Sámi people of Jona: pride and prejudice

The anthropology research team, organised by Anna Stammler-Gossmann, invites to a workshop (in Russian) with  Sámi activist and writer, Aleftina Sergina from Jona village (Kola Peninsula, approx. 30 km from the Finnish border, around 100 inhabitants).

Jona village indicated with "1", further places on the map being Rovaniemi ("2"), Kovdor ("3"), Apatity ("4"), and Murmansk ("5")
Jona village indicated with “1”, further places on the map being Rovaniemi (“2”), Kovdor (“3”), Apatity (“4”), and Murmansk (“5”), to give an idea of the location of this remote yet so centrally located village.

Issues  that we shall discuss at the meeting with Aleftina include

–      Lovozero is not the only Sami village in Russia
–      Sami potatoes project
–      Finnish reindeer in Russia, tundra reindeer in the forest and failed project on reindeer re-introduction in Jona.
–      Sacred sites of Sami
–      Soviet and post-Soviet Jona

Our blogger Nina Meschtyb had earlier been to Jona and written beautifully about that trip here on the blog, illustrated with nice photographs

Oral History workshop, 23-24 September 2013, Rovaniemi

Everybody with a serious interest is invited to the following event:

Workshop “Intangible oral culturalheritage: documentation, archiving and preservation techniques” Organised by the ORHELIA project team & anthropology research team Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland

Venue: Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Arktikum Building, Pohjoisranta 4, Thule meeting room, 1st floor, take the door up the stairs right after the main entrance into the building.

The blind elder Piotr Khudi with his family just before crossing Bovanenkovo gas deposit, Yamal Peninsula
The blind elder Piotr Khudi with his family just before crossing Bovanenkovo gas deposit, Yamal Peninsula

The anthropology team members interested in oral history are thrilled to get a visit by linguist Michael Riessler from Freiburg, Germany, and Anna Afanasieva from the Barents Institute in Kirkenes, Norway, to join us for a 1.5 day workshop where we explore different ways and best practices of data management, preservation and processing in oral history and sociolinguistics. We will also use this opportunity to think about ways of cooperating with Riessler’s documentation project initatives, as well as for updating each other and anybody who is interested about our recent fieldwork  all over the European and Russian Arctic. That fieldwork report session will be on Tuesday before lunch, 24 September. A detailed programme of the workshop can be found HERE.

Fishing fieldwork, ORHELIA Arctic Yakutia

My last summer entry from this Yakutia fieldwork finally brings me to the fieldwork PRACTICE there with the inhabitants of the Lena Delta and coastal area in Yakutia. As some of you may know, one of our crucial methodological approaches in the ORHELIA project is to marry intensive life-history interviewing with anthropological participant observation, which we believe enables us to understand better people’s life histories and ask more qualified follow-up questions.

Fishing is on industrial scale,but still a deeply culturally rooted practice  & important identity marker
Fishing is on industrial scale,but still a deeply culturally rooted practice & important identity marker

Our programme for the field was to spend half of the time in the village talking to elders about their recollections of the past and their evaluation of the present. The other half we wanted to go out to the summer fishing place and participate in the summer fishing campaign. Continue reading “Fishing fieldwork, ORHELIA Arctic Yakutia”

Oral History of the Arctic – along the shores of the ocean

The Orhelia researchers in the anthropology research team are having an intensive fieldwork season. We collect material that allows us to compare how the inhabitants of Eurasia’s Arctic shoreline were affected by and respond to different state policies designed in capital cities by governments that are very far from the centres of life of our fieldwork friends.

fieldsites ORHELIA project with new extension to Sakha Yakutia in summer 2013
fieldsites ORHELIA project with new extension to Sakha Yakutia in summer 2013

Fieldwork is ongoing in sites in northernmost Finland among the Skolt Sámi (reearcher Nuccio Mazzullo), among the Sámi of Murmansk Oblast (researchers Nina Meschtyb and Lukas Allemann), in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug among Nenets and Komi (researcher Stephan Dudeck), among the Nenets of Yamal (Western Siberia (researchers Roza Laptander and Nina Meschtyb). I hope we will find out on this blog about the fieldwork of our colleagues.
In addition to these established regions, we are extending our geographical project catchment areas further east thanks to the cooperation with our partners at the North Eastern Federal University of Russia in Yakutsk. They are interested enough in our approach to finance our fieldwork in their area of Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East. Anna Stammler-Gossmann went to work with Sakha agropastoralists in the Churapchi municipality of Yakutia, and Florian Stammler went to the northernmost village in the giant Lena River Delta to work with fishermen. In the following blog entries we will share some impressions from that work.

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.

The cradle of fly-in/fly-out reindeer herding in Europe: greetings from Khongurei

In many works on reindeer herding Komi people are considered as innovators who made reindeer herding not only a way of life but a profitable economy. One innovation that they did in the small village of Khongurei (see my fieldwork blog stephandudeck.wordpress.com) Nenets Autonomous Okrug, European Russian North, turned out to be rather counter-productive in the end:

When the first Komi settlers arrived to establish the village, the reindeer herders of the Nenets Kolkhoz “Naryana Ty” (red reindeer) led a fully nomadic life with their families out in the tundra. Their children went to school in the Russian village of Kotkino and came home only for the school holidays in the summer.

View on the village of Khongurei from the River Pechora

Continue reading “The cradle of fly-in/fly-out reindeer herding in Europe: greetings from Khongurei”

SEC Seminar – Preserving Endangered Languages and Local Knowledge: Learning tools and community initiatives in cross-cultural discussion

Unfortunately interdisciplinary approaches are often declared but rarely put into practice. That’s why I was especially happy to take part in a joint endeavour of linguists and anthropologists at the Foundation of Siberian Cultures in Germany to organize a seminar and a joint publication project on language preservation and education activities in indigenous communities in the North and in the South.

Next to a beautiful lake in the small town of Fürstenberg, ninety kilometres north of Berlin Erich Kasten and Tjeerd de Graaf organized at the beginning of January 2012 already the second meeting to discuss papers dealing with alternative school models for reindeer herders in Siberia and with the situation of language minorities in the Netherlands, Russia and China. The presented papers facilitated a deeper understanding of processes of language change and of the preconditions for the preservation of linguistic diversity.

Erich Kasten, Olivia Kraef, Stephan Dudeck, Tjeerd de Graaf, Victor Denisov and Michael Duerr

A lot of languages are in danger of extinction and minority languages experiencing a loss of language prestige and interest in intergenerational transmission. Scientific research deals with endangered languages often like biologists with rare plant or animal species that are only worth of scientific analysis before they will inevitably die out.

The top-down approach for the development and implementation of educational materials and language preservation programs usually suffers from a lack of response from local communities. State policies claim the safeguarding of languages, but they regularly promote artificial standards and folklorized and commodified versions of indigenous cultures and often provide the colourful façade for the attempts to erase any difference in lifestyle and values for the purpose of integration and bureaucratic control of the minority population. But in some cases the local population reacts with resistance to colonizing policies and use sometimes colourful façades to hide their internal cultural practices from the interference of outsiders.

"Lenin lives, lived and will live"  a rare preserved Lenin in Eastern Germany
"Lenin lived, lives and will live" or "Everything was forever until it was no more"

First responses of the participants of the seminar indicate that particular attention should be paid to the discussion of adequate modern learning tools and culturally-related teaching methods. In addition, we should consider the particular social and political environments and – as far as possible – find out how to influence these in favourable ways. Without careful ethnographic work and sociolinguistic analysis projects aiming at the preservation of languages and local knowledge can have the opposite effect.

Two of the researchers involved in the Orhelia project will contribute to the planned volume with papers about alternative educational projects in Western Siberia. Roza Laptander writes about the development of a model for a tundra school in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region as a new form of education for children from nomadic and semi-nomadic Nenets families. The title of Stephan Dudeck’s paper is: “Challenging the state educational system in Western Siberia: taiga-school and multimedia centre on the Tiuityakha river.”

Additionally, a DVD with booklets in various languages will summarize the outcomes of this seminar for local communities. Annotated video clips will give examples of similar initiatives from the various cultural contexts around the world. The aim is to enhance cross-cultural awareness within the communities that should encourage them to develop community-driven initiatives for the preservation of their cultural heritage.