A snapshot of contemporary indigenous life – with emphasis on Sámi perspectives

A new publication on Arctic Indigenous Peoples from The Sámi Council and German Arctic Office (at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research) was just recently launched. While shortly browsing through it, I found that it is written very shortly and concisively and for a broad lay audience including decision makers. It is a publication written mostly by indigenous representatives (mostly Sámi) who are active politically in promoting Arctic indigenous rights. I particularly liked the illustrations.

“This collaborative project between the Sámi Council and the German Arctic Office depicts the ways of life Indigenous Peoples lead in the Arctic. As resilient cultures, Arctic Indigenous Peoples hold distinct knowledge on how to respectfully use the environment to co-exist within the ecosystems. Even though resilience is enclosed within these cultures, the challenge of coping with both environmental changes and domestic regulations affects the practice and development of Indigenous Knowledge. This text describes how Arctic Indigenous Peoples use Indigenous Knowledge as a generationally refined way of knowing to ensure the vivid development of cultures and livelihoods. It further illustrates how Indigenous Peoples have traditionally developed circular governance systems that sustainably care for the environment instead of dominating it. Indigenous Knowledge, as the foundation of these ways of life, is therefore central for Arctic Indigenous Peoples cultures and how they collectively preserve the stability of Arctic and sub-Arctic environments.”

From an anthropological point of view, it catches our eyes that the publication does not really have identifiable authors. It bears the name of the two organisations – the Saami Council and the German Arctic Office. Then there is an editorial team consisting mostly of interns. Not sure was the editorial team actually responsible for the content and wrote the text? Was it reviewed by someone? I found it slightly irritating that the sources they cite are actually not part of the pdf of the publication, but you need to click on their website on a separate link. Looking at the sources, it caught my eye that most of them is literature intended for a general or professional audience. Of over 40 sources, less than 10 were scholarly publications, including from the IPCC or the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. A lot of the sources are published by indigenous peoples organisations, the Arctic Council, the Nordic Council of ministers etc. So this piece is a good source for us to make sense of the view of indigenous peoples and decision makers.

Reindeer nomadism as profession, lifestyle, passion and love: Sergei Serotetto

русский текст ниже

One of the world’s most respected reindeer nomads, 1954-2021, mourning for a friend (all photos in this post © by Florian Stammler) Один из самых уважаемых оленводов , друг ушёл из жизни

The news from the tundra was a shock: last year we celebrated Sergei Serotetto’s 66th birthday together in his chum in the tundra of Yamal. Full of his typical humour and warmheartedness, surrounded by his family of three generations. Now he passed away, on the 27th May, in the tundra. Sergei Serotetto was one of the best-known reindeer herders in the Soviet Union, in post-Soviet Russia, as well as in the rest of the world probably.

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Rain on snow – how do people and reindeer learn to survive?

This winter and spring we hear again disastrous news from sudden temperature rises and falls, leading to thick ice-crusts on reindeer pastures that block reindeer’s access to their pastures. While the most famous of these events happened in 2014 in the Centre of the Yamal Peninsula, West Siberia, the phenomenon is known probably to reindeer herders all over the Arctic, and several of our colleagues have extensively published on this. In Yamal, however, this does not endanger reindeer herding as a livelihood altogether. The scale in the world’s number one reindeer herding region is different from more marginal regions, which also have less possibilities to help with emergency measures in comparison to the Yamal government that is one of Russia’s richest financially. The winter/spring 2021 icing event in northernmost Yamal raises to me a new question on how we study the movement of adaptation-knowledge between wild animals, domestic animals and humans. Read below how.

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Trust Versus Paranoia: Can the Siberian fire spirit explain the spectacular failure of the UK Covid track and trace app?

Piers Vitebsky and Roza Laptander are going to give an interesting example on how to de-provincialise Arctic social sciences. This time on a topic that could hardly be more timely: they refer to their elaborate ethnographies of indigenous Siberians’ communications with the fire spirit to explain why apps to track the corona virus may fail.

They hold their talk virtually on May 4, 2021, 4.30-6.00 PM (London time) in the University of Cambridge MIASU seminar series. The link was sent to the email list of MIASU only. If you want to listen to their talk, please contact one of the authors ask them if they can share the link with you directly. The event is announced at the MIASU website here

Below is their abstract. I have read a draft paper and can only recommend it. It’s thought provoking for its link of two so contrasting settings, and for its reflections on theories of subjectivity, privacy, anonymity and – of course – spiritual encounters.

Abstract: “We contrast how the UK’s Covid-19 track and trace system gives warnings about exposure to infection, with how the domestic fire in a nomadic reindeer herder’s tent crackles warning about dangers of the Siberian landscape.  This is an issue less of epistemology than of signalling, trust and coherence.  We locate differing configurations of trust and suspicion in social and political context.  The technocratic Covid app de-personalizes tracing, as individualism and concerns about privacy block channels of knowing and narrativity, and encourage non-compliance and conspiracy theories.  In its sociality and acute attention to the environment, the nomad’s fire evokes not the epidemiological model of the besieged bounded body but a divinatory openness to space, time and event which ironically resembles an alternative model of the viral encounter.”

The Arctic Environmental Responsibility Index – oil and gas better than mining?

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/bse.2698

This has been a long journey and a lot of work several years: jointly with a number of interdisciplinary colleagues, we published our article on the ranking of Arctic extractive industries in terms of environmental responsibility. We might think “how is this related to Arctic Anthropology?”, but it actually is a lot, both because of the content the method we applied are anthropologically inspired. On top of that, we also run an applied agenda with this article, and will be happy if readers further disseminate it in their own networks and make this ranking an “influencer” for the extractive industries, motivating them to perform better for the sake of the environment and the people inhabiting it.

c, F. Stammler. Loading mined ore to a cargo vessel on its journey from Arctic Norway, Narvik, to anywhere in the world. See the ship name: Indian friendship, Monrovia: Arctic extractive industries is globally relevant but should be locally responsible!
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Long live the tundra nomads!

Just found out from the local news that in the Novyi Urengoy hospital two Nenets elders survived covid-19 and recovered from pneumonia, at the age of more than 100 years! These elders are so tough! I have also had the honour of meeting quite many people over 100 years old in the tundra particularly during our oral history project, who lived most of their lives with minimal imported stuff: eating mostly meat and fish, bread and tea. Little sugar, being outdoors 24/7 in Yamal, or in the chum, which in terms of fresh air is basically also outdoors:) . This shows that a lifestyle like that is perfectly healthy for the human body, much more so than a life in towns, let alone apartment blocks in skyscrapers… I dedicate this entry to all elders friends I have encountered throughout my field trips since the 1990s, and thank them for their openness, cooperation and their teachings.

Pupta_Pudanasevich_Yamal_2001
Pupta Pudanasevich Yamal, Tambei tundra, spring 2001. He was the ‘father’ of our oral history project, gave the idea for it. He was then over 100 years old, and remembers how Evladov came to visit him the tundra in the 1920s!

Language, silence and climate in Yamal

In spring we were proud to host the world’s first anthropological PhD defence in english by a Nenets colleague, Roza Laptander. Now we are happy that she got her first postdoc employment in the big EU Charter project that looks at biodiversity changes, reindeer herding and the climate. We continue working with Roza in work package three of that project, and in this function she shared thoughts on socio-linguistic research, the Yamal Nenets and her work on silence and stories in a video, which you can watch here.

Markku Lehmuskallio in Rovaniemi – Pre-screening meeting with the film maker

for many of our readers Markku Lehmuskallio won’t need an introduction. He is a world acclaimed film maker, and a friend of our team. Some of you may remember their previous visit, when we hosted them with some reindeer meat. See here https://arcticanthropology.org/2012/08/31/anastasia-lapsui-and-markku-lehmusskallio-guests-of-the-team-in-rovaniemi/

This time Markku continues his loyalty to us in the North and comes on Friday 30 October to Rovaniemi for screening his most recent film, ANERCA-, BREATH OF LIFE“. The screening itself is in the Rovaniemi cinema BioRex at 16:30. But before that we have the honour to meet with Markku and his colleague, Juha Elomäki, for an hour, at 15:00, in the Thule room in the Arctic Centre. Due to covid-19 we cannot invite everybody, but a limited number of people to this event. If you want to come and you are not a member of the anthropology team in Rovaniemi, please write a short note that you intend to come, to fstammle(at)ulapland.fi , so we can keep track of the numbers of people (also for cooking enough coffee:))

Here some background about the film, which is a co-production between father and son – Markku and Johannes Lehmuskallio:

ANERCA-, BREATH OF LIFE (Finland 2020) 86 min, JURY PRIZE RÉGION DE NYON (CHF 10’000): MOST INNOVATIVE FEATURE FILM 

A history of conquests and land exploitation we never heard of. A film where ethnography is looking for a new mesmerizing language, giving us the complexity of reality. 

“Anerca” takes us to contemporary Arctic life through dance, music and Arctic urban landscapes

A narrative film about the world of people living in the Arctic, their situation as it is right now.

The film progresses through the power of music, dance, performance and depiction of everyday life. Gaining your daily sibsistence, the ordinary life is the central source for music and other kinds of selfexpression. It is life itself breathing.

Markku Lehmuskallio has devoted the majority of his films to the indigenous people of the Arctic Circle, co-directed with Anastasia Lapsui, his Nenets partner. In Anerca, Breath of Life co-created with his son Johannes, the Finnish filmmakers set off to discover, among others, the Chukchi, Inuit, and Sami peoples, who have had to learn to live, from Russia to Alaska, on territories whose borders are redefined by white conquerors in the name of a deadly ideology of progress. Bringing together testimonies, archives, sung or danced performances caught on camera, the two directors are not exploring the traditional lifestyles of these nomad communities—in the manner of Flaherty and the seminal Nanook of the North—mistreated by predatory policies that have sought to deny their irreducible difference, but what they call a “vital breath”. Their poetic and contemporary ethnography focuses much more on the inner world of these peoples, inseparable from forms of existence shaped over time, like so many seeds in a shared imagination that continues to animate bodies and spirits. (Text by Emmanuel Chicon)

Future of circumpolar youth in a changing climate

just wanted to share this, have a look. A nice project, idea to have very short clips of young people talking about life. But as worrying as it is – did they really tell something new? Probably not. But that wasn’t the point maybe. It seems to be more that they think not enough is being done about it.

The Experience of Displacement and Social Engineering in Kola Saami Oral Histories

Public defence of the doctoral dissertation by blog contributor Lukas Allemann on 15 Oct 2020

Our team member and periodic blog contributor Lukas Allemann examines in his thesis people’s experiences of Soviet-time, state-initiated displacement and (re)emplacement on the Kola Peninsula as well as the consequences of these developments. Sources show that Saami communities bore the brunt of these processes. The work seeks to draw – for the first time – a holistic picture of the social transformation among the Kola Saami, while nevertheless respecting the reality of mixed and multiple ethnic belongings as well as other categories of identity in the region.

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