Petition: Protect a Sacred Sami Site
Date: Fri, 03 May 2002 11:49:28 -0700
From: Rauna & Philip <rauna&philip@...>
Subject: Petition: Protect a Sacred Sami Site
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
PETITION TO STOP THE DESTRUCTION OF SUTTESAJA, SAMI SACRED SITE
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:
Please copy your letters to <suttesaja@...>