Protecting the Sacred in the Finnish Sápmi: Settings and Challenges

  • Eija OjanlatvaEmail author
  • Antje Neumann
Part of the Springer Polar Sciences book series (SPPS)


Sacred sites and places, the knowledge and customs connected to these places, are still of significant importance for Sámi people today. They are part of their cultural identity and as such protected by Finnish law. However, current law systems do often not comply with indigenous peoples’ worldviews in general, and with the Sámi concept of sacred sites in particular. Against this background, this chapter investigates by which legal means Sámi sacred sites are protected nowadays in Finland and discusses related problems based on the Finnish Antiquities Act (295/1963). In doings so, the article gives an overview of the main existing domestic legal instruments for protecting Sámi sacred sites and elaborates, in this context, whether and to what extent Sámi sacred sites are specifically recognized in the respective legal framework. More specifically, the practical implementation of the legal protection of Sámi sacred sites under the Antiquities Act is discussed. Today, there are around 50 registered Sámi sacred sites, recognized as ‘ancient monuments’ under this act. These sacred sites are usually nature formations: mountains, lakes, springs, rocks, boulders or islands. Many challenges and problems exist related to their protection; so for example, the difficulty to identify them without ethnographic, historical, linguistic, archaeological or oral sources, or in general without deeper understanding of the Sámi concept of sacred landscapes. Moreover, questions arise of “How do we recognize a Sámi sacred site?”; “What kind of tools is needed when defining a sacred site and its borders?”; or “How can the Sámi knowledge of sacred places maintained and related information protected against the misuse of outsiders, while at the same time ensuring public access to cultural heritage?”


Finnish Antiquities Act Sámi sacred sites Protection of sacred sites Cultural heritage 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SIIDA – Suoma sámiid álbmotmusea|Suomen saamelaisten kansallismuseoNational Museum of the Finnish SámiINARIFinland
  2. 2.Department of European and International Public LawUniversity of TilburgTilburgThe Netherlands

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