“No Consent, No Access” The Indigenous-Environmentalist Middle Ground in Protests against the Arctic Railway in Sápmi [DISSERTATION]

“No Consent, No Access” The Indigenous-Environmentalist Middle Ground in Protests against the Arctic Railway in Sápmi [DISSERTATION]
Eeva-Maija Kakko
University of Helsinki, Masters Thesis, 2021
Abstract
     The Arctic is home to many Indigenous peoples, including the Sámi. It is also an economically attractive area for governments and companies. Arctic Railway has been planned by the Finnish government and private parties to span over Sápmi, the Sámi homeland. Sámi youth association Suoma Sámi Nuorat, Sámi art collective Suohpanterror, and environmental NGO Greenpeace Finland have collaborated to fight against the railway and organized demonstrations and other campaigning.
The goals of this thesis are to find out what kind of themes have been present in these Sámi organizations and Greenpeace’s protests and communication related to the Arctic Railway. Shared priorities and differences in their priorities are also determined. Moreover, this thesis explores how the Sámi are portrayed in the protests against the Arctic Railway. The data of this thesis is derived from public media sources, including news articles, social media content, and press releases. Case study is used as a research approach, and qualitative content analysis is used as a method. A middle ground concept functions as an analytical tool. It refers to a creative process where groups from different cultures find ways to work together. Indigenous peoples and environmentalists have often built strategic alliances, although also having differences in their priorities. In the middle ground, Indigenous peoples are recognized as active, creative agents, but also the use of stereotypes of Indigenous peoples have been present in these kinds of alliances.
The results of this thesis show that the Sámi organizations have discussed the railway´s impacts on the Sámi livelihoods, lands, and culture, affecting their future as a people. They have also brought up that the railway has been planned without their consent, and the project has violated both Finnish law and international Indigenous rights. Greenpeace has focused on protecting the northern forests while raising awareness of Sámi issues and appearing as a supporter of Sámi people. They have had their unique middle ground where both priority differences and convergences have been present.  In the protests against the Arctic Railway, the Sámi are portrayed as active agents. They have taken action in different ways: through demonstrations, participation in international events, art, and social media activism. This research can raise awareness about the potential of Indigenous-environmental alliances in promoting Indigenous rights and environmental protection and help build better alliances in the future. Further research could look at how these kinds of alliances have been negotiated.

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