XV group of interns
Summer - Fall, 2000


Education and Indigenous Cultures
Kola Saami (the Youth)
The Present Situation At The Mountainous Altai

Education and Indigenous Cultures

The last February in city of Dudinka, Taimyr Autonomous Region, a conference on education concentrated mainly on “ethnic component” as one of the central ingredients of the education for the indigenous peoples. What is it the “ethnic component”? Why is it needed? 

To put it simply, it is an integration of ethno-cultural characteristics intrinsic for a particular people into the preschool and school education. Using examples and images from the everyday life a teacher can make the subject easier accessible for the indigenous children. Per example – a hunter can walk that many meters per minute. How many meters per minute he can made on ski or on a reindeer? The kids can benefit tremendously if experienced hunters, fishermen, reindeer herders, artists, artisans, writers etc visit the classes and discuss the particular aspects of their native culture. 

The conference stressed the alarming lose of the native culture and language by the indigenous peoples of the region. It was agreed that, in order to reverse the process, indigenous peoples must start with introducing the ethnic cultures into everyday experiences of their children. The obvious is the dire need to:

       develop a teaching methodology, textbooks and notebooks in indigenous languages;

       publish literature, science and fiction, fairytales and history in indigenous languages;

       revive the everyday use of indigenous languages in family and kindergartens and schools; 

Besides the most obvious benefits, the children will be able, through the languages, to learn and understand the very heart of the indigenous culture of Taimyr, to feel themselves to be an integral part of the Nature. Only then will they be able to realize fully their spiritual, ethical, intellectual and physical potentials. Only then a our children will be able to be proud of our heritage when they know it well. It is a painstakingly slow and difficult process, but there is no other way. The loss of indigenous languages is the loss of an ancient knowledge in medicine, geography, environmental management, religion and art. It is irrecoverable loss for the entire human family.

Dolgan, Taimyr

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Kola Saami 
(the Youth)


The last year saw many radical changes in the life of indigenous youth of the Russian Federation. The main is creation of the Indigenous Youth Union of the Russian Federation (Council of Equals is its governing body). I spoke with many people in my home community of Lovozero and with our leaders – Mr. Alexander Kobelev, Ms. Lidia Rakhmanina (Saami representative at the Council of Equals) and Ms/. Alexandra Antonov. There are many ideas and plans, some are being implemented, and some are being developed. While we are full of energy – we got hope.

But there are many problems as well. Most of them stemmed from the indifference of the local administration to the Saami issues.

Fortunately not everyone is indifferent. Mr. Zigfred Giskiterde, Head of the Saami Christian Mission of Norway in Russia promised help from his organization to the Saami Student Society in St. Petersburg in setting up Saami languageclasses, publishing a small newspaper, etc.

It is sad that our administration officials are less understanding than the foreigners. But we are not losing hope.

Saami, Lovozero, Kola peninsula.

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The Present Situation At The Mountainous Altai


Right in-between Russia, China. Mongolia and Kazakhstan is my home - the Mountainous Altai. Its place on the map is such that everybody is afraid that if the people’s life gets harder somebody might “play the ethnic card”. It gets to a level of paranoia during various election campaigns. God forbid a candidate from an indigenous people tries to run for an office. He or she is immediately accused in “chauvinism”, “nationalism” and “separatism”. As the result not a single indigenous person was elected to the State Duma since the fall of the USSR. The public is being brainwashed that election of an indigenous MP will inevitably lead to the interethnic conflict. Thus, the complicated situation in the Altai republic is being made even more difficult by the intentional spreading of a myth about the “Altai nationalists using the right of self-determination to secede from the Russian Federation”. 

Aimed at the indigenous people the policy of ethnic discrimination of the Altai republic government might lead to the interethnic tensions. 30% of the republic’s 203 148 people are us – the indigenous people. And we have our constitutional rights to be represented on all levels and in all institutions of the government. Instead, we are being blocked every way possible.  

During XIX and XX centuries Altai was used only as a source of natural resources. Extensive cutting of ancient taiga lead to irrevocable loss of natural habitat and hunting and fishing grounds for the Altai people. 

The deforestation, rivers’ disappearance and consequential environmental changes during the last 50 years are complimented by the negative effect of the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground and the Boikonur space field. The leftovers of the first boost-rockets are literally falling on the heads of our people. According to Dr. Vladimir Lupandin from the Independent Center of Environmental Testing (Moscow) the amount of Heptil in the ground is 0.1 mg per 1 sq m and in the growth is 0.3mg per 1 cub m. 

As the direct result the death rate in the republic is increasing dramatically. In 1999 the % brake down of the causes of death was the following:

-        circulatory ailments – 43.3%;

-        various accidents – 21.9%;

-        cancer related – 12.3%;

-        respiratory ailments – 9%.

General increase in the death rate per 1000 people is 12%. The stillbirth among indigenous people is 4.2% per 1000 newborn.

Yuri Antaradonov,
Head of Kurultai of Altai people

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