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Jan Mikael Lundmark: Report on placement at Sámiid Riikkasearvi

As part of the doctoral program DurhamARCTIC, I had the opportunity to do a placement at Sámiid Riikkasearvi (the National Union of the Swedish Sami). The Leverhulme Trust funded the placement, which provided a fantastic opportunity to gain direct insight into how the law meets reality.

I was officially hosted at SSR’s office in Umeå by operations manager Jenny Wik Karlsson. Jenny has extensive experience with Swedish Sami rights, and we had many discussions during the placement, which helped me to gain a greater understanding of the everyday legal problems that Swedish reindeer herders face. In addition to discussions with Jenny, I had meetings with the union’s lawyer, Ida Åhrén. The discussion and meetings I had at SSR were highly informative and engaging. I appreciated the insight it gave about Swedish legislation linked to reindeer husbandry and the practical problems that come from an unclear legal protection.

During the placement, in October of 2021, I participated in the Sámi reindeer herding villages’ annual conference in Stockholm. As characterized by the ongoing revision of the Swedish Reindeer Husbandry Act, the representatives from the village discussed their concerns and what they wanted to get out of the new legislation. Representatives from the committee responsible for the review also attended one of the meetings where they explained the process. The participation in the conference provided a good insight into the reindeer herders’ concerns about the legal situation in Sweden concerning protection of their access to traditional territory.

Part of the review process for new reindeer husbandry legislation concerns how Swedish law relates to the European Convention. A large part of my assignment during my internship was thus to contribute my knowledge of the European Convention linked to questions that the Swedish government had given the committee to investigate. I thus had the opportunity to directly apply the theoretical knowledge I acquired during my doctoral studies. My time at Sámiid Riikkasearvi resulted in a Swedish article on how the European Convention should be understood in relation to indigenous peoples. The article explains that the convention protection differs depending on whether it concerns Sami in general or reindeer herders.

Through my placement, and the work of putting my theoretical knowledge of the European Convention into the context of ongoing legislative work, I have developed my understanding of the daily legal problems that Swedish reindeer herders and Sami face. This will undoubtedly be invaluable to my development as a researcher in this field. I am grateful for the support I received from Sámiid Riikkasearvi.