and developement of such lands. Something that corresponds with the idea of a tribal park.

Several examples

The Navajos in USA are the managers of several parks where Monument Valley Park is the oldest, dating back to 1958. One other is Canyon de Chelly National Park, where camping is not permitted without a Navajo guide. In India we fins another example, where the nomadic people, the Van Gujjarer's after being cut off from their traditional forests which they have used for winterpasture now have gotten their rights back and since 1992 also have the main responsibility for the management of the Rajali national park. An unique example on Community Forest Managment where the native people have been part of the developement from the very beginning.

Long experience of management

A Sami tribal park would guarantee the continued reindeerhusbandry in the area, it would also ensure a sustainable developement of the mountain area, yet still providing many people with access, but on the terms of the reindeerherders.
It might also be possible to regulate when and where fishermen and hunters would be allowed to persue their sports. I am shure that this could become an attraction, even more so that just an "ordinary" Swedish national park.
The UNESCO listed Laponia World heritage area are but one example on how other parts of the world value indigenous cultures like ours, the nature itself wasn't enough. It was only when the Sami culture was incorporated in the proposition that Laponia got accepted as a wold heritage area.
In the future all national parks within the Sami nation could be managed by ourself. We already have thousands of years of know-how to be able to do so in a ecologically sustainable way, something which the farming settler population certainly lacks. If we Sami's haven't been around and stopped a number of spectacular plans there wouldn't have been much left to protect and create national parks from.

Lack of political courage

The obstacle which could stop ideas like this from being realized is the lack of political courage among Swedish politicians. A courage to stand up for the Sami nation. In the countys there's an inherited resistance against any kind of Sami influence. And the State administration and politicians are doesn't dare to suggest anything which goes against the interests of the majoritypopulation. And the MP's are afraid of strong lobbyists such as the tourist industry, as well as the farming and hunting organizations. I wonder if we ever will see any politician with any influence stand up and state:
"The Sami people have the right to their own land, where they will be allowed to manage their own piece of earth, the hunting and fishing. -Let them have selfdetermination!"

  • Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
  • Presentation of Canyon de Chelly on the website.
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