Statement by Dr. Atle Grahl-Madsen, Prof. of Public and International Law, University of Bergen, for the Nordic Sami Council re: The Sami Convention and treaty relations with Nordic states - UNWGIP Aug 1988
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             T H E   N O R D I C   S A M I   C O U N C I L

     SAMIRADDI                          The Nordic Sami Council       
     Nordiska Sameradet                 El Consejo Nordico Saame      
     Pohjoismaiden Saamelais-           Le Conseil Saame Nordique     
     SF-99980 Ohcejohka
     Tele. 9697-71 351

                     United Nations Working Group
                       on Indigenous Populations
                   Sixth Session, 1 - 5 August 1988

                             Agenda item 6
                   Outline of the study of treaties,
            agreements and other constructive arrangements
               between States and indigenous populations



                         Dr. Atle Grahl-Madsen
               Professor of Public and International Law
                     University of Bergen (Norway)

     Madame Chairman:  

     I thank you for giving me this opportunity to address the 
     Working Group.  

     I am here at the urging of the Nordic Sami Council. an 
     umbrella organization of Sami associations in Finland, 
     Norway and Sweden, and recognized by the Nordic Council and 
     the Governments of the Nordic States as the spokesman of the 
     Sami Nation at the Nordic level.  

     The Nordic Sami Council has asked me to address the Working 
     Group on the matter of a Sami Convention, that is to say the 
     proposition that the Nordic States should enter into a 
     treaty relationship with democratically elected 
     representatives of Sapmi, the Sami Nation. This convention 
     would then form the basis for the future relationship 
     between the Nordic States and Sapmi, the Sami Nation.  

     The idea of a Sami Convention was first voiced in 1985, at 
     the Third Seminar on The Small Nations of the North in 
     International and Constitutional Law, which was held in 
     Guovdageaidnu in the midst of the Sami heartland in northern 
     Scandinavia, the Sami Davve Eana.  

     The Small Nations of the North are the autonomous communities 
     of Aland, Foroyar and Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), and also 
     Sapmi - the Sami Nation.  

     The idea of a Sami Convention has since been elaborated in a 
     little booklet, THE PEOPLE OF THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which has 
     been issued in a preliminary edition of just 100 copies, and 
     which I had the honour of presenting to you, Madame 
     Chairman, and to the other members of the Working Group 

     More important, the idea of a Sami Convention has been 
     lively discussed in representative Sami organs, and at the 
     Nordic Sami Conference at Are 1986, it was agreed to pursue 
     this idea as a vehicle for Sami aspirations.  

     I am therefore today able to emphasize that the Sami Nation 
     indeed wishes such a Convention, which would signify the 
     recognition of Sapmi - the Sami Nation - as a co-equal 
     entity possessing rights and duties justiciable under 
     international law. 

     Over the years there have been many treaties affecting the 
     Sami Nation.  

     Most famous is the so-called "Lapp Codicil" 1751, which 
     supplemented the frontier treaty between the kingdoms of 
     Norway and Sweden of that same year. As late as last year, a 
     Norwegian royal commission proposed a treaty on Sami 
     cultural matters to be concluded between Finland, Norway and 
     Sweden [NOU 1987:343].  

     Common to all the existing treaties is that they are 
     concluded by State governments over the heads of the Sami. 
     The same goes for the treaty proposed by the royal 

     The idea of a Sami Convention differs in this very basic 
     respect from the existing treaties, in that Sapmi - the Sami 
     Nation - for the first time will become a co-equal Party to 
     a Convention.  

     In Norway a constitutional amendment was adopted in the 
     spring of 1988, obliging the State authorities to assure 
     conditions conducive to the Sami ethnic group's sustaining 
     and developing its language, its culture and its social 

     Moreover, we will soon see Sami elective assemblies in all 
     of the three States: Finland, Norway and Sweden.  

     If these assemblies can rally together, we shall for the 
     first time have a truly democratically based organ capable 
     of speaking on behalf of Sapmi, the entire Sami Nation.  

     However, the Sami assemblies in the several States are 
     created by State laws, enacted by State Parliaments where 
     the Sami as such are not represented. The same goes for all 
     the other State laws and regulations: they have been enacted 
     over the heads of the Sami, and the Sami Nation has - when 
     it comes to the final test - no real say in all the 
     important matters regulated by State law, which affect their 
     daily life as well as their continued existence as a Nation. 

     It is also significant that the Norwegian constitutional 
     amendment - as well as important legislation - refers to the 
     "Sami ethnic group" rather than to the Sami Nation. And 
     indeed, in each of the several States, the Sami are 
     considered as an "ethnic group". Sapmi, the Sami Nation, 
     transcends State frontiers and can only be recognized at the 
     international level.  

     Sapmi - the Sami Nation - is dispersed between four States: 
     the three Nordic States of Finland, Norway and Sweden, and 
     also the Soviet Union. In each State they form a minority.  

     There is a large, thinly populated area in northern 
     Scandinavia, where the Sami constitute the majority 
     population. The fringes of this Sami heartland may be 
     difficult to define with precision. Moreover, a majority of 
     the Sami people are living outside the Sami heartland, so 
     that a "territorial" solution will not be a solution for all 
     Sami. Conversely, of course, a "personal" solution will not 
     be a satisfactory solution for the Sami territory.  

     A Sami Convention will have to address all these problems.  

     There are important matters which affect Sapmi - the Sami 
     Nation - as a whole, or at least clearly beyond the confines 
     of the Sami heartland. The safeguarding and development of 
     the Sami culture belong to this category. So do important 
     issues concerning that arch-typical Sami activity: reindeer 
     herding, and also the maintenance and development of Sami 
     handicraft - duodji. It is certainly also a matter for Sapmi 
     to represent and speak on behalf of the Sami Nation as a 

     Other matters may best be resolved within the framework of a 
     Sami territory. This applies to many of the matters referred 
     to in the draft articles of a universal declaration on 
     indigenous rights, included in the working paper which you, 
     Madame Chairman, have presented to the Sub-Commission 
     [E/CN.4/Sub.2/1988/25]. I am thinking of such internal and 
     local affairs as education, health, housing, social welfare, 
     land and resource administration and safeguarding of the 

     The conclusion of a Sami Convention would mean the 
     recognition of Sapmi - the Sami Nation - as One Nation 
     Indivisible, and indeed a sovereign entity SUI GENERIS - 
     that is to say "sovereign" in the meaningful sense that its 
     authority emanates from within the Sami community and not 
     from any external power.  

     The States and Sapmi would not only agree to regulate 
     matters of concern to the Sami Nation as a whole, but they 
     could also agree to create an autonomous Sami territory: 
     Samieana - the Sami Land - comprising parts of each of the 
     participating States. The States would retain the 
     suzerainity of their respective parts, but the autonomous 
     government would nevertheless be able to bring about a large 
     measure of uniformity throughout the entire Samieana.  

     This model - the formal recognition of a Sovereign People 
     agreeing with the suzerain State or States on the setting up 
     of an autonomous territory - might, perhaps, also be 
     interesting with respect to an improvement of the situation 
     of indigenous peoples in other parts.  

     It might alleviate the fear of established governments that 
     a recognition of the right to self-government of indigenous 
     peoples might lead to the breaking up of the State or at 
     least the map coming to look like a good Swiss cheese: full 
     of holes.  

     Yet such a solution might bring the indigenous peoples what 
     they want more than anything else, a recognition of their 
     identity and their dignity as a People, a Nation in their 
     own right, and a possibility to live in peace and to 
     maintain and develop their own social and cultural values. 

     There are strong arguments in favour of a Sami Convention. 
     The Nordic Peoples are honouring democratic values and human 
     rights. They are bound to admit that the Sami Nation is 
     numerically so small that it can never be adequately 
     represented in the halls of government of the several 
     States. If there shall be any measure of Sami self-
     government, it has to be entrusted to Sami organs, 
     democratically constituted by the Sami themselves.  

     Moreover, there are important historical factors. Sapmi - 
     the Sami Nation - has co-existed with the Norsemen, the 
     Swedes and the Finns throughout Scandinavia for thousands of 
     years. In spite of their inferior numbers, the Sami have 
     been capable of preserving their identity, their language, 
     their culture and their dignity in spite of persecution and 
     repression spanning centuries. At long last they are now 
     recognized by everyone as a distinct Nation in their own 

     There is also the constitutional argument. Each of the five 
     Nordic States is based on the principle of the Sovereignty 
     of the People. In Sweden this is even written large in 
     Section 1 of the Constitution of 1974. The Sovereignty of 
     the People is today a generally acknowledged basis for a 
     People to assert its nationhood and to declare its intention 
     to govern itself. We may recall the bannerline in the 
     newspaper LA SUISSE on the 1st of August, the Swiss national 
     holiday: "A People Chose Its Way". But the strength of the 
     principle of the Sovereignty of the People is also its 
     limitation: It gives no People a right to dominate other 
     Peoples. A State which is based on the Sovereignty of the 
     People must of necessity recognize the equal right of all 
     Peoples to determine their own life.  

     Once the Nordic States have become conscious of the 
     existence of another People in their midst, and indeed have 
     recognized Sapmi as One Nation Indivisible, the only logical 
     conclusion seems to be that they will strive to find an 
     optimum solution for Sapmi to assert its nationhood and 
     develop its self-government to the fullest possible degree 
     within the existing parameters of demography, geography, 
     economy and ecology. 

     An added consideration is that the Nordic States will not in 
     the long run be able to maintain credibility in 
     international fora concerned with humanitarian issues, 
     unless they do their utmost to find a fully satisfactory 
     answer to the legitimate aspirations of Sapmi - the Sami 

     "Charity begins at home." I do not think that I am unduly 
     optimistic if I venture to say that before the end of the 
     present twentieth century, we shall see Sami representation 
     in the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers 
     and also the adoption of a Sami Convention, fully 
     recognizing Sapmi as a sovereign entity SUI GENERIS, and 
     laying the foundation for an autonomous territorial 
     community - Samieana, the Sami Land - under the suzerainity 
     of the established States.  

     Thank you, Madame Chairman and members of the Working Group, 
     for the time and the attention which you have given me.  


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