It was probably a matter of time, but I thought until today ‘how great that the tundra is still free of infections’. The reindeer herders strategy of avoiding dangerous places had worked pretty well since March. Using flexibly nomadic movements to avoid dangerous places has been a strategy among the Nenets for centuries, which has worked well to mitigate impacts of all kinds of diseases and disasters of any sort. But now apparently some student brought the virus in, from a dormitory. The person travelled on a helicopter that was bringing Nenets students back to their home nomadic camps for the summer holiday. This means that the other almost 20 passengers of that helicopter have also been in contact.Continue reading “Covid-19 arrived in the Yamal tundra”
Many of our team have cooperated with anthropologists from Tromso in one way or the other. Now the department there advertises a job at the level of associate professor, with a job description that might appeal many of us:
“fieldwork-based methods; human-nature relations; environmental transformations and climate change; and the social reverberations of global inequality.” And
“Experience with the following would be an advantage (in no particular order of priority): audio-visual methods; human rights perspectives; and marginalized ethnic groups and Indigenous peoples.”
I have been in touch with Natalia Magnani and Jennifer Hayes there, and both are definitely nice and interesting colleagues to work with. Prospective applicants, give it a try!
Midsummer, solstice on the 21 June is for many northern peoples and cultures an important holiday. In Finland it’s called Juhannus and a state holiday. In Yakutia, where I am now, it’s called Ysyakh, and considered the Sakha people’s new year day. The 2020 celebrations obviously come in a very different format in comparison to any previous festivities, for a number of reasons including but not limited to the corona virus.Continue reading “Ysyakh 2020 – solstice festival online”
Talking to a friend in Se Yakha, at the shore of the Ob Bay close to the Kara Sea, I realised how far the consequences of the recent Norilsk oil spill could go: the recent New York Times article about the oil spill cite environmentalists and even a Russian minister saying that the consequences of the spill could last for a decade. This is echoed by our friends from the Yamal Peninsula, who might be again among the most vulnerable victims.
The concern is that the spilled oil will eventually end up in the Kara Sea. And if that happens, it will contaminate the water along of the migration route of fish, on which the indigenous population along the shores rely for their subsistence and livelihood.
I’m contributing to an expert document on the impacts of COVID-19 in the Arctic. I think it is essential that we highlight research gaps that we notice as anthropologists working in the Arctic. I would like to invite everybody to use the comment function here in this blog to highlight what anthropologists in the Arctic should study relating to the impacts of COVID-19 in the Arctic. It could be that with this we might be able to influence political decisions on this in the future. But actually the question is of interest well beyond that: If you have noticed any important gaps that we should really know but we don’t know yet, please go ahead and write them here as a comment, or, if you feel uncomfortable to go public with your observation / idea, in an email to Florian Stammler at the University of Lapland in Finland. If you want, you can also share some of your impressions how life has changed in COVID-19 times in the part of the Arctic region that you know best. No idea how much is going to come in. But if it is a lot, those of you who are contributing could also think about co-authoring an article in a journal about this. This would be something sort of a “crowd-authored” article, almost like our natural science colleagues, whose articles sometimes get over 30 authors:) Looking forward to your input. Florian
The warm weather in Siberia seems to have led to an exceptionally early ice-thawing on Siberia’s major rivers. The specific of the river geography here is that all the major rivers flow from south to north, into the Arctic Ocean. This means the ice melts in the south first, and then the water pushes into the existing ice downstream northwards, leading to ice-jams. Sometimes this is visually quite impressive. This year this happens earlier than usual all over the Russian Arctic, read the following info west to east:Continue reading “Record early river-thaw in Siberia”
After recently having celebrated the world’s first Nenets PhD defense, now we can witness another one, in three days time, 14 May 11.15 Norwegian time! Zoya Vylka Ravna shall defend her thesis with the very technical name “The Inter-Generational Transmission of Indigenous Knowledge By Nenets Women: Viewed in the context of the state educational system of Russia.” Surely this is going to be an interesting look by a European Nenets woman who studied trajectories of child upbringing in both the European and the Yamal part of the Nenets tundras. At the end of her popular summary to her thesis, she is very critical about the contemporary boarding school system, arguing that it “undermines the ability of nomadic Nenets communities to maintain their traditional and unique Arctic nomadic culture”.
Yamal has a legally protected sacred sites inventory: here, Angalskiy Mys
Today in the morning I was just about to brew my breakfast coffee, when my friend Mikhail Okotetto called and told me “we need to go and feed the sacred site here, come along, right now”. I had 5 minutes to grab my stuff and jump to a taxi, and drove out to the land close to Angal’skiy Mys between Salekhard and Labytnangi, where Mikhail and Vasiliy were waiting for me. They were in touch with one of the very few shamans on the Yamal Peninsula, Alexey Okotetto from Synei Sale, who had advised them that it is time to feed the land and pay respect to the spirits, now that we need their protection from diseases more than ever.
A story about my failed attempt of shooting a wild reindeer, and of a successful hunt for petrol
This story is dedicated to my friend Yarkolana (Nikolay) Khorotetto, who was tragically found dead (link in Russian) in the tundra, probably killed just after my birthday in 2019. This story takes us 20 years back, to my journey in spring 2001 with young Yarkolana and Dennis to Ostrov Belyi, White Island in the Arctic Ocean. We were all unexperienced and adventurous, did not know how to honour the spirits on Yamal KheKhe, the most sacred site in the entire region. Almost we were punished for this, but only almost. It’s a story of a steep learning curve, of immediate Soviet heritage, and of the hunger for intellectual food in the tundra.