Statement regarding the Suttesája case

The Saami Council is concerned about the plans to establish a water bottling plant to a cultural heritage site of Suttesája in Ohcejohka (Utsjoki) municipality in Finnish side of Sápmi.


The company plans to withdraw groundwater for commercial purposes. The planned construction at the Suttesája site would comprise boreholes and waterline, bottling facilities, and transportation systems.


Suttesája is a sacred Saami site and has been important for the Saami people on both sides of the norwegian-finnish border for a very long time. Suttesája is also one of the largest natural springs in Europe.


According to the UNDRIP Article 12.1, Saami, as indigenous people, have ”the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites”.


The Saami Council also notes, that one hearing organized by Metsähallitus, does not fulfill the duty to involve and consult the Saami affected in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Article 19 and UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 27.


The Saami Council also reminds that due to strong Christianization in the area, and stigmatization of Saami nature religion, public meetings might not be an effective way to involve the Saami and getting all the views heard on this pre-christian sacred site.


The Saami Council requests that no permission to establish a water bottling plant at Suttesája is given before a cultural, environmental and social impact assessment is made where these and other relevant concerns are adequately addressed. In this process negotiation with the local Saami people is necessary.


The Saami Council suggests that the company would resolve the issue by moving the planned water bottling plant to another place in the area, which is not sacred to Saami. However, it will still be necessary to consult the Saami who might be affected.



Contact person:

Eirik Larsen, Head of Saami Council Human Rights Unit

Tlf. +47 970 80 217