The first time I saw this picture it made me sad, but in these times of colonial oppression supported by a state that sells off the land it settled and stole from the Saami for a share amounting to 1 ‰ of what a mine earns in a year, I cannot afford to be sad, and instead this picture, showing a police officer stomping on the flag of my mother’s people, fills me with rage.
People often seem to forget that we as a people have been and still are treated as second hand citizens, sub-human exotic Others to flaunt at international events where Swedish doesn’t quite cut it if you like. What’s currently going on in Gállok on Lule Saami territories and in Raavrhjohke on South Saami lands emphasises this fact: our rights are not important enough to be listened to, and it is far more important to support a foreign capitalist company that will strip-mine our lands and leave breadcrumbs if that to the local people as a ‘thank you’, and by sending in police officers that use brute force to tear decolonial activists away from their posts, than to respect the wishes of the people who have used this land since time immemorial.
Those who support the mine tend to refer to those of us who don’t as anything from terrorists to pavement Saami – a term used to discredit our right to feel outrage at the destruction of our lands simply because we do not work as reindeer herders – and perhaps most insulting of all as occupants – the true occupants being Settlers and the mining company of course – but what they all fail to realise is that no matter what they call us, we won’t stop fighting for our lands.
The fight in Gállok, as well as the one in Raavrhjohke is often referred to as minor protests, but this is simply not true. The resistance is growing and we’re nearing a point of no return where we, as a people, will rise up in unison and proclaim that enough is enough. Supporters of the mine are scared stiff of the prospect of anti-mining protesters in traditional Saami clothes being forced to leave the place by police, as this would attract media’s attention to the injustices in the area, but if that’s what it takes before the general public reacts, i.e. Saami men and women having their gåptoeh destroyed by police officers dragging them through the mud and dirt in order to make them leave Gállok, then so be it.
Our maadtoe belongs to our ancestors and our children, no amount of quick-fixes in the shape of mines that offer a limited number of jobs for a short period of time stretching no further than 20 years into the future will change our minds. We can stand losing a gapta in this fight, we cannot stand losing our lands.