University of Gothenburg
Photo: Stian Mo, Flickr

Workshop: Legal struggles on Indigenous land rights in Sápmi

Welcome to a two-day workshop at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, on 12-13 June, 2024.

Registration and deadlines

Sign up to the workshop via this form

Participation in the workshop, meals and accommodation are free of cost for all selected participants.

We have funds to cover travel and accommodation for a limited number of participants.

Upcoming deadlines

  • Prospective participants submit a 250-word abstract plus a short bio by 29 February 2024. Use the submission form above.
  • We will select and inform participants by mid-March 2024.
  • The format is a two-day on-campus workshop at the University of Gothenburg. Presentations will be organized in panels. The workshop language will be English.


In recent decades, Sami groups have been involved in numerous legal disputes on Indigenous rights to land, water and natural resources. Such legal struggles include high-profile litigation resulting in landmark supreme court judgments, such as the Girjas case in Sweden (2020), the Fosen case in Norway (2021), and the Deatnu River case in Finland (2022). Sami groups have also used international legal instruments to advance their claims, such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Sami groups and their supporters have also explored international soft law instruments to draw attention to Sami Indigenous rights, such as communications to OECD National Contact Points and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

These legal disputes reflect a long-standing struggle for recognition and rights. Already in the 1960s, Sami groups were pioneers in using litigation strategies to challenge hydropower dams destroying reindeer pastures and fishing waters. Another series of disputes involve Sami claims to ownership of lands that the states appropriated in the nineteenth century. Yet other legal disputes concern rights to reindeer grazing on private lands, and Sami reindeer herding communities have claimed rights to hunting, fishing and other usufructuary rights. Recently, the ‘green transition’ and the expanding extractivist interests in the Subarctic – including logging, mining, wind power development, and the infrastructure extractivism requires – have resulted in protests and legal struggles to challenge industrial intrusion. Yet interference with Sami livelihoods also comes from environmental protection measures, such as predator or fisheries management, or seemingly small-impact activities like tourism and hiking, sparking controversies and, in some cases, legal action.

However, the patterns, processes and consequences of legal mobilization differ across Sápmi and the respective jurisdictions. For one thing, while Sami reindeer herding communities have brought a series of cases to apex courts in Norway and Sweden, litigation seems a less prominent repertoire of contention among Sami groups in Finland – possibly reflecting less permissive legal opportunities. While the three states share many institutional similarities, for instance through the creation of Sami parliaments in the 1990s, Norway has gone the farthest in granting the Sami people Indigenous rights, cultural autonomy, and co-governance of land. Increasing litigation for Indigenous rights also interestingly parallels ongoing truth and reconciliation processes addressing the state’s historical oppression of the Sami people. Moreover, certain courtroom victories – such as the Girjas and Fosen cases – have sparked resistance from policymakers, but also debate within Sami communities on whose interests the landmark judgments represent. Recently, Sami mobilization has also increasingly framed their cause in terms of human rights and sustainable transition, creating new strategic allies in civil society while also sparking new antagonisms and counter-mobilization.

In sum, legal struggles on land rights in Sápmi reflect broader global challenges confronting Indigenous communities and the states and societies in which they live. To explore these issues further, we invite presentations on struggles on land rights, broadly conceived, in Sápmi, relating to the following themes. The questions under each theme are guiding examples and does not exclude other relevant topics.



We invite contributions from people with knowledge and practical experience of Sami land rights disputes and legal mobilization from academia, civil society, legal professions, and beyond. Relevant academic disciplines and perspectives include, but are not exclusive to, political science, law, sociology of law, history, human rights, environmental studies, cognate fields, and peace, conflict and development research.

We particularly encourage early-career researchers (PhD students and postdocs) to participate. At the workshop, we will also invite participants to discuss the needs and opportunities for future research collaborations on Sami land rights struggles, such as workshops, networking and/or collective publication projects.


Sign up to the workshop via this form


The workshop is organized by the research project Litigating land rights in Sápmi: Indigenous legal mobilization in Finland, Norway and Sweden, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and hosted by the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg.

Photo: Evelina Assarsson