Sámi Reindeer, Lawsuits and Windfarms

Indigenous communities say planned Øyfjellet turbines will interfere with migration paths. Weronika Strzyżyńska in the Guardian. January 2021.

Indigenous reindeer herders are bringing a legal action against a proposed wind power project that would be one of the largest in Norway.

The Sámi herders from Nordland county are accusing the Øyfjellet windfarm constructors of breaking licensing agreements which stipulated that construction would not interfere with reindeer migration paths.

Sámi reindeer. Pic: Emma Waleij, Unsplash

This is not the first such lawsuit in Norway. In the past five years Sámi communities have begun legal actions against the country’s largest onshore windfarms and have appealed to the UN, arguing that the farms violate their territorial and cultural rights.

“The Sámi people are not the ones who have contributed the most to climate change, but we seem to be the ones who have to carry its greatest burden,” said Gunn-Britt Retter, the head of the Arctic and environmental unit at the Sámi Council, a non-governmental organisation that represents Sámi people. “That’s not climate justice, that’s climate injustice.”

The number of wind turbines in Norway has quadrupled in the past 10 years. Many of the onshore projects were built in the northern parts of the country that are home to the largest numbers of Sámi people.

The Sámi are recognised as an indigenous group from Fennoscandia. Their ancestral land, known as Sápmi, stretches across parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Historically, most Sámi people made their livelihoods from fishing and reindeer herding.

Although only about 10% of Sámi in Norway are still involved in herding full-time, the practice remains important to Sámi culture and is protected under Norwegian law.

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