Sacred Sites of Indigenous Peoples: conference and discussion

Several colleagues at Arctic Centre Rovaniemi teamed up with our partners from Inari from the Sámi educational centre to organise a workshop on sacred sites in the Arctic. This was the second in a series of meetings on the topic, the first one having been a conference last September in Pyhätunturi and Rovaniemi.

As participants and organisers reported, the meeting was remarkable, because this time it was mainly our indigenous partners who were active in the discussion. The format was also different from a conference, as there were very few formal presentations, and mostly active discussions. The participants came from at least 3 continents: Europe (Finland, Norway, Russia), Asia (Russia) and America (Canada).

One of the pressing questions discussed there was to what extent sacred places should be revealed to a broader public, or should they better be secret and known only to their active users? Proponents of conservation might say that “we need to know where they are in order to protect them”, whereas the other side might say “you won’t desacrate them unless you know them”. It is remarkable that this is up for discussion among our indigenous partners themselves, and there does not seem a one-fits-all solution.

A discussion here with comments could be very interesting.

Further more I wanted to share a related entry on a different blog, here. Author Evan Sparling thinks that the sacred sites are getting more and more under threat and need to be preserved better – something that was the main topic of the two meetings in Finland too. Especially Arctic Centre researcher Francis Joy presented evidence again for vandalism at sacred sites in northern Europe, much of which, however, may not come from bad intention but rather lack of knowledge among tourists.

I think the workshop in Inari went to the exactly right direction, in empowering people themselves to decide how much they want their places to be known by the rest of the world, and then also considering what this means for possible conservation activities.

One thought on “Sacred Sites of Indigenous Peoples: conference and discussion

  1. Very interesting topic. The Dukha reindeer herders in Mongolia are dealing with new government-imposed regulations that restrict their seasonal migrations to 1/3 of the section of their ancestral homeland which lies on the Mongolian side of the Russia-Mongolia border. Because of this restriction it is illegal for the Dukha to conduct offerings (in person) at certain sacred sites. In the next few years, demanding access to sacred sites could be an effective means of reclaiming traditional land use rights. As the existence and locations of these sacred sites are neither vehemently held secret by Dukhas, nor easily and openly discussed by them with outsiders, it will be interesting to see if Dukhas are willing to map out their sacred land for government officials to see. Any input on other communities’ perspectives on sharing the locations of sacred sites (or not) would be appreciated. Thanks.

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