Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Internal Colonisation and Indigenous Resource Sovereignty: Wind Power Developments on Traditional Saami Lands

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Internal Colonisation and Indigenous Resource Sovereignty: Wind Power Developments on Traditional Saami Lands

Article excerpt

Abstract. Using the concept of internal colonisation, this paper aims to demonstrate how current disputes over wind power developments in traditional Saami mountain areas have reignited contestations between Saami people and the Swedish state. It traces the historical continuities in these contestations. It also analyses shifts in the discourses legitimising the state's nonrecognition of Saami rights to land. The paper explores three discursive frameworks that reflect these continuities and shifts. First, it traces contestations over the ownership of 'Crown' (ie, state) land and the paternalistic practices of the state. Second, it explores how a discourse of renewable energy is currently being mobilised to argue that Saami interests must necessarily give way to broader environmental concerns. Third, it analyses how long-standing colonial rationalities are rearticulated through market relations, as the state seeks to construct a pseudo planning market for wind power developments, which necessarily excludes Saami interests. These debates, and the ongoing resistances by Saami people to industrial encroachments on their traditional territories, highlight the fundamentally unresolved relations between the Saami and the non-Indigenous majority society in Sweden.

Keywords: internal colonisation, resource sovereignty, Saami, wind power, Sweden Introduction

In 2008 the regional state authority in mid-Northem Sweden--the Vasterbotten County Administrative Board(l) (County Board)--invited three private wind power companies to tender for the exclusive right to explore the feasibility of a wind power park in Stekenjokk. The area lies on 'Crown' lands on the Swedish side of the Scandinavian mountain chain and just a few kilometres from the Norwegian border. Within a few months, a letter of intent (2) had been signed between the successful bidder, Fred Olsen Renewables (FOR), a Norwegian wind power company, and the County Board. The County Board framed the tendering process, and letter of intent, as a mundane administrative solution to the increased interest and pressure from multiple wind power companies wanting to develop the area. Yet, in the letter of intent, the County Board also outlined its intention to negotiate a profit-based land lease agreement (3) with FOR, if the project was given planning permission. A County Board had never previously attempted such an initiative and, the board being the extended arm of the Swedish state, the plan caused considerable controversy. Moreover, this seemingly new approach to planning also stirred up long-standing debates concerning the state's claims to ownership of Crown lands.

Stekenjokk is located in Swedish Sapmi, the traditional territories and homeland of the Indigenous Saami people, which spans across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Stekenjokk is inextricably connected to the traditional Saami livelihood of reindeer herding, as its Saami place name suggests--Stihken--meaning the place where reindeer rest. For the Saami community of Vilhelmina Sodra, (4) who enjoy constitutionally protected user rights over the area for reindeer grazing, the area is culturally and spiritually significant--"Stekenjokk for us is matterahka, Saami Mother Earth."(5) Even though Saami ownership to traditional lands has no official support--neither in case law nor politically--the community claim ownership rights to Stekenjokk. This links into a broader collective claim by the Saami to ownership of all 'Crown' lands in the Swedish mountain areas, from which they have been historically dispossessed. The community was neither informed of, nor involved in, any of the negotiations concerning the letter of intent. (6) Marginalised in this process, they criticised the agreement in the local media, lodged an appeal with the District Court, and began a community process to document their own 'future vision' that included the protection of Stekenjokk from resource developments. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.