Swedish Language Blog

Proposed Gállok mine threatens Sámi Posted by on Feb 10, 2022 in Culture, Environment, Living in Sweden, News, People, Politics, Travel & Geography, Vocabulary

Photo: Chelsea Bowen, Reindeer corral outside of Jokkmokk, Sweden

Sámi folkets dag or Sámi People’s/National Day is celebrated each year on February 6. Typically a celebration of culture and traditional ways, in recent years it’s also become a time for people to connect via political activism. This year, conversations revolved around the impact of the proposed iron ore mine in the Gállok area within Jokkmokk municipality. Some see the mine as a strong economic move, and others see it as the beginning of the end of reindeer husbandry in the area. This week, we’ll look at mining in Northern Sweden and read a short Swedish article that explains the situation in Gállok.

Mining in Northern Sweden

Mining is not new in Sápmi (the Sámi word for the indigenous areas of Northern Norway, Scandinavia, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia). The northern Swedish city of Kiruna is in the process of moving its houses and buildings to a new location in order to reach the valuable järnmalm (iron ore) below the earth’s surface. The same type of mine is being proposed in the Gállok området (the Kallak area) by the English company Beowulf.

More infrastructure threatens reindeer

At first glance, Sápmi may seem sparsely populated but that’s what makes it possible for many Sámi people to maintain a rich tradition of renskötseln (reindeer husbandry). Renen (the reindeer) depend on northern forests for habitat and food during the wintertime. As the weather warms, reindeer migrate hundreds of miles to mountainous regions for summer grazing. The more roads and infrastructure, the harder it is for reindeer to live and move freely year-round.

Activism from February 6 celebrations

Celebrations for Sámi People’s Day on February 6 include concerts, broadcasted tv and radio programs, and the week-long Jokkmokks marknad, Jokkmokk’s historic Sámi market, just a short distance from Gállok. This year, artists and indigenous leaders like Sofia Jannok and Maxida Märak highlighted the mine in Gállok as modern colonization of the people and land in Sápmi. Climate activist Greta Thunberg visited Jokkmokk again this year to protest the mine and urge Swedish political action. Read the article she co-signed in Aftonbladet with Sofia Jannok and others Gå inte på att gruvan i Gállok är klimatsmart (Don’t believe that the mine in Gállok is climate-smart).

Samer protesterar mot gruva – The Sámi protest against mining

Below is a short 8sidor.se article that gives context for the situation in Gállok, including Maxida Märak’s efforts to sway statsministern (the prime minister) Magdalena Andersson.

Ett brittiskt företag vill öppna en gruva i Kallak eller Gállok som området heter på samiska.
Det ligger i Jokkmokks kommuni Norrbotten.
Företaget som vill öppna gruva heter Beowulf Mining.
De vill bryta järnmalm i gruvan. Det är Sveriges regering som ska bestämma om företaget ska få öppna gruvan.
Regeringen har haft flera år på sig att bestämma.
Men de har inte gjort det.
Länsstyrelsen har sagt nej till gruvan.
Men myndigheten SGU och Jokkmokks kommun har sagt ja till gruvan.
Gállok är ett viktigt område för många samer. Deras renar bor där.
Nu protesterar samer och flera kända samiska artister mot gruvan.
En av artisterna är Maxida Märak.
Hon har bland annat skrivit till statsministern Magdalena Andersson.
I sitt mejl berättar hon hur svårt det blir för hennes folk om regeringen säger ja till en gruva där renarna bor.
– Det blir slutet för oss, säger Maxida Märak.


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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.