Saved Properties Register Sign In


Doing your due diligence: Safeguarding indigenous rights and culture in Sápmi


Have you ever heard of Sápmi? It's the traditional homeland of the Sámi people — Indigenous to Northern Scandinavia, Finland, and parts of Russia — and even if you haven't heard the name before, you may have seen images of the area's iconic reindeer herds. Herding reindeer is not only a source of livelihood for many Sámi people, it's been their way of life for centuries.   

Today, however, reindeer herding is facing an uncertain future in Sápmi. High inflation, rising prices, and overgrazing are negatively impacting these herds and depriving many Indigenous people in the area of their traditional livelihoods. That's why it's critical for companies doing business in Sápmi to ensure that they are engaging with local communities in ways that respect and promote Indigenous rights and culture.  

In this article, we'll take a look at what exactly 'due diligence' means in this context and how companies can ensure they are taking the necessary steps to protect the rights and culture of Sámi people.  

What Is the Sápmi region and culture?

As a conscious businessperson, you know that cultural sensitivity and compliance with human rights regulations are essential to the success of your operations. That's even more true when you're dealing with indigenous populations, such as the Sámi people of Sápmi. It's not just important to do your due diligence, it's imperative that you understand their culture and rights before doing business in their region.

So let's start at the beginning—what is Sápmi? It refers to an area in northern Europe covering parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, which is inhabited by indigenous people known as the Sámi. These people have a unique culture, tradition, and rich language—Sámi is one of Europe’s oldest languages—as well as distinct spiritual practices. In addition to its cultural heritage, Sápmi has been an important economic hub throughout history; in particular, reindeer herding is a cornerstone of the Sámi economy and has been a way of life for centuries.

How reindeer herding shapes Sápmi livlihood

When you think of Sápmi, you may not immediately think of reindeer herding. But this activity is the backbone of the region's livlihood and cultural heritage. Reindeer herding has been a part of the Sami people’s lives since historic times, and many believe it to be integral to their way of life.

Today, however, it is facing a steep decline due to high inflation and an unfavorable price trend. While many Sami are continuing to practice traditional herding practices in some areas, others are transitioning towards other industries such as tourism, crafts, or working at local businesses.

It’s important for us as outsiders seeking to invest in Sápmi businesses or projects to understand the risks faced by reindeers herding and find a way to create opportunities that will sustain it in the future—not just for economic gain but also for cultural preservation. Doing our due diligence can help ensure that the people of Sápmi not only retain their traditional culture but also have a thriving economic future.

The loss of sustainable economic capacity in Sápmi

When it comes to doing your due diligence, you must ensure that the rights of the Indigenous people in Sápmi are respected, their culture and language preserved, and their heritage safeguarded. These can be hard to do in practice, however.

One major issue facing Indigenous peoples in Sápmi is the loss of sustainable economic capacity. Reindeer herding has been the traditional livelihood of the Sami since times immemorial and still is today. But that's beginning to change with the sharp rise in inflation and prices. They have an extremely hard time keeping up with these rising costs, leading to a decrease—or even stagnation—in reindeer herding in Sápmi.

The Sami must find ways to make up for this lost economic capacity if they hope to maintain their traditions and cultures in a meaningful way. That may mean promoting tourism, diversifying into business activities, or looking for new sources of income. Whatever it is, it's important that the Sami be able to live out their traditional way of life without feeling burdened by fading economic prospects.

Safeguarding indigenous rights and culture in Sápmi

As you consider investing in Sápmi, it is essential to understand and acknowledge the indigenous culture, language, heritage and livlihood of the sami people who have lived and worked in the region for centuries. Reindeer herding is of critical importance to the Sami people and must be taken into account when assessing the local socio-economic environment.

Historical context

The Sámi people have relied on reindeer herding as a mainstay of their livelihood for centuries. However, due to a number of economic and social factors, including the high inflation rate in the region and fluctuating reindeer prices, this traditional practice is undergoing a sharp reduction and stagnation. Therefore, special attention needs to be paid to preserving this part of Sami culture.

Considerations for doing due diligence

It’s important that investors not only respect but also actively support Indigenous rights in Sápmi when conducting due diligence. Here are some key considerations:

* Ensure that appropriate measures are in place that guarantee Sámi interests are taken into account regarding land use planning processes.

* Include provisions in contracts that protect reindeer herding rights and restrain development activities that could negatively impact Sámi livelihoods.

* Actively communicate with indigenous organizations to better understand how proposed investments may affect them and take their recommendations into consideration whenever possible.

* Investigate if any investments may threaten cultural heritage sites or traditional practices, such as reindeer herding or fishing, so potential impacts can be assessed before proceeding with due diligence activities or making investment decisions.

By taking steps like these when doing due diligence activities in Sápmi, investors support a prosperous future for reindeer herding.

Techniques for meaningful engagement with local communities

When it comes to safeguarding Indigenous rights and culture in Sápmi, it's important to do your due diligence and understand the importance of meaningful engagement with local communities.

Communicate respectfully

When engaging with local communities, it is important to do so in a respectful manner, being mindful of cultural sensitivity, history, diversity and language. This includes using respectful language and avoiding stereotypes that can be interpreted as offensive or disrespectful.

Invite participation

It is also critical to ensure that all members of the local community are invited to participate in decisions that affect them. This includes creating opportunities for dialog between communities and any outside organizations or representatives.

Prioritize transparency

Finally, communication efforts must prioritize transparency. Working together with the local community means being willing to answer important questions about what activities are being conducted, what impacts they might have on the environment and how the local people can remain informed of any changes.

Resources for further understanding and support

As you consider how to protect indigenous rights and culture in Sápmi, how do you find the resources that can help you on your journey?

There are several organizations working to support the indigenous Sámi people and their traditional way of life. Here are some of them:

Sáminuorra is an organization for Indigenous Sámi children and youth. They focus on language revitalization, cultural preservation, environmental protection, and advocating for political rights.

The Saami Council represents the interests of all Sámi living in Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. They aim to protect Sámi language, culture, land and water rights.

REINDEER HUSBANDRY (Bachelor) in Kautokeino. Studies, schools and study opportunities. Here you will find all information about education in reindeer husbandry (Bachelor). The programme goes under: Fisheries, Livestock and Agricultural Sciences. There is 1 registered school offering the study, divided into 1 place of study. There are 16 related studies, and there is 1 related profession to the education REINDEER HUSBANDRY (Bachelor).

The Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland works to promote Indigenous peoples' rights in Sápmi through research activities and training programs designed to benefit Sami communities in the Arctic region.

Sami Art Foundation calls itself a “visual voice” for the Reindeer Herders of Northern Sweden who are struggling with modern development projects threatening their reindeer herding lifestyle, heritage, language and culture as a whole for many generations to come — which is why it's so important to understand their plight thoroughly by doing your due diligence!

These organizations will be able to provide more information about protecting Indigenous rights and culture in Sápmi.


While the challenges facing Sápmi’s indigenous people may be daunting, taking a proactive approach to doing due diligence to safeguard their rights and culture is essential to ensure the survival and prosperity of their communities for generations to come. With the right combination of support, education, and resources, the Sámi people have the power to make meaningful and lasting changes for the betterment of their people and their collective future. Anyway, there is a strong association between Sámi culture and rurality that limits the ability to imagine an urban future for Sápmi. By supporting Sámi initiatives and respecting their culture, we can ensure that their voice is heard and their rights are protected, and that their traditional way of life can continue to thrive.

Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino 2023-02-20

By Roger K. Olsson

#collective future #protecting Indigenous rights #culture #sámi art #sámi history #prosperity #sápmi #rural #communities #generation #organization #development #research #social sciences #training program



Forgotten password?