On a dirt road passing through sparkling lakes and spruce woods in the wilds of northern Sweden, a woman belonging to Europe’s only indigenous people – the Sami – chants a traditional, high-pitched tune. Since the end of the last Ice Age, the Sami have wandered the vast landscapes of northern Europe, herding reindeer and nurturing a philosophy of harmony with nature.
This time, however, the woman’s Joik – a Sami chant that involves gliding over notes without lyrics – has a desperate tone to it: Her voice trembles and grows into a scream as four policemen remove her from the road. She had been protesting a British mining company’s plans to open an open pit mine on ancient lands. The woman is one of dozens of Sami and environmental activists who gathered recently on the site, setting up road blocks, burning bonfires and flying the Sami flag, with the aim to block Beowulf Mining plc from conducting test blasts near the town of Jokkmokk on the Arctic Circle.