The Sámi are the Indigenous peoples of Sweden. For thousands of years, we’ve lived in Sápmi, the Sámi traditional land that extends across northern Sweden, Norway, and Finland, and into the Kola Peninsula in Russia. I belong to a čearru, one of 51 reindeer-herding communities in the Swedish part of Sápmi that is geographically and economically organized around reindeer herding. I’m not a reindeer herder, but many of my relatives are. The reindeer is central to Sámi culture as a source of food and clothing, and was once used for transportation. It’s also significant in another way—for hundreds of years, the Swedish government has used reindeer to control our society.

Government efforts to regulate the Sámi began in the 17th century, when the state forcibly converted many Sámi to Christianity and encouraged Swedish farmers to move north into our lands. In 1886,...

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