Fishing under the consent of the Kingdom : from local requests to indigenous claims in a coastal Sami fjord
In the thesis, we follow the development of a discourse on coastal Sami rights on the local level and in public discourses from the 1970s up until today. In Norwegian fisheries management, fishing is only to a certain extent protected from regulations that threaten culture, livelihoods and settlement in coastal Sami areas. Resource use in coastal Sami areas has previously not been a subject of research, and it has been argued that coastal Sami fishing is not culturally specific in the meaning that coastal Sami are similar to any Norwegian citizen. However, when investigating local fishing practices in a coastal Sami fjord, we find that the local population has argued for several decades that their traditional ways of fishing are threatened by the Norwegian fisheries regulations. In 1985, the Supreme Court of Norway recognized a group of fishermen’s right to compensation after their livelihood was damaged following the construction of a hydroelectric power station. Fishing practices that were documented in the beginning of the 1980s connected to the court case are investigated and compared with today’s practices in the same area. The thesis argues that some practices have stood the test of time, while others are rejected, as the circumstances require a flexible approach to resource management in the fjord. Coastal Sami rights are to a great degree unspoken among the fishermen in the area of research. The local fishermen’s association in Kåfjord has acted as a resource management institution and a channel for local complaints, but it has not argued in terms of indigenous rights until recently. This is due to the process of assimilation and local circumstances, where expressing any kind of Sami belonging has been sanctioned before the coastal Sami revitalization process made an impact in the Lyngen region in the 1990s. In public discourses, the issue of coastal Sami fishing rights meets with challenges. During the course of a project aiming at local management in the Lyngen fjord, issues pertaining to the process of expressing a Sami identity in the three municipalities involved in the project, was one of the factors leading to the project’s abortion. Another factor was the general power structure in Norwegian fisheries management, where communities stand few chances against a few large fishing companies of controlling fisheries in fjords and at sea where the local population has fished for centuries. Coastal Sami thus face a double challenge in their struggle for recognition of their fishing rights. Today, coastal Sami rights discourse is met with better conditions both on the local level and from the authorities, giving hope for the future if indigenous rights claims are able to overpower capitalistic interests.
ForlagUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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