Militarization of the Arctic: Europe's last indigenous people under threat

Arctic militarization: Europe's last indigenous people under threat< /p> UPDATE DAY

KIRUNA | The Sami, the last indigenous people of Europe, who inhabit the Scandinavian Arctic and the Kola Peninsula in western Russia, take a very dim view of the renewed interest of industrialists and the military for their territory. .

All this human activity is happening “in the pastures and on the reindeer migration routes”, worries activist Matti Blind-Berg, reindeer herder and leader of the Girjas Samebyhe, organization of Sami herders.

Matti Blind-Berg, reindeer herder and leader of Girjas Samebyhe, organization of Sami herders. Based in Kiruna, Sweden.

During our interview in Kiruna, the Swedish army and the American Marines were training in ancestral pastures. But the Sami had barely been informed.

“When the Armed Forces land on our land, they do what they want without asking for any permission”, laments the former member of the Swedish Sami Parliament , the Sametinget.

He fears that it will be even worse if Sweden is admitted to NATO, as it hopes, because here, unlike Canada, there is no mechanism obliging the State or the industrialists to consult the natives before undertake the projects on their territory which they call Sápmi, rather than Lapland.

Millenary culture in danger

However, the whole culture of this indigenous people , based on the communion between men and nature, is endangered by the increase in human activity which is causing them to disappear little by little. They are no more than 100,000 distributed from Norway to the Kola Peninsula, in Russia, including some 20,000 in Sweden.

Reindeer photographed in spring in Scandinavia.

Human activity is synonymous with the fragmentation of the territory, explains Mr. Blind-Berg, whose family has settled in the Scandinavian Arctic for millennia.

With the intensification of industrial exploitation, the great intact forests are razed, the pastures are ravaged and the predators move a little further north every day, threatening the survival of the fawns.

Changes climatic

As for mines, which present themselves today as essential to the green transition, they boost climate change, underlines Mr. Blind-Berg.

“The transition is definitely not green. For me, she is rather black and gray, grumbles the breeder. For the love of our planet, we need a transition, but not one that's industry-driven like what we're seeing here right now.”

A shipment of iron ore leaves the Kiruna mine, by train.

Reindeer are already suffering from climate change that is making “winters weirder and weirder,” he notes. The temperatures play yo-yo and the snow cover is getting thicker and thicker. So much so that “it is more and more difficult for them to find food”.

For Mr. Blind-Berg, all this is just one more chapter of the colonization that has afflicted its people for centuries.

*This report was made possible thanks to a grant from the Fonds québécois en journalisme international.

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Militarization of the Arctic: Europe's Last Indigenous People Under Threat

Militarization of the Arctic: Europe's last indigenous people under threat