‘A Debate With Racist Undertones..’

June 18, 2008 • Philip BurgessReindeer

(Pic – Philip Burgess, Reindeer in downtown Hammerfest) A media fury has erupted in Finnmark surrounding comments by a parliamentary representative Olav Gunnar Ballo who claimed that reindeer herders did not have the right to live and that reindeer husbandry was acting as a brake to development and that as a livelihood ‘it was just culture’. Many of these comments arose from a public meeting in Kvalsund regarding plans to expand copper mining in the area, as reported in the Reindeer Blog a few weeks ago.

The debate took a darker turn this week when 5 reindeer were found shot dead in Upper Alta in a farmers field, an event being investigated by police. The recently reappointed leader of the Sami Reindeer Herders Association  (NBR/NRL) retorted that such events are the result of the inflammatory remarks by Ballo. Ballo claims that his remarks have been misrepresented.

Long time researcher on Sami issues from the University of Tromso, Ivar Bjorklund said today in NRK Sami Radio  that the debate had taken on racist undertones, and that several politicians were using the issue to advance their own political causes, mixed with an unshakeable faith in the future economic development of Finnmark based on mineral exploitation.

It appears that the leading politicians in Finnmark do not care about the fact that the reindeer husbandry in Norway is protected by international conventions which Norway is obliged to take into account.

Bjorklund pointed pointed out that in pure economic terms, when comparing reindeer husbandry mining or oil and gas activities, there is no contest, but questioned what was the goal of such a comparison

Norway is currently the world’s richest nation. Shall we liquidate reindeer husbandry to further enrich the national economy?

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