ILO Convention No. 169 and the governance of indigenous identity in Finland: Recent developments

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The Sami are often described as the only indigenous people of the European Union. They inhabit an area now known as, and claimed by, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola peninsula of Russia. Recent research recognises that the Sami in Sweden-Finland had a right to their lands and waters, comparable to ownership. Previously, others referred to the Sami as Lapps. In 1673 and 1695, King Carl XI approved the Settlement Bill of Lapland, which allowed non-Lapps to cross the border of Lapland to settle. This may be considered to be the beginning of colonisation, assimilation and integration. As is the case with other indigenous peoples around the globe, the Sami have been struggling for the recognition of their rights since colonisation. Discussion on indigenous Sami rights to land and waters have been going on for a long time in Finland, which is the focus of this article. Different stakeholders as well as international, national and local politics are involved when issues concerning indigenous Sami rights to use Northern lands for their traditional activities are discussed. In this context, the possible ratification of the ILO Convention 169 has been an important issue. Many of the challenges related to the ILO Convention No. 169 reflect the issues related to the subjects of the Convention or the right holders of the land rights. Currently, the question of ‘who is a Sami’ seems to be the most controversial issue.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalThe International Journal of Human Rights
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2019
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • human rights
  • ILO Convention No. 169
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Sami identity

Field of science

  • International political science


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