Reindeer Herders in Norwegian-Swedish Legal Squeeze

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The Sweidsh reindeer herders of Sárevuoppmi Sami village want an exclusive right to the grazing areas near Altevatn in Troms, Norway. (Photo: Illustration)

Norway and Sweden have diverging interpretation of the law and are unable to agree. Swedish reindeer herders find themselves in the middle of the conflict.

This week, Swedish reindeer herders get to try their case in the Norwegian Supreme Court in a case against the Norwegian state, represented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, as well as the Norwegian Forest Administration.

Read the whole story at NRK.

The leaders of Sárevuopmi Sami Village argue that they hold exclusive right to grazing areas on the Norwegian side of the border at Altevatn in Bardu. The Swedish ‘Sami village’ term is comparable to a ‘reindeer herding district’ in Norway.

The Swedish herders argue that they hold this exclusive right due to their having used these grazing areas for centuries. The Norwegian state has refuted this, and both district and appeal courts have agreed with the state.

Do not agree

The Reindeer Grazing Convention, on which Norway and Sweden agreed in 1972, will be key in the Supreme Court case. A convention is an agreement between states.

The Convention facilitates both Norwegian and Swedish reindeer herders’ moving their herds across the border. However, when the convention was to be renewed after 30 years, Norway and Sweden were unable to agree. Following three years of post-deadline negotiations it stranded in 2005.

Even though Sweden withdrew from negotiations, Norway chose to continue the convention as a unilateral Norwegian law from 2005.

Argues that Swedish herders must give way

The Appeal Court’s ruling in 2019 was clear that the law Norway continued under the name of the Border Reindeer Grazing Act from 2005 should take precedence over traditional use.

The reason for the Swedish herders’ not being wanted in areas they have used for more than 250 years is a.o. that Hjerttind reindeer herding district [on the Norwegian side of the border] also uses these areas as winter grazing areas. Thus, pressure on resources in the area may prove too big when Sárevuopmi also uses it in spring, summer, and autumn.

The Norwegian state argues that Swedish herders thus have to give way.

The case is scheduled to be presented in the Supreme Court from Tuesday to Friday this week and is digitally processed.

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.