Please note that on our website we use cookies to enhance your experience, and for analytics purposes. To learn more about our cookies, please read our privacy policy. By clicking ‘Allow cookies’, you agree to our use of cookies. By clicking ‘Decline’, you don’t agree to our Privacy Policy.

No translations available

The Saami of Lapland

1 September 1988

The Saami, or Lapps, are the Native people of the area known as Lapland in northernmost Europe. Due to the national borders forced upon them, the Saami have been divided between four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Soviet Union. There were social, economic and linguistic differences within the Saami population before the division into separate States, but these were and largely still are subordinated to the overall unity of Saami ethnic identity. Unlike many other ethnic minorities, the Saami maintain access to much of their land. despite ongoing debates concerning questions of legal ownership. Yet, in spite of the fundamental differences between the Saami minority and other non-indigenous minorities in these countries, the Saami have been treated in many respects like refugees, to the extent of being subjected to powerful assimilation policies. (In fact, in some respects it is only thanks to policies forged to support the cultures and languages of immigrant groups that the Saami too have gained similar support.)

Few groups have had so much written about them as have the Saami, and in this short space it is impossible to do this material justice. My purpose will therefore be to provide basic information about the situation of the Saami and to contribute a much-needed analytical update in light of recent and highly significant developments.

Please note that the terminology in the fields of minority rights and indigenous peoples’ rights has changed over time. MRG strives to reflect these changes as well as respect the right to self-identification on the part of minorities and indigenous peoples. At the same time, after over 50 years’ work, we know that our archive is of considerable interest to activists and researchers. Therefore, we make available as much of our back catalogue as possible, while being aware that the language used may not reflect current thinking on these issues.

Download (PDF, English)


Mervyn Jones