Finnmark Act
The Finnmark Act transferred about 95% (about 46,000 km2) of the area in the Finnmark
or Finnmárku is a county in the extreme northeast of Norway. By land it borders Troms county to the west, Finland to the south and Russia to the east, and by water, the Norwegian Sea to the northwest, and the Barents Sea to the north and northeast.The county was formerly known as Finmarkens...

 county in Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 to the inhabitants of Finnmark. This area is managed by the Finnmark Estate agency.

The Finnmark Estate is managed by a board of directors with six members. Three of these are appointed by the Sami Parliament of Norway
Sami Parliament of Norway
The Sami Parliament of Norway is the representative body for people of Sami heritage in Norway. It acts as an institution of cultural autonomy for the indigenous Sami people....

, and three by the Finnmark County Council. The leader of the board is elected by the Sami Parliament and the County Council in alternating years.


The background for the Finnmark Act is the Sámi people's fight for their rights to manage their land and culture. In 1978 the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate
Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate
The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate is a Norwegian government agency established in 1921. It is under the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and regulates the country's water resources and energy supply. Its mandate includes contingency planning for floods, serving as a centre of...

 published a plan that called for the construction of a dam and hydroelectric power plant that would create an artificial lake and inundate the Sami
Sami people
The Sami people, also spelled Sámi, or Saami, are the arctic indigenous people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. The Sámi are Europe’s northernmost...

 village of Máze
Masi is a village in Kautokeino municipality in Finnmark, Norway.Both names of the village are officially recognized in Norway....

. This plan was met by a strong opposition from the Sámi, and resulted in the Alta controversy
Alta controversy
The Alta controversy refers to a political controversy in Norway in the late 1970s and early 1980s concerning the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in the Alta river in Finnmark, Northern Norway.-Key events:...

. As a result of the controversy, the Norwegian government held meetings in 1980 and 1981 with a Sámi delegation appointed by the Norwegian Sámi Association
Norwegian Sami Association
The Norwegian Sami Association , also known as NSR, is the largest Sámi organization in Norway. The association was founded in 1968.-Purpose:The NSR actively runs cultural, social, and informational work through local groups and Sami associations. In total 24 Sami associations are attached to the...

, the Sámi Reindeer Herders’ Association of Norway and the Norwegian Sámi Council
Sami Parliament of Norway
The Sami Parliament of Norway is the representative body for people of Sami heritage in Norway. It acts as an institution of cultural autonomy for the indigenous Sami people....

. The meetings resulted in the establishment of the Sámi Rights Committee addressing Sámi legal relations, that proposed among other things the establishing the Sami Parliament, and finally the adoption of the Finnmark Act in 2005.

The Sámi rights to lands, waters and resources were strengthened after 1990, when Norway recognized the Sámi as an indigenous people by adapting the ILO convention 169
Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989
Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 is an International Labour Organization Convention, also known as ILO-convention 169, or C169. It is the major binding international convention concerning indigenous peoples, and a forerunner of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.It...

 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. The convention states that rights for the indigenous peoples to land and natural resources are recognized as central for their material and cultural survival. In addition, indigenous peoples should be entitled to exercise control over, and manage, their own institutions, ways of life and economic development in order to maintain and develop their identities, languages and religions, within the framework of the States in which they live.


Traditionally the Norwegian authorities had a view that the nomadic Sámi use of land, water and natural resources did not establish any formal legal rights. The basis for the Finnmark act is that "the Sámis, through protracted traditional use of the land and water areas, have acquired individual and/or collective ownership and right to use lands and waters in Finnmark County."

The Finnmark act attempts to strengthen the Sámi rights, by giving the entire population of Finnmark greater influence of the property in the county. However, the act does not cover fishing rights in saltwater, mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

, or oil rights.

An important element of the act is discussion and recognition of existing rights of use and ownership of land. For this purpose a commission and tribunal have been set up. The foundation of this work is the principles of established custom and immemorial usage. (ibid.)
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