Integrating Sámi culture in the narrative of Røros mining town and the Circumference World Heritage, Norway

Rørosmuseet Archive
Published: 05 October 2020
Last edited: 06 October 2020
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Røros Mining Town was inscribed in the World Heritage List under criteria (iii), (iv) and (v) in 1980. In 2010, the World Heritage area was extended to include the mining areas and the agricultural landscapes around Røros Mining Town, the Femundshytta melter and the “winter-route”. The area called the Circumference, granted to the mining enterprise by the Danish-Norwegian Crown in 1646, was added as a buffer zone: 2 national parks, Femundsmarka and Forollhogna, and parts of three Sámi reindeer husbandry districts are located within. Because of the lack of written and tangible sources of Sámi practices, the recognition of Sámi environmental knowledge and customary landscape management strategies have been limited in the World Heritage site narrative. Since the extension, a process has started at the management level to include Sámi culture into the interpretation of the site, with a focal point on the Røros museum, which also functions as Røros and the Circumference World Heritage centre.


North Europe
Scale of implementation
Buildings and facilities
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate evergreen forest
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Indigenous people
Land management
Legal & policy frameworks
Outreach & communications
World Heritage
Increasing temperatures
Loss of Biodiversity
Shift of seasons
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Changes in socio-cultural context
Sustainable development goals
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action


Røros, Trøndelag, Norway | Holtålen, Engerdal, Os and Tolga municipalities, Innlandet and Trøndelag Counties, Norway


The central narrative of Røros and the Circumference as a World Heritage site is based on its history as a mining town that spans over 333 years (1644-1977) and the preserved traditional wooden architectural structures. However, Sámi reindeering has been a practice that outdates the copper works in the area. The Sámi understanding and historical relationship with the environment in Røros and the Circumference is not acknowledged in this official narrative, having impacts on the land rights of Sámi communities as well as the continuity of their cultural practices in relation to the natural environment.


Sámi local communities, 5 Municipalities of the World Heritage Site: Røros, Tolga, Holtålen, Engerdal and Os, Innlandet and Trøndelag Counties

How do the building blocks interact?

The process of integrating Sámi culture in the narrative of Røros mining town and the Circumference is embedded in a much larger process for the recognition of Sámi Indigenous Peoples rights. Røros, as a World Heritage (WH) place, calls public attention and represents an important case. Some significant steps in this ongoing process are presented here, showing both approaches and results towards Sámi heritage values recognition. The inclusion of an Indigenous people’s representative at the World Heritage Management Board (BB1) allowed for Sámi people to have a voice in decision-making over their territories located within the WH property. In parallel, the integration of Indigenous people's perspectives in the interpretation of Røros (BB2) was possible with the establishment of a Sámi researcher position at the Røros Museum which also functions as a WH centre. Furthermore, the granting of Sámi management area for language and culture status to the municipality of Røros enable the use of Sámi language in the signage of the WH property (BB4). A space for dialogue about the inclusion of Sámi values was created in the elaboration of the new management plan (BB3), reinforcing the idea about their inclusion in the WH narrative in the future.


The integration of Sámi culture into the narrative of Røros and the Circumference World Heritage is an ongoing effort which has given some fruits:

  1. Sámi culture and understanding of landscape is being included in the interpretation of the heritage place with a several temporary exhibitions in the Røros museum, the last one in 2017-2018. (;
  2. Projected inclusion of Sámi values in the management of the World Heritage property (2021);
  3. The management plan for 2019-2023 proposed the creation of a new permanent position for a conservator specialist on Sámi buildings and places (proposed to be funded by the Sámi parlament) in the  Røros museum.


Rørosmuseet Archive

The Røros Sámi area extends from Meråker in the North to Engerdal in the South and Trollheimen in the West. Reindeer herding, Sámi language and handicrafts are key elements of Sámi culture. In 2017, the Røros museum inaugurated the exhibition “Voices from the South – Røros Sámi society and a new age” for the 100-year anniversary of the first Sámi Congress held in Trondheim in 1917. 

For the Norwegian national movement, agriculture was the symbol of the nation, and Sámi culture did not fit into this picture. Scientific theories and powerful political forces resulted in new laws, which benefited farmers at the expense of Sámi rights. Sámi existence was seriously threatened and the nomadic way of life was gradually abandoned. This led to big changes in Sámi society. 

In the southernmost part of Sápmi especially, reindeer grazing areas were severely restricted, and Sámi language and culture came under extreme pressure. The impact of the ‘Lapp laws’ and regulation of reindeer herding at the end of the 19th century meant that many Sámi wanted to strengthen their rights. Strong political engagement led to the first national congress of the Sámi population in Trondheim in 1917. The establishment of Sámi organisations at the beginning of the 20th century was seen as an important way of bringing about change.

Yet, the fight for Sámi rights is far from over. Everyday life for many Sámi is still affected by old laws and a majority of the society continues to see the world from a Norwegian perspective. At the same time, much has happened in the last 30 years which points into a more positive direction, and the Sámi population in Norway is now recognised as an Indigenous people.

40 exhibits were on loan from the Norsk Folkemuseum ( The objects were collected in the period 1889-1950. Many of the objects tell of a nomadic way of life, which was undergoing dramatic change in 1917. The artifacts from the folk museum had never been shown in the area where they were collected, and the anniversary was a good opportunity to show them both for the Sámi people and other inhabitants of the region.

The exhibition was very well received by the general audience, and it was especially significant for Sámi, who could see the objects of their ancestors back in the place where they came from. 



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Torfinn Rohde

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ICCROM-IUCN World Heritage Leadership