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A Reindeer Herding Act – for whom?

BÅATSOELAAKE - A Reindeer Herding Act – for whom?

In 1751, the ‘Lapp Codicil’ secured the rights of reindeer herders in the borderlands between Norway and Sweden. However, from 1751 to the end of the 19th century, there were great changes in attitudes to the Sámi people, which were also reflected in the legislation. The 1890s saw practical measures from public authorities. Reindeer grazing districts were established, along with collective liability for compensation. Reindeer herders’ grazing rights based on established custom were restricted by the new regulations, in favour of agricultural interests.

In the 1850s, the Sámi gained legal support for their claim to grazing land based on longstanding use. Throughout the 1800s, however, nation-building in Norway was making big advances, and Norwegian culture was to be nurtured. The Sámi people were increasingly seen as foreign, and Norwegian farmers were given priority. The legislation from the end of the 19th century has to be viewed in the light of this policy.

Whereas earlier laws had taken account of the customary rights of reindeer herders, the Act of 1883 was designed to promote the development of agriculture. 

Photo (from left):

1. Reindeer herd near Nordbrekken farm in Brekken. Many farms in the Røros Sámi area had close ties to reindeer herding, and until the Act of 1897, many farmers had their own animals in the Sámi herds.

2. The legislation on reindeer herding called for better control of the number of reindeer. The picture shows ‘Lapp bailiff’ Guldal counting reindeer in Hådalen, Røros.

3. The amended ‘Lapp Act’ of 1897 increased the regulation of reindeer herding in Norway and prohibited Sámi domestic reindeer farming outside the reindeer grazing lands.

4. The Sámi proposal for a new reindeer herding law. The Bill was produced in 1919 by the committee elected by the national congress in 1917. Norwegian authorities passed an ‘Act on Reindeer Herding’ in 1933, without reference to this proposal.

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    Lars Danielsen
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    Lars Danielsen
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