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The Last of the Reindeer Herders
Chronicling the struggle of Lapland's Sami people to use ancient grazing land.
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2009 10:04 GMT

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Last of the Reindeer Herders chronicles the struggle for survival faced by the Sami people of Lapland.

Anders Kroik, one of the last of the Sami reindeer herders, must herd his reindeer to their winter grazing land or they would starve in an environment of minus 30 degrees, but for the past few years these forests have been at the front-line in the Sami's battle for survival.

Many of the traditional winter grazing grounds are now privately owned, and while the owners argue that reindeer cause damage to land they legitimately purchased decades ago, the Sami argue they have been herding reindeer in these forests for thousands of years.

It has been a war of attrition accompanied by crippling legal bills for the indigenous Sami against the colonising forces of the Swedish settlers.

If the Sami are unable to continue to use these final winter grazing area, reindeer herding will be brought to a forcible end.

Sweden has made a giant step forward since the 1930s when the Sami were persecuted on purely ethnic grounds. But now their plight is economic.

To find out what the end of reindeer herding will mean to the Sami we travel to Stockholm to hear from traditional singer Victoria Halbeck, who was forced to leave her home when the state-owned logging company requisitioned her family's grazing land.

Today she explains how there is a crisis of identity within the urban Sami who have a disproportionately high suicide rate.

Many Sami, like many other indigenous peoples around the world, are now hanging their hopes on something called the ILO Convention 169 - the only UN Convention that specifically guarantees the rights of indigenous peoples.

To date only twenty countries have signed up including Norway but not Sweden.

The sticking point is Article 14 — that ratifying nations must recognise that all their indigenous population have ownership rights to their land. This comes with huge economic and political repercussions.

Sweden's minister for Sami affairs explains that there is not even one Swedish municipality where the Sami have a large enough population to hold any sway.

Unless the European Courts overrule the Swedish government this will be one of the last winters for the reindeer herders.

The Last of the Reindeer Herders aired from Thursday, October 29, 2009.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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