Inari, Finland – Today the Indigenous Sámi youth organization, Suoma Sámi Nuorat, Suohpanterror ‘Artivist’ collective and Greenpeace activists demonstrated against industrial exploitation of the Great Northern Forest in the Sámi territory in Northern Finland. An increasing demand for pulp for single use paper products and the exploitation of the Arctic threaten the unfragmented forests that are essential for traditional Sámi reindeer herding. A planned industrial railway would not only cut through the forests of Sámi homeland and destroy their forests but also increase the further exploitation of the Arctic.
The Sámi are drawing a boundary together with Greenpeace activists to keep the industrial exploitation out of the unfragmented forests of the Sámi homeland. The boundaries are marked with red poles and red banners saying “Our Land Our Future” and “No Access Without Consent”. The joint message of the Sámi and Greenpeace is also “Save the Great Northern Forest”. The logging plans of forest areas crucial for reindeer herding in the northernmost part of Finland and the planned industrial railway line have sparked the protest of the Sámi.
“We are standing here for our present and future and drawing the red line. We are the guardians of our land and we will take care of it in a sustainable way as we have done for thousands of years. This is a message to the Finnish government that you do not cross the red line without our consent,” said Jenni Laiti, a Sámi rights activist from Inari, Finland.
The demarcation started on Tuesday and will continue to Friday. The poles were placed in four different locations where the industrial railway line is planned. The locations have been chosen by the local people and reindeer herders.
“The Sámi and Greenpeace are here together to protect this part of the Great Northern Forest from exploitation. The forest is saving us all from climate change while being vital for Sámi reindeer herding. The Finnish government’s push to increase heavy extraction of Northern nature is not acceptable,” said Sini Harkki, Greenpeace Nordic Programme Manager for Finland.
The Great Northern Forest is the largest terrestrial carbon store on earth. Logging in the high Northern latitudes is particularly dangerous for the climate. The forest is our ally in fighting against weather extremes like the European heat wave this year. Due to harsh climate, trees grow slowly and the carbon sink can be lost for a century after logging.
The planned railway line would be used for transportation of natural resources like oil from the Arctic to Central Europe. It would be also used for pulp and single use paper product shipments from Finland to world markets.
Three representatives of the Canadian First Nations, and a representative of the Maori community of New Zealand are taking part in the demonstrations and showing their solidarity to the Sámi.
“Across Mother Earth, Indigenous Peoples are leading the fight against capitalism. We see Indigenous led victories in North America stopping the expansion of the Alberta tar sands with the quashing of the TransMountain pipeline by the Supreme court of Canada due to a corrupt consultation process of the Trudeau Government, against offshore oil drilling in the waters of Aotearoa and we will see victory here in Finland in stopping a proposed industrial railroad in the Sámi homeland. The Sámi are rights holders and have the right to say no to threats to their sacred Reindeer herding routes. Finland is a signatory of the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the government’s attempts to build a massive free trade corridor without acquiring the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the Sámi is both ethically bankrupt and illegal,” said Clayton Thomas-Müller, a member of the Treaty #6 based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, also known as Pukatawagan, located in Northern Manitoba, Canada.
 Read the Greenpeace report The Impacts of Logging in The Great Northern Forest, here.
Juha Aromaa, Communications Lead for The Great Northern Forest project, Greenpeace Nordic, phone +358 50 369 6202
Greenpeace International Press Desk, [email protected], phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)