Comparative Arctic Indigenous Governance



Mål og innhald

Norway, Sweden, Finland and Canada have much in common. All are highly developed liberal democracies. All include sparsely populated, resource-rich, Northern frontiers. And all are settler-colonial, comprising indigenous peoples absorbed by the state without consent.

Yet these states also differ. Canada is federal; the Nordic states are unitary. In the Nordic states, settlers and indigenous peoples are highly intermixed; in Canada many indigenous populations remain separate. And while Canada has seen intense judicial conflict concerning individual and indigenous rights, such legal battles have been less prominent in Nordic states.

For all of these reasons, the Nordic states and Canada provide fertile territory to explore the rapidly evolving field of indigenous governance.

This course aims to undertake that exploration using a comparative approach. Particular focus will be placed on the opportunities and challenges facing indigenous governance in unitary versus federal states; the challenges of indigenous autonomy where settler and indigenous populations are mixed; and the conflicts arising between indigenous and individual rights.

This course consists of twelve sections. Section One introduces the indigenous peoples of the Nordic states and Canada. Sections Two and Three explore theories and praxis of liberalism, multinational governance and settler-colonialism. Section Four to Six adress Sami territorial and /or political autonomy in Norway (and Sweden and Finland). Section Seven to Nine examine First Nations, Inuit and Metis territorial and/or political autonomy in Canada. Sections Ten and Eleven explore salient, topical Indigenous-governance issues currently in the news. Finally, Section Twelve seeks to synthesize the preceding sections, emphasizing the most important differences between Canada and Norway (and Sweden and Finland). 


Upon completion of the course the student should be able to:


  • define and understand the indigenous field and the core debates within the field
  • demonstrate extensive knowledge about different indigenous peoples of the North and the main reasons for the different position and governance structure in the Nordic Countries and in the countries further west
  • explain the different perspectives of indigenous peoples both within and across such groups
  • explain and understand the different space open to indigenous peoples in federal vs. unitary states


  • identify, analyze and reflect upon arguments and positions put forward in contemporary debates on the status and position of indigenous people
  • assess claims made by researchers, indigenous groups, politicians and governmental bodies
  • demonstrate knowledge about strengths and weaknesses of theories and positions and why these theories and positions exists in the first place

General competence

  • critically relate concepts and perspectives on Arctic indigenous governance to new situations and developments, and being able to engage in debates with others on implications, solutions and recommendations.
  • understand the importance of the core character of a political systems for the space open for indigenous groups

Studiepoeng, omfang


Studienivå (studiesyklus)



Krav til forkunnskapar
Tilrådde forkunnskapar
Krav til studierett
Open for all students at the University of Bergen.
Arbeids- og undervisningsformer
12 lectures
Obligatorisk undervisningsaktivitet

One 10 hour take home exam

The exam will be given in the language in which the course is taught.

The exam can be submitted in English, Norwegian, Swedish or Danish.

The grading scale used is A to F. Grade A is the highest passing grade in the grading scale; grade F is a fail.

Assessment in teaching semester

Re-take exams are arranged for students with valid absence according to § 5-5 of the Study Regulations at UiB. If a retake exam are arranged for students with valid absence, students with the following results can also register:

  • Interruption during the exam
  • Fail/Not passed

 If you qualify for the retake exam and a retake exam is arranged for students with valid absence, you can register yourself in Studentweb after August 1.

The reading list will be ready before 1 December for the spring semester.
All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses.
Administrativt ansvarleg
The Department of Comparative Politics at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course and the programme.