Photo: Atle Staalesen

Court case between Swedish reindeer herders and the State of Norway: Trying the validity of “Lapp Codicil”

For thirteen years, there has been no reindeer herding agreement on the grazing of reindeer across the border between Sweden and Norway. In Sweden, reindeer herders view the 1751 Lapp Codicil as still valid.
November 09, 2018


Text by Inger-Elle Suoninen


At the end of October, a court case was started between the Saarivuoma Sámi Village in Sweden and the State of Norway. The Saarivuoma herders’ village grazes its reindeer in the municipality of Kiruna but also in Norway. The Sámi Village is of the opinion that they are entitled to graze their herd in Norway throughout the year. 

The Talma Sámi Village in Sweden has also sued the State of Norway for its right to graze reindeer in Norway.

 According to Niila Inga, the Chair of the Swedish Sámi organization Svenska Samernas Riksförbund, the goal is to have negotiations on a new grazing agreement started.

A Norwegian-Swedish grazing agreement that regulated grazing accross the border entered into force in 1972. In 2005, this Reindeer Herding Convention expired.


Niila Inga says that, after 2005, the herders have obeyed the provisions of the 1751 Lapp Codicil, which was signed when the national borders between Norway (then part of Denmark) and Sweden were defined. Inga understands that the State of Norway views the Lapp Codicil as being no longer valid.


Niila Inga is chair of Svenska Samernas Riksförbund. Photo: Anne-Maret Blind, Sameradion & SVT Sápmi


In 2009, Norway and Sweden signed a new Reindeer Herding Convention, but it has not yet been passed. According to Inga, the process has been halted, but the herders try to make the ministers start dealing with the issue again.

«It seems that the State of Norway doesn’t want to proceed with the agreement. I don’t know why this is so, but there has been no progress on this issue,» Inga says.

 Is the Lapp Codicil in force at present?

Historian and Dr.Ph. Steinar Pedersen says that the reindeer herding agreements between Norway and Sweden have always been based on the Lapp Codicil. Pedersen chooses his words carefully when he is asked whether the Lapp Codicil can be applied in the present situation.

«I understand it so that if the laws that are based on the Lapp Codicil expire or are no longer valid, they will be replaced by the former legal provisions – in this case the Lapp Codicil,» Pedersen says.

According to Pedersen, legal experts are the ones to provide answers to what the impact of the Lapp Codicil is in a concrete situation like the one we have today.

Pedersen says, for example, that the Lapp Codicil has never been officially made invalid as concerns the border between Norway and Finland. 


What is the Lapp Codicil?

Sweden and Norway agreed on determining their border in 1751 in the Treaty of Strömstad, and, in connection with this treaty, an amendment known as the Lapp Codicil was signed. The Codicil consists of thirty paragraphs dealing with the rights of Sámi that migrate accross the borders.

The Codicil provided these Sámi with a variety of rights. For example, they had the right

  • to choose their nationality;
  • to be neutral in times of war;
  • to unconditionally use the lands and waters of the other state for a small compensation; and
  • to practice reindeer herding, the main activity.

Finland was part of Sweden and Norway part of Denmark when the agreement was signed. The Codicil also granted the Sámi of Utsjoki and Inari a full and permanent right to free trade in Norway. 



Translated from Sámi by Kaija Anttonen

This story is originally posted by Yle Sapmi and re-published as part of Eyes on Barents, a collaborative partnership between news organizations and bloggers in the Barents region



The Barents Observer Newsletter

After confirming you're a real person, you can write your email below and we include you to the subscription list.

Privacy policy