Saami Concerned Over Arctic Expansion and other Pagan News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 16, 2011 — 28 Comments

Top Story: In the second part of a six-part series on the geopolitical ramifications of global warming in the Arctic, NPR’s Morning Edition focuses on Russia’s aggressive push to claim waterways and resources becoming available as the Arctic ice melts. One group that is particularly concerned over the rush to claim the Arctic is the indigenous Saami people, a group native to the Kola Peninsula of Russia. NPR interviews traditional singer Nadezhda Lyashenko, who discusses the environmental consequences of this rush to exploit one of the few remaining untouched regions on our planet.

Nadezhda Lyashenko. Photo: David Greene/NPR

The indigenous people of this region bore much of the brunt. The Saami tribe, for one, has lived centuries in Russia’s northwest, near the Norwegian border. Saami people were forcibly collectivized on farms under Stalin. Nadezhda Lyashenko, the Saami woman singing traditional tribal music here, can recount the horror stories. Her grandfather, a reindeer shepherd, was shot in 1937, accused of being a spy after he crossed into Finland chasing a reindeer herd. After decades of relative peace, Lyashenko says, trouble seems to be returning to her native Arctic lands. She sees Russia and other world powers in a race for oil and gas, ignoring the potential impact to a part of the Earth that’s been rarely touched. “The Arctic is just so fragile,” she says. “This time, it’s a research boat going out there. It’s like the prick of a needle, and the land will heal. But if they go with knives, with spears, they could break everything. And then what?”

The Saami and other indigenous peoples living in or near the Arctic, on the front lines of global climate change, could have much to teach us, if we are willing to listen. Sadly, the rights and concerns of the Saami are often ignored, or greeted with hostility by those who want economic development at any cost. For those who identify with the indigenous peoples and culture of Europe, the plight and position of the Saami should be of great concern. The trend of indigenous rights being undermined needs to be halted and reversed.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • EdthePagan

    The world is really changing fast, and the poor Saami people hopefully will survive.

    On the other hand, The Dominionists, and similar branches of Christian Coreligionists, are very likely to expand their foundation this next election cycle. They are in a self feeding frenzy and a lack of prosperity will make them feel persecuted. They have at least a billion dollars worth of advertising available, and this will be the first race where both candidates and their parties will both spend a billion dollars each.

  • When it comes to the Sami, their state can be a mixed bag. On the one hand they’ve made a lot of progress over the previous decades in standing up for and obtaining rights (there are Sami parliments in Finland, Norway and Sweden as well as a reclamation of traditional cultural in things like music with some Sami artists even becoming internationally known like Wimme Saari and Mari Boine), on the other hand their traditional ways of life have often been on the losing side of conflicts with the interests of the nations in which they find themselves. This can most often be seen with traditional reindeer herders for whom the division of their traditional areas of roaming have been divided into modern states which they may not be able to cross at will along with the land itself being claimed by non-Sami individuals and governments to exploit as is the case here.

  • “Her grandfather, a reindeer shepherd, was shot in 1937, accused of being a spy after he crossed into Finland chasing a reindeer herd.”

    That just says it all to me. People who think their priorities and their concept of the world are the only way, interpret everything through that lens. A simple reindeer herder becomes a spy because he crossed an international border he probably wasn’t even aware of (it certainly doesn’t matter to the reindeer!). But of course, their way wins because they have the guns.

    • Anonymous

      Obviously you weren’t paying attention in history class.

      The Soviet Union during the 1936-8 purges accused and shot many people for far less than being a spy. Somewhere between 600,000 and 1.2 million were purged and executed. That’s about 1000 to 2000 people per day.

      During WW2, the Soviet Union put 750,000 NKVD troops in the field behind their lines to prevent them from retreating. They executed 50,000 Soviet soldiers.

    • Norse Alchemist

      Yes, because protecting one’s populace (which is arguably the most important of the duties given to a government) should always be neglected in the face of someone who doesn’t believe in the same borders you do, doesn’t believe in your way of life, and who could cause the loss of lives among the populace being protected. The man well could have been a spy, but let us remember that Finland was right next to the Soviet Union for all purposes, and lived every single day with the threat of being invaded by an army so powerful that there was only one other nation in the world who could stand up to it. I can forgive the Fins for being a little paranoid and over cautious in protecting their people.

  • “Her grandfather, a reindeer shepherd, was shot in 1937, accused of being a spy after he crossed into Finland chasing a reindeer herd.”

    That just says it all to me. People who think their priorities and their concept of the world are the only way, interpret everything through that lens. A simple reindeer herder becomes a spy because he crossed an international border he probably wasn’t even aware of (it certainly doesn’t matter to the reindeer!). But of course, their way wins because they have the guns.

  • I wonder, for the Saami, if there’s some way to help them? Unfortunately, my first thought was “is there such a thing as compassionate arms dealing?” and I know that would not go over well.

    • Charles Cosimano

      Nothing has to be compassionate as long as it is either entertaining, profitable or both. The real question is what do the Saami have in the way of money to hire mercenaries with because no one is going there for the climate.

      • “because no one is going there for the climate.”

        Speak for yourself, this summer has been so hot I’m gonna see if I can move in with my relatives in northern Finland.

      • Mia

        Are you kidding me? I would LOVE to go there for the climate, I hate summers with a passion.

    • Norse Alchemist

      Yes, because giving them the weapons to kill their Scandinavian countrymen is really the answer here. XP

      • …and leaving them defenseless is just SO much better, especially since there’s an excellent chance arms will be used on them.

  • Surprised that more attention wasn’t paid to the Repub contest in Iowa. Bachman won. Scary stuff. I just might have to throw away another vote on a third party.

    • Norse Alchemist

      But there is hope from Iowa. Ron Paul was only two hundred votes behind her (not that any news outlet would talk about that) which means for all reason she and Paul tied, and Paul I think would be very friendly to us pagans, if only because he believes Government should stay the hell out of our lives.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I don’t assess Ron Paul that positively — I give no-one’s silence about us the benefit of the doubt — but I agree that the media gave him very short shrift considering the narrow gap between him and Michelle Bachmann.

        • Norse Alchemist

          Well, considering he’s willing to legalize many illegal drugs, I figure he’s not working with the standard right wing christian morality. I have the feeling he’d be very live and let live with us. Though perhaps this site, which has been so eager to rake the “right” over the coals and dig up their secrets, would be so kind as to investigate Ron Paul’s political views towards us Pagans and Heathens.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            His stance on drug policy is a definite plus for me, but he generally wants to dismantle government too deeply for my taste. You & I probably differ on the latter point.

          • Norse Alchemist

            Likely, as a Norseman, the less government there is, the better. More Freedom for me and mine. 😀

  • Anonymous

    What with oil prices skyrocketing and the struggle for a share in the world’s limited oil as nations such as India and China industrialize, the Arctic and it’s oil become important.

    The US, Canada, Norway, Denmark and the Russian Federation are all laying claim to portions of the Arctic for it’s oil.

    The question is how the Saami figure into this. If they can be considered a nation state, then they are entitled to a wedge of the Arctic pie and the oil beneath it. This would come at the expense of the Russian Federation and of Norway. That would not please the Russians and unlike the Norwegians, they can do something unpleasant about it, if they so desire.

  • Edna

    The Christian Right is THE number one danger to the US at the moment, above and beyond what any foreign religious extremism could pose. It’s sad, and ironic, that the same people who (rightfully) condemn Islamic fundamentalism are only too happy to try and impose a regime just as backwards and barbaric in their own nation. A “Christian” government like the one these people intend would literally set us back into the Dark Ages, considering their violent hatred of gays and lesbians, non-Christians, women, minorities, and their ludicrous and ignorant war on science and reason.

    In other news, sorry to see that once again the Salem “witches” are in the news and, as usual, making us all look bad. If they’re not hogging their 15 minutes by manufacturing “outrage” over nonsense spouted by a C-list celebrity, they’re brawling in the streets over who’s Witch shop is tackiest. Practically every time they make the news, I have to explain to people I know that, no, most Witches do not perform “rituals” for the camera, and no, most of us don’t run around in witch hats and black robes. I don’t know why they can’t have a little bit of dignity, instead of peddling the Craft like it’s some cheap reality show.

    • Norse Alchemist

      I’m going to have to disagree with you there, Edna. They are not the number one danger to the US. They are a danger, certainly, and not a small one, but I’d be more worried about that other Monotheistic religion which has higher number of followers and a much more violent history in this modern era.

      By no means should we disregard these Christians, but do not let yourselves be blinded by the light of the son, and miss the baleful glow of the crescent moon…

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        The Jihadis have the potential to attack us from the outside. The Dominionists have the potential to take us over from the inside. There’s no brass ring in this race.

        • Norse Alchemist

          I suppose you’re right. We’re dead either way. I just don’t want us getting stabbed in the back ’cause we were looking away from one and at the other.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            We defend ourselves in different modes for each. Political awareness and activism is the way to fight the Dominionists. We have to count on our police, intelligence and military to bring down the Jihadis before they bring us down.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t imagine why they left Sarah Palin out of the Dominionist article.

    • Anonymous

      Because she’s a joke that can’t even win the primary? LOL. I’d love to see a Perry/Palin ticket though. More than 50% of the country currently polled would vote for Obama in such a case. It would be a landslide, and possibly show the Christian Taliban that they have no place in 21st Century America.

    • Norse Alchemist

      Because she might not belong with the Dominionists? She well could be part of a different group of Christians

  • Lionel D

    the traditionnal Saami way of life may not be fully threatened through Arctic expension. Only 5 per cent of the population lives off Reindeer herding and those who are working as fishermen do not have very different concerns than their Norwegian counterparts (at least not in this particuliar case). As for most european peoples, the Saami have turned to a strongly urbanized people with no really different ways of life than the other scandinavians (for most of them at least). In Russia, the situation is waaaaaaaaaay different and they do are a tiny enbattled minority but the political and cultural strenght of the scandinavian saamis indirectly helps these saamis out as well.