Sweden's Sami, and a reindeer, take to the streets

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STOCKHOLM, Nov 24 (Reuters) Dozens of Scandinavia's indigenous Sami people, and one reindeer, marched through the streets of Stockholm to demand protection of their rights to herd reindeer freely in the Scandinavian north.

Around 70 Samis from northern Sweden delivered a petition to the Norwegian embassy complaining the country does not respect Swedish Samis' rights, as documented in an 18th-century treaty, to herd reindeer in the Norwegian highlands in the summer.

''The Sami villages are again about to lose rights to some of its herding lands on the Norwegian side,'' said Olov J Sikku, spokesman for Sami village Saarivuoma which owns 15,000 reindeer.

''It can't still be today, that we are simply run over. It must be accepted that Samis have rights and that we must administer these ourselves,'' Sikku said yesterday.

The Sami, who herd Sweden's 240,000 reindeer, need access to large pasture areas of the north.

The demonstrators said Norway was attempting to force their reindeers from their traditional pastures, through legislation as well as by tearing down fences, driving away their reindeer and threatening to fine Samis on the Swedish side of the border.

They urged Sweden to freeze negotiations on a new reindeer herding convention between the two countries, saying only the Samis have the right to negotiate such agreements.

Sikku said losing access to Norwegian pastures would mean fewer Samis would make a living from reindeer raising.

It is difficult to define the Sami's traditional land, since until recent generations, Sami herders were nomads who followed their animals through the northlands of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia.

There are an estimated 70,000 Sami in these four countries, including about 20,000 in Sweden.

Reuters TB VP0423

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