Is the state or Sami village best entitled to small game hunting and fishing in Girja's Sami village - and who is allowed to grant that hunting right to others? That issue has been at the center of the lengthy legal process that has been going on since Girja's Sami village filed a lawsuit against the state in Gällivare District Court in 2009.
The state claims that it is the landowner who has the right to decide on hunting and fishing, while the Sami village only has the right to practice hunting and fishing. Girjas contends, on the contrary, that the Sami village alone should own the right of lease for hunting and fishing - a right which they consider to be theirs through the tradition of ancient memory.
For Girjas, the goal is to reduce the strain on reindeer herding in the area, says Matti Blind Berg, the Sami village's chairman. Whether a verdict in favor of Girjas could strike against Sami outside Sami villages is not a question that belongs here, according to him.
"We have to deal with the judgment when it comes, and then we have to deal with it internally in the Sami community," he says.Fragmentation
Håkan Jonsson, chairman of the Hunting and Fishing Party in the Sami Parliament, believes that the issue divides the Sami. According to him, Sami outside Sami villages will be affected regardless of output - if the state wins in HD it will be difficult to pursue a goal in the future on Sami rights for hunting and fishing, if Girjas wins, Sami outside Sami village will be almost excluded from the hunt, as it can instead be granted to "Highest offer," claims Jonsson.
- Ironically, I think that what allows us to keep our hunt is that the state wins, not the Sami village.
Today, the responsibility for letting hunting and fishing lies in the area of the county administrative board.
Håkan Jonsson believes that Girjas ended up wrong right from the beginning of the process.
It is wrong that the Sami village demands exclusive rights and pretends to represent the Sami. The fact that the state also treats it that way makes me extremely disappointed. They could easily claim that it is not a Sami right you demand, but you demand the right for a Sami organization."New chapter"
Matti Blind Berg, Girja's chairman, has good hopes that they will get it right in HD, as they have largely received it in previous instances.
- There will be a new chapter now, we have to turn the pages and move on. We put it behind us, after all, ten years have passed.
However, Håkan Jonsson does not exclude new legal trials - where he sees a process between non-reindeer herding and reindeer herding Sami before him.
- This is a fiery issue and many Sami living up here depend on the hunt and also the fishing, that we would then just content ourselves, I do not think so. It is a scenario that is unfortunate for the Sami people, but it feels inevitable.
The Supreme Court will give judgment in the case on Thursday.