Decolonialisation in the Arctic? Nature Practices and Land Rights in Sub-arctic Norway

Gro B. Ween, Marianne E. Lien

Abstract


Drawing on current changes in nature practices in the County of Finnmark in Northern Norway we reflect upon the ways in which indigenous and non-indigenous locals, in a period of transition, engage with and relate to their environment in a place which is often described by outsiders as remote. Nature and nature activities here remain central to peoples' identity, their belonging and heritage. Nature is regularly cited as the reason for staying when so many people move away.

Nature practices both unite and separate indigenous and non-indigenous locals. The products procured are kept, displayed, and circulated, as part of performances of identity and community. These nature products are invested with morale that protects their circulation from other economic spheres. As we will show, the establishment of the Finnmark property in 2005, cause changes in the relations between locals, land and natural resources. As part of the returning of the Finnmark commons to the people of Finnmark, user rights are to be claimed, documented and formalised. At the same time, the changes of legal structure have implied an opening up of the Finnmark Estate not only to other Norwegians, but also to new groups of tourists that are attracted by wilderness and the prospect of engaging in the same kinds of nature practices enjoyed by the population of Finnmark.

In this article, different uses of nature, for identity and community, for health, as well as for the appreciation of history, memory, and heritage are seen in perspective of new nature-tourism opportunities. Nature tourism is both increasingly present as an opportunity to stay where one is, and live off the same resources in new ways. It is however also something that people are unable to avoid, as the Finnmark property opens the commons and its resources for all.

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.

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