Two years ago today, the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled that one of the biggest wind turbine developments in Europe had violated the rights of the Indigenous Sámi reindeer herders in the country.
In building the vast wind farm consisting of 151 wind turbines in the Fosen area of Trøndelag, in the midwest of the country, the court ruled that the Norwegian government had ignored that the turbines were on the land of the Sámi people, who use it for grazing their reindeer, a source of food, clothing, and labor.
The ruling, in October 2021, was a significant rebuke to the Norwegian government and a major victory for the Sámi people.
In the two years since the legal judgment, the Norwegian government, so used to ignoring the demands and concerns of Norway’s Indigenous community, has done nothing.
For the last several months, activists representing the Sámi community have called for the wind turbines to be demolished, accusing the Government of “putting profit over Indigenous rights.”
Earlier this year in March, Indigenous and climate activists occupied the Offices of the Ministry of Energy and Oil, gaining international media attention. The predominantly young activists were led by the famous Sámi singer, Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen, who said, “We are here to demand that the turbines must be torn down and that legal rights must be respected.”
The protests forced the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, to apologize. He conceded that there were “ongoing human rights violations” for the Sámi.
As I wrote at the time, you cannot have renewable technologies that violate the rights of Indigenous peoples. Any “transition must be fair and inclusive to workers and local communities. It has to be equitable. You cannot replace one undemocratic industry with another imposed undemocratic technology. That is not a climate solution.”
For the last few weeks, leading up to the second anniversary, tensions have been rising. One powerful op-ed in the Norwegian press by Sámi activist Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen simply demands: “Give us our lives back, Jonas Gahr Støre.”
A young activist named Mihkkal Hætta has been camping outside the Parliament in a traditional Sámi lavvu for weeks now.
The last time such a lavvu was placed outside Parliament was in 1979, when a hydropower plant was built on Sámi land. Today, Mihkkal Hætta was joined by hundreds of other Sámi activists, putting up several lavvu’s outside Parliament, blocking off the main street outside Parliament.
A group of about 20 Sámi, many wearing traditional Sámi regalia, are also protesting inside the Norwegian parliament building. They have been “joiking,” singing traditional Sámi songs. The Police have now been called to remove the activists.
Speaking earlier today, Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen said: “The trust of Sámi in the state is at a breaking point.” She added, “It is absurd, because the reindeer owners of Fosen won in court. The government simply does not respect the democracy.”
It looks as if the Norwegian government will not back down, though. Earlier today, the country’s Energy Minister Terje Aasland wrote on Facebook that “the demolition of all wind turbines at Fosen now, as the protesters demand, is not relevant.”
My Norwegian colleague, Silje Ask Lundberg, a Campaign Manager on North Sea Oil and Gas, says “It’s now been 2 years since a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the human rights of the Sámi people are being violated in Norway. This cannot continue.”
Lundberg adds: “After the last protests, the Norwegian Government was finally forced to admit the ongoing human rights violation and apologize for it. But apologies are not enough. The Norwegian Government must immediately stop the ongoing human rights violations against the Sámi people.”