On the image: Race biologist G. Retzius and the Sami man Fjellstedt.

The Sami in Sweden are recognized as a people, an Indigenous people and a national minority. The traditional Sami lands, Sápmi, encompass parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

Sweden has a long history of oppression of the Sami. Marginalization and exploitation are not only part of the history, it is still ongoing and helps to normalize the racism we see in the country today.

In a current civil case in the Gällivare District Court, Girjas sameby (the Girjas reindeer herding community) has together with the National Union of the Swedish Sami (Svenska Samernas Riksförbund, SSR) sued the Swedish state for the confiscation of the sameby’s exclusive rights to hunt and fish on its land. In the lawsuit, the state is represented by the Office of the Chancellor of Justice and its appointed legal representatives.

In the court case the attorneys representing the Swedish state claims that “Sweden does not have any international obligations to recognize certain rights for Sami people, regardless if they are considered to be indigenous peoples or not.“  (In a debate article, 59 Swedish researchers claims otherwise)
Furthermore, the state takes the interpretive prerogative to redefine Sami ethnicity, by resurrecting the outdated and derogatory term “Lapp” - a term that harkens back to the time when there was a government institute in charge of “racial biology” (eugenics). This institute was tasked with, among other things, examining the racial differences between Sami and Swedish people.

From the mentioned debate article:

We find it extremely disturbing that:

  • the state rejects decades of state financed and academic peer-reviewed research
  • the state reverts to a linguistic usage and rhetoric which derive from the period of racial biology
  • the state questions the status of the Sami as an Indigenous people.

We urge the state to start acting in a manner befitting a democratic nation ruled by law and informed by knowledge and research.”