Sami indigenous village wins historic land use case over Swedish state

Members of Girjas Sami cooperative react when the court ruling is handed down at the Supreme Court in Stockholm, Sweden on January 23, 2020. Sweden’s top court on January 23, 2020 granted a Sami village in the country’s far north to administer local hunting and fishing rights, scoring a legal precedent in favour of the indigenous community. (Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images)
The Supreme Court has granted a Sami association in the far north the sole right to manage small-game hunting on its land – and not the Swedish state.

Thursday’s ruling brought to an end a decade long legal battle that pitted Girjas, the small cooperative that organizes reindeer herding in the area, against the state which owns the land.

The verdict means the Sami community in Norrbotten county will control who gets to fish and hunt small game in the group’s reindeer herding area which covers some 5,500 square kilometers in parts of Gällivare and Kiruna municipalities.

That right used to belong to the Swedish state, which managed hunting and fishing through local county administrative boards. Though the court said its ruling only applied to Girjas and not all Sami areas in general.

In response to the ruling, the government says it will need a thorough review of the verdict first before making any decisions on what to do next.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian Indigenous leaders stress need for less “colonial” approach to caribou conservation in North, CBC News

Finland: The Arctic railway: Building a future… or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic special report

Russia: Authorities in northwest Russia move to protect wild reindeer, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Indigenous reindeer herders request emergency aid after drought, wildfires ravage Sweden, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Bill to protect ANWR passes early hurdle in Washington, CBC News

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