• Novosibirsk State University expands project framework on indigenous peoples of Siberia
  • International Polar Year 2007-2008
  • The IASSA IPY Facilitation Initiative
  • Social and economic problems of the indigenous population of the Magadanskaya Oblast, with the example of the Ola village
  • The Ola village
  • Lack of economic resources
  • Today, only about one third of the indigenous work force of the Magadanskaya Oblast work in traditional economic branches. Unemployment
  • Promises and reality
  • The Concept stands
  • The nomadic camp “Neltenke”
  • Keepers of ethnic arts and crafts

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    Keepers of ethnic arts and crafts

    L.G. Ignatenko, President of Union of Communities of Northern indigenous peoples of Kamchatka “Yayar”

    A cultural training project, “Ethnic Arts and Crafts”, has been started up in the Elizovo District of Kamchatka. It has been initiated by the head of the public Union of Communities of Northern Indigenous Peoples of Kamchatka “Yayar”, L.G. Ignatenko, on request of the clan communities “Aleskam” in the villages of Razdolnyy, “Koyana” in Koryaki, “Kamyak”, “Kam-Avva” and “Arguch” in Elizovo, and primary organisations in the villages of Lesnoy, Nikolaevka, etc.

    The Project is financially supported by the UNDP/GEF. Activities are threefold: woodcarving, weaving with natural materials, and ethnic products of leather, fur and beads. Every Saturday and Sunday people join with pleasure in their selected working circles. Work takes place in the Children's House of Creative Work kindly hired out to us by the director of the centre, Irina Borisovna Savina. It should be noted that people not only receive skills, but also in a relaxed way communicate in the native language of our ancestors – Itelmen. In conversations they recollect interesting histories, customs, recipes, tell about herbs, berries for gathering, catching fish, about preparation of meat, fur, leather, etc.

    We are so lucky that the teachers who work with us are native speakers, and also keepers of the traditional culture of the peoples of Kamchatka. One of them, Viktor Viktorovich Ryzhkov, teaches the course in woodcarving. He is an outstanding person who on his own has mastered working with fur, leather, wood, metal, and even ceramics, which our people have done for ages. For many years he has collected songs, fairy- tales, and legends of the native peoples of Kamchatka, and he has made an audio- and a video-archive of many keepers of the traditional culture of Kamchatka. But his most important quality is that he has studied the Itelmen language towards perfection, and he is invited to communities to teach it. Viktor Ryzhkov enjoys an enormous authority among the native people of southern Kamchatka. This is probably why both adults and teenagers work with him, and he appeals to everybody. And although work has only been done for two months, the first “best pupils” have already appeared: Grandfather and grandson Anisimov from the community “Kamyak” in Elizovo, and also a person from the community “Kam-Avva”, Nataliya Stanovaya of the well-known clan Novograblenov, which is trying very hard to adopt the skill of woodcarving. The results can already be seen.

    The head of the “Weaving of natural materials” course, Lidiya Innokentevna Chechulina, also deserves praise. Very few people own such rare gifts today. Lidia Chechulina is a carrier and the keeper of Koryak culture, who also perfectly masters throat singing, and knows traditional songs from native places. She is frequently invited to international conferences, where she not only tells about the people and culture of the Koryaks, and in general about the population of northern Koryakiya, but she also conducts training courses in many disciplines: work with natural materials such as leather, fur, and beads, weaving of sedges, sea grass, ivan-tea, and nettles; all crafts, which must be revived from scratch. Lidiya Chechulina also has her “best schoolgirls”: Elena Posvolskaya from Vilyuchiysk, Nadezhda Tokareva from Elizovo, and Viktoria Fedotova from Koryaki – an elder who wants to become skilled in weaving despite her age, and has made great progress.

    The leader of the “Fur, leather and bead crafts” course, Zinaida Pavlovna Zaeva, also deserves much attention. The best results in her group are from Valentina Anatolevna Mashikhina from the “Arguch” community in Elizovo, and from Svetlana Anatolevna Kislova.

    We will certainly leave a good legacy to our children and grandchildren. Yu. Kashnikova, the coordinator of our courses, with whom we began and organised this vital work, was right when he said: “We have lost much during the past years, which have been so difficult for our country. But the living soul cannot live without art, cultural roots, and native traditions”.

    Novosibirsk State University expands project framework on indigenous peoples of Siberia
    Viktoria Churikova (http://www.ngs.ru/ip)

    A joint project of the Novosibirsk State University (NSU) and UNESCO, “Expansion of opportunities of indigenous peoples of Siberia to receive higher education”, has received a grant from the European Union.

    The project has existed for just over one year. Its aim is to counteract discrimination against the indigenous peoples of Siberia, to increase their social status, self-esteem and self-reliance by means of special educational programs and the creation of organisations that would work for such goals.

    Specific goals of the project are the development of the linguistics and culture of indigenous peoples of Siberia, the training of highly qualified indigenous staff for preservation and development of their languages, the raising of awareness about their cultures, and the inclusion of their culture and languages into the global knowledge pool. This work goes along with educating indigenous leaders at a higher level, to make them capable of asserting the rights of their people within the Russian state authorities.

    NSU is trying to increase study places and social opportunities for young representatives of the indigenous peoples of Siberia. For children and teenagers at the age of 5-15 years an educational model based on a dialogue between the cultures will be created. For youth of 16-30 years a special system of recruitment, examination entry and undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate education will be developed at NSU.

    An outcome of the project will be a model of tolerant interaction to facilitate the distribution of information on indigenous cultures, to bring the indigenous peoples of Siberia further towards justice, and to increase their participation in civil society.

    A concrete tool to realise the project in remote areas is the creation of contact branches in places of concentrated indigenous habitation. Contact branches are intended for remote training, consultation and regular communication with representatives of the educational sphere in a given sub-area. They are equipped with computers and provide access to the Internet.

    Within the first three months it is planned to open such a contact branch in the office of the Union of Itelmen Clans, to carry out corresponding “Olympics” on mathematics among schoolchildren, and to select the representative Itelmen people for a three-weeks’ training course at the Summer School of Computer Science and Programming at the Maximum College of Computer Science at NSU.

    The persons in charge of the contact branch, President of the Union, Pëtr Bekkerov, and the NSU teacher, Viktoria Churikova, started their work at the 5thth Congress of Arctic Social Sciences in Fairbanks, Alaska, 19-23 May 2004. Participation in sessions and discussions with experts working in Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia and other countries has helped to give to the project real substance. Talks at the sessions on education, history of the eastern and western Pacific, and also on preservation of traditional wildlife management in protected territories led to discussions and new useful contacts.

    In the main building of the University at Fairbanks, where the conference was held, a stand was placed, which showed the results of the NSU project and exhibited recent literature. Special attention was attracted by dolls representing the ‘numerically-small’ indigenous peoples of Siberia, made by children in Russia.

    International Polar Year 2007-2008

    Preparations are underway for a new large-scale international program in polar research known as “International Polar Year 2007-2008,” or IPY. IPY will include several months of intense research activities, followed by data analysis, publication, and discussions. IPY will be organised jointly by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Several international science bodies – including IASSA – have endorsed the IPY initiative and are engaged in its planning.

    This will be the fourth IPY; the first one was in 1882-83, the second in 1932-33, and the third in 1957-58. This IPY, however, will be the first one with a clearly defined social science and humanities component, thanks to the efforts of an IASSA taskforce of twenty social scientists formed at the 5th International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences in Fairbanks in May. IASSA has also nominated Igor Krupnik and Grete Hovelsrud-Broda to serve on the main planning body, the IPY Joint Committee (IPY JC).

    On 5 November 2004, the ICSU Secretariat issued an invitation for submission of expressions of intent (pre-proposals) from scientific groups and individual scholars for prospective endorsement by the IPY JC. The deadline is 14 January 2005.
    Social Science Theme

    The IPY will include a broad range of activities organised around a select number of scientific themes. Thanks to IASSA efforts, a social science theme has been added – to investigate the cultural, historical, and social processes that shape the sustainability of circumpolar human societies, and to identify their unique contributions to global cultural diversity and citizenship.

    Priority issues to be addressed in the IPY 2007-2008 under this theme include:

    • How can the “wellness” of polar environments be studied in terms of changing socio-political conditions and the health of ecosystems?

    • What has been the effectiveness of governance regimes in polar regions, and how can these respond to the divergent and rapidly evolving cultural and socio-economic systems?

    • What research methodologies are best suited to an interdisciplinary understanding of the fundamental links between ecosystems, economies and cultural diversity? How can polar residents become more instrumental in shaping these activities; and how can social sciences, humanities, and fine arts communicate this understanding to diverse audiences?

    • What are the key human health and medical issues in polar regions? How, for example, are diseases carried into polar communities and how is community health affected by environmental change?

    • How can historical studies and records of the polar regions enhance understanding of contemporary social and cultural problems?

    • What do the polar societies contribute to global cultural diversity and the political status of indigenous people worldwide?

    The IASSA IPY Facilitation Initiative

    To facilitate the submission of arctic social science and humanities expressions of intent (pre-proposals) to the ICSU, IASSA has launched an initiative to create a vigorous exchange of ideas, discussion, and active communication. To learn more and/or participate, please go to:

    Internet links:
    IASSA IPY Facilitation Initiative (http://www.uaf.edu/anthro/iassa/ipysubmitform.htm)
    IPY Idea Submissions to IASSA (http://www.uaf.edu/anthro/iassa/ipysubmissions.htm)
    IASSA IPY News (http://www.uaf.edu/anthro/iassa/ipynews.htm)
    IASSA IPY Task-group (http://www.uaf.edu/anthro/iassa/ipytask.htm)
    Links to Other IPY Sites (http://www.uaf.edu/anthro/iassa/ipylinks.htm)

    Contact: Anne Sudkamp, e-mail: fyiassa@uaf.edu.



    Social and economic problems of the indigenous population of the Magadanskaya Oblast, with the example of the Ola village
    by Winfried Dallmann (Norwegian Polar Institute, Tromsø), mainly based on material collected by:

    M.T. Yaschenko (coordinator of economic development of indigenous peoples, Ola), I.M. Yaschenko (economist, chairman of clan community “Nevte”, Ola), and A.P. Yakushkova (Ola Village Organisation of Northern Indigenous Peoples)

    The Magadanskaya Oblast (Magadan Region) in the Russian Far East experienced a more than 40 % drop in its population, especially at the end of the 1990s, from 397,310 (census 1989) to 227,200 inhabitants (Jan. 2001, Goskomstat). As many of the people leaving the region were educated personnel, this clearly had a major effect on the social and economic situation of the region. At the same time the number of inhabitants belonging to Northern indigenous peoples was slowly rising, from 5283 (census 1989) to approximately 6100 now; this means a doubling of the percentage, from 1.3 % to 2.6 %.

    The Ola village

    The Ola village in the Olskiy District, situated about 20 miles east of the town of Magadan, is offi­cially recognised as a place of con­centrated (“compact”) indige­nous habita­tion. Out of a total population of ca. 6400, the indige­nous portion con­stitutes 715, or 11 %. These inhabitants belong to the Even, Kam­chadal, Yupik (Eski­mo), Chuk­chi, Orochi, Shor, Chuvan, and Itelmen peoples, with Evens forming the largest and autochthonous portion. From the earliest time the traditional occupation of native people in this area has been fishing, which still plays a role in all indigenous economic enterprises and clan com­mu­nities of the village. Seven enterprises in the village have the status of “Economic Subject of Aboriginal People”, and there are six recognised clan communities (“obschiny”).

    Lack of economic resources

    The main problem for the majority of the indigenous economies is lack of own capital, no access to loans at low interest rates, and difficulties obtaining a fishing quota. These problems are urgent as they are closely interconnected. The absence of a firm materialistic and technical base for the enterprises decreases their possibility of receiving the commercial quotas, which are distributed on the basis of competition. Applicants cannot participate in a competition unless they can document the necessary technical resources.

    This regulation applies regardless of the fact that indigenous people of the area consider the fish resources as their property since time immemorial. They do not accept that the non-native administration of the area has any right to deprive them of their traditional resources and consequently expel them from their primordial ground. In 2003, dissatisfaction with these conditions led to an action of civil disobedience among village fishers.

    Today, only about one third of the indigenous work force of the Magadanskaya Oblast work in traditional economic branches.


    The exact number of unemployed aboriginals is unknown, as many of them are not registered at the labour administration. The registered number for the Magadanskaya Oblast as a whole is 12.8 %, but the percentage is higher in the districts with a high proportion of indigenous residents (for the Severo-Evenskiy District 17.5 %, for the Olskiy District 16.9 %). The real number is estimated to be three times higher and may be close to 50 %. Efforts to create new jobs have not been successful, because the indigenous population is passed over by employers, who favour more qualified non-indigenous villagers. Unemployment has marginalised a group within the population, people who were cut off from their traditional occupations and could not adapt to modern society. This group is largely asocial and has a high rate of addiction to alcohol. Their prospective jobs are not in the advanced branches of industry, but in subsidiary production and infrastructure, such as auxiliary workers, loaders, watchmen, and technicians.


    Rayon (district)




























































    Total of Magadanskaya Oblast (Region)






    Social distribution of the indigenous population in the Magadanskaya Oblast accor­ding to numbers provided by regional administration and indigenous peoples’ organisations. The real unemployment rate is thought to be much higher; only registered un­employed persons are listed.
    Another problem is that of housing conditions. In the Ola village, 27 indigenous families have registered at the village administration that they wish to improve their housing conditions. Two families do not have their own accommodation at all, while 22 families need major renovation of their apartments. The real number of families in need of better conditions is much higher. Many do not even apply to the village administration, because things happen far too slowly and they do not expect any help.

    Promises and reality

    Family units


    Families with more than one child


    Total number of children


    Children of pre-school age


    Children of school age


    Total number of students (middle- and high-school)


    Persons with completed middle-school education


    Persons with completed middle-school education


    Retired persons


    Total number of handicapped persons


    Handicapped adults


    Handicapped children


    Social distribution of the indigenous population in the Ola village.
    In April 2004 leaders of indigenous enterprises and clan communities of the Magadanskaya Oblast met to discuss the situation. The oblast administration offered to establish an Initiative Group at the governor’s office to develop a concept to improve the employment situation for the indigenous population of the area. The news was reflected in the press, so the public could read that something would be done.

    The inhabitants of native villages were sceptical towards this news, taking into account the critical condition and the problems concerned with these villages (Yamsk, Takhtoyamsk, Gadlya, Orotuk, etc.). The idea of creating a programme for the development of indigenous peoples of the North based on individual communities had been worked with for a long time, and the Programme of Revival of the Native Settlement Orotuk was soon worked out. However, when the Initiative Group delivered a proposal, the interest of the administration had waned and the proposal was rejected.

    The Concept stands

    To preserve the traditional way of life, employment of the native population must be based on their interest in helping themselves, their families and relatives. Therefore, we expect obligatory participation of village inhabitants in maintaining employment through the establishment of clan communities, small business enterprises, and individual labour.

    When developing a Concept, emphasis must be placed on actions which will promote the creation of new employment opportunities, particularly in remote areas.

    The recent approval of the Directive titled “About the procedure and conditions of competitions for financial support of ‘Economic Subjects of Aboriginal People’ and Clan Communities of the Magadanskaya Oblast” does not aid in solving unemployment among indigenous people, because it is limited to providing continuing financial support to existing enterprises.

    The Directive is convenient for strong enterprises, while the chance for weaker enterprises to receive financial support is almost nil. These are hardly able to raise the necessary funds to even register their projects. There is a paradox in that while we are trying to solve a problem, we build new barriers on the way to solve it.

    In Magadanskaya Oblast, a total of 50 ‘Economic Subjects of Aboriginal People’ and Clan Communities are registered. Nevertheless, nearly two thirds of these registered enterprises do not receive their share of quota in coastal fishery. Why? The answer is simple: all enterprises which passed competition, are the personal enterprises of public leaders and administration officers. It is easy for them to pass this competition, and it is also obvious that the above-mentioned Financial Support Directive is mainly intended for themselves, and not as a benefit to the simple natives.

    The Russian saying “Rescue of the drowning is a task for those who drown” may as well be applied to the Initiative Group, which put forward the idea of a Concept of Actions. The Concept is aimed at sustainable development of indigenous peoples. This means promoting the economic development in the region and an harmonious development of production, social sphere, population and environment.

    The group has established a “Coordination Center for Social and Economic Development of Northern Indigenous Peoples and Old Settlers” to improve the situation by creating real conditions to increase the employment possibilities of the indigenous population.

    The purpose of the Center is to study the marketing of production and services, to establish promising branches, and to help to develop business plans. Within this framework, the Center will primarily help communities and business people, beginning with a business planning and strategy concept. The next step is to design business planning, search for investors, and to support the project in every way possible.

    employment categories

    out of these: traditional occupations

    state authorities




    municipal auth.




















    Distribution of indigenous work force in the Magadanskaya Oblast; numbers indicate employed persons.
    On the one hand, support by and participation of the state is necessary, for instance the provision of grants to support traditional economies. Actions to protect the environment are urgently needed, for instance allocation of territories sufficient for traditional wildlife management. On the other hand, vocational training of indigenous individuals is necessary to prepare them for working with the economic and administrative staff, so that they can contribute to adjusting traditional indigenous economies to the market economic system.

    The basic purpose of the Concept is the creation of conditions for a sustainable development of indigenous peoples based on self-supply. This must be pursued by working simultaneously on many different levels, including—but not restricted to—traditional management, the resource and industrial base, spiritual and cultural development, improvement of education, and health issues.

    For further information on this Concept, please contact:

    Mikhail T. Yaschenko, RUS-686010 Magadanskaya Oblas, pos. Ola, ul. Lesnaya, 3-a, kv. 4, phone ( 7) 41341-25271, e-mail: cadar@netman.ru.

    The nomadic camp “Neltenke”
    Yu.A. Sleptsov

    Camp “Neltenke” is a nomadic camp established to revive the traditional way of life, language, spiritual culture and customs of the indigenous Even people. The name “Neltenke”, or “Sun” in English, was thought of and selected by the young children – Camp Neltenke’s future pupils.

    • to attract the coming generation of Even children to a Northern indigenous way of life and work;

    • to study the native Even language under the conditions of a nomadic life and its application in daily life;

    • to invite young people to develop skills in the area of nomadic reindeer breeding and experience life under extreme conditions;

    • to make clear the problems of Northern indigenous peoples and northern territories through publication of a bulletin and through mass media.

    Camp “Neltenke” is located in the Momsk District of Yakutia, in the upper reaches of the river Arga-Tirekhtyakh, in the territory of the reindeer-breeding unit “Choloy” of the State Unitary Enterprise “Momskiy”.

    In 2000, the camp was visited by eighteen Even children in the 4 to 17 years age group. The children came from the Khonuu settlement, of the village Kulun-Elbyut and the town of Yakutsk. Ten of the children came from single-parent households or socially challenged families, and four children were under the protection of the Child Care Department. In 2001, nineteen Even children between 7 and 17 years of age from Khonuu, Kulun-Elbyut and Yakutsk participated. Three of these had handicapped parents, eight were from single-parent households, two came from large families, and two were orphans.

    The main purpose was to study and learn the native Even language and ancestral customs. The teacher (E.N. Gerasimov) applied the language training techniques used in pre-schools. The children studied every day for 1-2 hours and practiced speaking Even with each other after school; i.e., during meal preparations, camp work and breaks. The children quickly learned to master the most common words used in ordinary conversation. They also learned songs and rhyme, to help them to understand and remember words. To begin with, the children hardly spoke or remembered any of the language and had to use notes to read. But by end- summer, the children both read, remembered and understood much of the dialogues, and carried on Even conversations without notes.

    Before the camp started, some parents had felt ashamed of the fact that their children did not know their own native language. After the children returned from “Neltenke”, the parents expressed great pleasure in their children’s knowledge of the Even language, and they were no longer ashamed. This was the highest distinction paid to the project participants.

    An examination carried out at the end of the season showed very good results: the children had begun to speak and understand their native language. When visiting Momsk and the village Kulun-Elbyut again, E.N. Bokova, one of camp employees, happily informed me that children who had participated in the camp, were accepted at high school faculties.

    In addition to the Even language, children studied extreme survival techniques, how to use portable radio sets and fire-arms, and orientation and they learned ancestral customs and place-names. Their ancestors named places according to their properties and features, and knowledge of places is especially important for future reindeer breeders. The children studied basic occupational safety, transportation, and crossing of mountain passes. They distinguished between and gathered various sorts of berries. Mountain cranberries, blueberries, black and red currant, cloudberries, crowberries and arctic blackberries grew in the camp vicinity. Older children went hunting and fishing together with the instructors. Children liked the salty fish prepared according to my recipe. When I salted a fish, children sat around and watched with great interest. We caught mainly grayling, as there practically was no other fish.

    The children who visited the places of their nomadic ancestors, not only relaxed, but also received a charge of vivacity for the whole year. They also played various sport games with pleasure.

    I would like to explain one of the Even games. Games using rocks were especially interesting. Using rocks of various size and colours, the children constructed miniature nomad camps staffed with people and reindeer. Through this game they learned the order of things in place and time in nomadic camps, where the clan leader, the reindeer breeders, their families and housings should be, depending on the location of the pastures, etc. This game made helped the children understand their heritage, and to accumulate knowledge of the unwritten laws of a rough, nomadic life.

    The children also learned how to store meat the traditional way by preparing fresh meat and hanging it out on pegs and smoking it for preservation and storage.

    Children were trained in many other skills necessary for a nomadic lifestyle. These skills will undoubtedly, be useful to them in their future lives. In the end, the camp fulfilled its purpose: children became professional reindeer breeders, learned to express themselves in their native language, and acquired all the necessary working skills necessary for a nomadic lifestyle.

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