Indigenous Peoples’ Customary Laws, Sámi People and Sacred Sites

  • Leena HeinämäkiEmail author
  • Alexandra Xanthaki
Part of the Springer Polar Sciences book series (SPPS)


Although recognized both in the ILO Convention No169 and in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the right of indigenous peoples to maintain their customary laws and systems continues to be a rather unexplored issue in legal literature. Until recently, customary laws of indigenous peoples have mainly been explored by social anthropologists (e.g., Bennet 2006), while largely legal experts still mainly focused on written and codified ‘positive’ law (however, see Weisbrot 1981: 3–4). The recognition of such laws though is really important for indigenous peoples. Embedded in the culture and values of indigenous communities, indigenous customary laws are an intrinsic and central part of their way of life and their identity. They define rights and responsibilities relating to key aspects of their cultures and world views, and guide indigenous communities on a wide range of issues; from the conduct of spiritual life, to land, and to use of and access to resources. Maintaining customary laws can be crucial for the maintenance of the cultural heritage and knowledge systems of indigenous peoples. Indigenous communities all around the world have steadily argued that any legal regime for the protection of their knowledge must be grounded in their own customary laws and practices.


Sami sacred sites Indigenous customary laws and systems Traditional knowledge Sámi customary laws United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law (NIEM), Arctic CentreUniversity of LaplandRovaniemiFinland
  2. 2.Brunel Law SchoolBrunel UniversityLondonUK
  3. 3.University of Arctic Legal Thematic Network on Arctic LawRovaniemiFinland

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