Mining and local people in the North

Some of our team were recently at the Jokkmokk winter conference, which is held in connection to the famous Jokkmokk winter market, an important event in the Sámi yearly cycle for the last 400 years.The Jokkmokk winter market has been held already more than 400 years. Now mining comes closer to this place too, causing hot debates

The Jokkmokk winter market has been held already more than 400 years. Now mining comes closer to this place too, causing hot debates

 

At the conference which had a very policy and environmentalist NGO-related character, a

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Meeting old and new friends in Inari

For us from the Anthropology Research Team here in Rovaniemi the Sámi Cultural Centre SAJOS in Inari became a place where we regularly meet friends from the indigenous movement in Russia. Galina Platova from the Association of Nenets people “Yasavey” told me already in Naryan-Mar, that she will come soon to Inari for a conference. The ORHELIA team used the opportunity to meet up with our research partners on occasion of the conference organized by the Sámi Educational Institute “Traditional Knowledge of Reindeer Herding Peoples as Basis for Education and Research” in Inari.

Vlad Peskov gives a speech and shows the documentation of reindeer nomadism in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug

On the 17th of August Roza Laptander and Stephan Dudeck drove the 330km to Inari and where surprised how many familiar faces they recognized in the audience and among the speakers. Stephan ran into Dina Vasilievna Gerasimova, who appeared to celebrate her 70th birthday that very day. And we met Dmitry Ottovich Khorolya and delivered Florian’s greetings.

It would be tiresome to name here all the VIPs from Russian and Fennoscandian institutions dealing with traditional knowledge and reindeer herding and most of the papers contained well-known statements about the importance of safeguarding traditional knowledge for the future of reindeer husbandry. Of course we were proud that the director of the Arctic Centre Paula Kankaanpää mentioned prominently the work of the ORHELIA project as one of the activities of our institute to research and maintain indigenous knowledge in the Arctic.

It is of course a riddle how all these non-traditional institutions, bureaucrats, and highly educated people could contribute to the transmission of knowledge that is so highly rooted in everyday practices, nonverbal communication and rural livelihoods. But there were some examples that could give an idea that it’s possible that scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge can be mutual supportive. One example was the educational initiative of language nests, where preschool children learned again the almost abandoned Inari-Sámi language, which led to a real language revival. Vladislav Peskov from the Association of Nenets People , mentioned that it became nowadays a must that scientific research on traditional knowledge returns the collected materials and the results to the communities where it stems from. This should happen in a form that people could understand and use the materials provided by scientist for their community purposes.

But one unusual story stacked in our minds and we were discussing it on the way back. It was a fable told by Rodion Sulyanziga from the Association of Indigenous people RAIPON. When he once asked an old man about the past and the knowledge of the ancestors, he got the answer that he can tell him only one story about a cat that took a little tiger to nurture. One day when the tiger was full-grown he just wanted to strike away the small cat with his paw. But the cat jumped on a tree and told him: “You know, I taught you everything except for one thing: how to climb on a tree!”

After the conference we “kidnapped” Galina Platova from Yasavey and Galina Nazarova, the director of the Naryan Mar college for humanities, to Rovaniemi to discuss in detail a project to publish oral history materials and make them available for the people in the regions we are working in. Our dream is to have once a website where people can listen to the stories of the elders and learn something about the history of different places and indigenous communities from Finnish Lapland to the Yamal peninsula. Of course we will let you know more about it as soon as we decided how to finance and organize the work.

Terhi Vuojala-Magga and Stephan Dudeck breaching the image of the North as a home and as a field

Stephan Dudeck visited Terhi Vuojala-Magga in the Inari region of Finnish Sápmi (Sámi home area) two times during this year.  The first visit was in January in Kuttura – a Sami reindeer herders´ forest village of six houses in the upper stream of Ivalo River – and the second visit was at the beginning of April, both in Ivalo and Kuttura.

Terhi:
I met Stephan for the first time last autumn at Arctic Centre when I was talking about my work in MISTRA project of The Arctic Lessons for Sweden. During our discussions we decided that Stephan will come to visit me in the Far North.

Spring is the high ice fishing season in Lapland. Here Terhi on the Ivalo River.

During his first visit we had some interesting talks about anthropology and we did some polar night ice fishing of burbot with a spring hook fish trap. It was rather cold, but still Stephan wanted to test his clothing for his journey to the Nenets region in Russia and he did stay on ice doing some ice-fishing too. I noticed that he is not afraid of being in the cold.

An artist performing for Sámi children at the new Sajos in Inari

Stephans’s second visit was in the middle of the best spring time here in the north. It was on occasion of the conference “Tales from the North” in the new build Sajos building in Ivalo, which also hosts the Sámi Parliament. Our main motivation to go there was the marvelous and inspiring presentation of Prof. Tim Ingold  from Aberdeen. Afterwards we had a nice dinner at home in Ivalo with him and his wife Anna Ingold.  Afterwards we socialized with the locals in our local pub with dance and karaoke.  Though Stephan did not sing any karaoke songs, even we all wanted to hear it, he did learn to dance Finnish tango. And he did this so well that people liked it (as I heard about it afterwards).  I myself learned to drink wine instead of beer or koskenkorva (Vodka). On Saturday we took part in an ice fishing competition in Riutula together with my friends. The competition was a success in the nice warm sunshine and we all got some fish though not enough to win the competition.

Ice fishing competition in Riutula 14th of April 2012. Grilled sausages are an obligatory companion at such events in Finnish Lapland.

Once back in Kuttura, which was Stephan’s second visit to this forest village, we dived into intensive discussions about anthropology, places and people.  We were talking about intimacy and privacy – in two ways.  I was able to understand what it means when an anthropologist lives with the people – as Stephan did in my home (though I’m an anthropologist too).

Terhi Voula-Magga's home in Kuttura

However, this is not a one sided issue.  Anthropologists have their own privacy and intimacy too.  In both ways there are options and limits and I suppose these dimensions have to be found out each time once people meet. It’s a question how much you reveal of yourself and how much people learn to trust you.

The second discussion was about our emotions and sensitivity – a quite important topic. We agreed that most people here are very sensitive; we share the quietness – that is very common for northerners. It means that the tacit communication in the environment with the people or even in absence of the people has meanings and messages. An important point during our discussions was: never louse your sense of humor – whatever happens we should not stop to laugh at ourselves.

Stephan did skiing on the frozen Ivalo River. It was an extraordinary sensory experience while communicating with the northern landscape.

In short we learned that the eyes can see until there is nothing to see, and the ears can hear even there is nothing to listen to, and we can understand when we cease to understand at all.