This story is co-published with Indian Country Today and is part of The Human Cost of Conservation, a Grist series on Indigenous rights and protected areas.
The rivers that run through the steep valleys and rocky cliffs of the Laponian Area are fed by crystalline alpine lakes and glacial streams. Many of the forests that tower over the land have stood for more than 700 years and teem with wildlife. In the spring and summer, when the midnight sun traces wide circles across the bright blue sky, crowberries blanket the meadows and yellow globe flowers dot the snow-capped peaks.
In those warm months, this region in the far north of Sweden provides a bounty for large migrating herds of reindeer: grass, birch, and herbs. Snow patches in the high mountains provide relief from insects on hot days, and the verdant lowland provides ample grazing as the nights cool. When winter arrives, rivers and marshes ice over, and the reindeer venture south beyond the Laponian Area along well-worn pathways, traveled by generations of Sámi reindeer herders, to wint... Read more