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Petition: Protect a Sacred Sami Site

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  • Lessard, George
    _____________________________________________ Message: 1 Date: Fri, 03 May 2002 11:49:28 -0700 From: Rauna & Philip Subject: Petition:
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2002
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      Message: 1
      Date: Fri, 03 May 2002 11:49:28 -0700
      From: Rauna & Philip <rauna&philip@...>
      Subject: Petition: Protect a Sacred Sami Site

      Dear Friends,

      Please find below a Petition to Stop the Destruction of a Sami Sacred
      Site in Northern Finland. Please take time to read this and email us as
      your means of signing onto this petition. We need your
      Name/Organizational Name and Region or Location. You can also contact
      the municipality of Utsjoki by fax, email or mail to request a halt to
      its plans that would violate the sacredness of the site. We can provide
      you with further information in this regard.

      In northern Finland, homeland of the Sami, Europe's indigenous people,
      an ancient sacred site called Suttesaja is being threatened with water
      prospecting and a group of concerned Sami are looking for international
      assistance to prevent their local government developing a partnership
      with a private company to export water on a substantial scale. This will
      irreversibly alter a site that has been of spiritual importance to the
      Sami. We are looking for the support of your organisation to assist our
      campaign which intends to prevent the development of this water 'mine'.
      If we can gather enough names and organisations that support the halting
      of the project, particularly at the international level, we feel that we
      have a good chance of preventing the project from further development.

      Thank you for your support and aid in fighting this threat to the
      sacredness of Suttesaja. Please contact us if you have any questions or


      Rauna Kuokkanen


      Drafted May 1, 2002

      We, the undersigned would like to voice our support for the efforts of
      Sami who oppose the development of water prospecting at Suttesaja, an
      ancient sacred site and a natural spring. We are aware that Suttesaja
      is a Sami site of spiritual, historical and ecological significance
      and commercial development there of any kind would irreparably harm the

      All over the world, Indigenous peoples sacred sites are under attack by
      mining, logging and development. Much of this destruction can be
      directly attributed to and a result of the legacies of colonialism. Many
      people look to Scandinavia as having an exemplary record when it comes
      to human rights. For the Utsjoki municipality to go ahead would be a
      devastating blow not only to the reputation the region has earned, but
      will send a signal around the world that the local administration has no
      respect for the cultural and spiritual rights of the indigenous people
      of the region.

      We would like to draw attention to article 13 of the United Nations
      Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states:

      "Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and
      teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies;
      the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their
      religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of
      ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of human remains.
      States shall take effective measures, in conjunction with the indigenous
      peoples concerned, to ensure that indigenous sacred places, including
      burial sites, be preserved, respected and protected."

      We would also like to draw the attention to the fact that all over the
      world there are concerns about the long term consequences of the
      commodification of water. Current international trade agreements may
      limit the municipality's ability to maintain control over the trade in
      their own water. In July of 2001 in Vancouver, Canada, an Indigenous
      declaration on water was issued, which stated,

      "As Indigenous Peoples, we raise our voices in solidarity to speak for
      the protection of Water. The Creator placed us on this earth, each in
      our own sacred and traditional lands, to care for all of creation. We
      have always governed ourselves as Peoples to ensure the protection and
      purity of Water. We stand united to follow and implement our knowledge,
      laws and self-determination to preserve Water, to preserve life. Our
      message is clear: Protect Water Now!"

      In other words, local communities are recognizing the spiritual and
      ecological importance of water and the importance of not treating water
      as simply another commodity. Water is life, Suttesaja is a spiritual
      site, and to thoughtlessly tamper with either is gravely irresponsible.

      We, the undersigned urge the municipality of Utsjoki to carefully
      reconsider their plans to develop water exports from Suttesaja.


      In April of 2001, the municipality of Utsjoki (Finland's northernmost
      municipality, in the heart of the Sami home region) announced that
      thanks to funding from the provincial environmental body and the
      European Union, a study of the potential for natural spring water export
      was being undertaken. With its sparse population and seemingly endless
      supply of fresh water, the region has an obvious appeal for water
      prospectors. Not only that, Suttesaja ('stream that does not freeze
      over' in the Sami language) is the largest natural spring in Finland.

      The municipality of Utsjoki has not taken this right into their
      consideration but ignored the views of the local people. The
      municipality arranged an information sharing event only after half a
      year after starting the project and only year later, due to the local
      pressure, decided to conduct a study on the cultural significance of
      Suttesaja. Unfortunately, it hired for this work a person who publicly
      announced their support for water prospecting.

      The municipality of Utsjoki has not conducted a full and proper
      consultation with the local people who are affected by this proposed
      project. Further, the municipality has continued its plans despite the
      fact that six local Sami officially demanded stopping the
      commercialization of Suttesaja by referring to Articles 11 and 17 of
      the Finnish constitution which confirm the indigenous status of the Sami
      and to Article 27 of the international Convention on Civic and Political
      Rights which protects the rights of the individual to practice their

      There are several kinds of rights tied to Suttesaja such as the right to
      cultural, spiritual and historical heritage. The question of Suttesaja
      is also connected to land rights which in the Sami region remains
      unresolved. In other words, the municipality of Utsjoki is not legally
      entitled to make any decisions on the use of the regions resources until
      the land title of that area has been resolved.

      Moreover, the natural spring of Suttesaja is also of extreme ecological
      importance to the region. It comprises part of the Deatnu/Tana/Teno
      watershed, home to Europe's largest salmon river and is an integral part
      of the local wetlands ecosystem.

      Write to: Aulis Nordberg, Chair of the Executive Committee, PL 41,
      Municipality of Utsjoki, 99980 Utsjoki, Finland. Fax: Fax:
      email: aulis.nordberg@...
      Please copy your letters to <suttesaja@...>

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