The article provides a review of various strategies the peoples of Siberia undertake to reestablish their identity, their cultural identity, and rights to their land. The article aims to analyze the modern challenges that the indigenous peoples of Siberia face and their responses to such challenges. The article presents five models of survival strategies used by the peoples of Siberia.
The article provides an overview of recent initiatives spearheaded by indigenous peoples in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) that seek to improve the existing language policy put forth by the state government. Although there has been some research conducted on the activities of public organizations and associations of indigenous peoples in the region, more must be done to better understand activities specifically related to language policy. The article presents a history of indigenous and minority organizing in the republic since the end of the Soviet era, with special attention paid to the campaigns regarding the status of native language and its presence within the educational sphere. It then analyzes the results of a 2011 sociological study regarding people’s beliefs about responsibility for native language maintenance and revitalization.
Russia is unique on the circumpolar landscape in that indigenous communities constitute only a small percentage of its Arctic population. Whereas they represent 80 percent of Greenland’s population, 50 percent of Canada’s, 20 percent of Alaska’s, and 15 percent of Norway’s Arctic regions, they make up less than 5 percent of the population of Arctic Russia. Although indigenous peoples have a more solid demography than Russians and have therefore seen their share of the Arctic population slowly increase over the past two decades, their rights remain fragile. Moscow does not consider the Arctic to have a specific status due to the presence of indigenous peoples, and its reading of the region is still very much shaped by the imperial past, the memory of an easy conquest (osvoenie) of territories deemed “unpopulated,” and the exploitation of the region’s subsoil resources.
The Case of the Documentary Film Malen’kaia Katerina (Tiny Katerina)
Ivan Golovnev and Elena Golovneva
This article investigates the representation of childhood in ethnographic films among the indigenous peoples of the Russian North. The article focuses on the documentary film Malen’kaia Katerina (Tiny Katerina; Ivan Golovnev 2004), which depicts the childhood of a Khanty girl in northwestern Siberia. The article employs the concept of ethnocinema as a synthesis of scientific and aesthetic approaches for perceiving and understanding traditional culture. Based on field diary recordings, reflections on the anthropological knowledge of childhood are represented via the audiovisual medium. Particular attention is paid to the visual representation of the world of childhood in traditional Khanty culture, including the child’s relation to nature, the world of adults, games, and the development of gender identity.
The Case of Yakutsk
Vera Kuklina, Sargylana Ignatieva and Uliana Vinokurova
This article explores the role of higher education institutions in the development of indigenous cultures in the Arctic city of Yakutsk. Although indigenous cultures have historically been related to traditional subsistence activities and a rural lifestyle, the growing urbanization of indigenous people brings new challenges and opportunities. The article draws on statistical data, as well as qualitative data from the Institute of Languages and Cultures of the Peoples of the Northeast (ILCPN) at the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) and the Arctic State Institute of Culture and Arts (AGIKI): annual reports, focus groups, interviews, and participant observations. The article argues that students and graduates contribute to the creation of a new image of the city as one in which indigenous cultures can find their own niche.
Once again on the Problem of Alcoholism and Suicide among the Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North
Can Attribution Style Be a Factor?
Existing explanations of the high rates of alcoholism and suicide among the numerically small indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia, and the Russian Far East relate these social diseases to external factors such as state politics, or the economic, demographic, or socio-cultural situation. However, these reasons do not explain how exactly these factors influence the consciousness of indigenous people and determine the behavior patterns leading to alcohol consumption or suicide. This research report empirically tests the hypothesis that the group-specific attribution style that makes these people more pessimistically assess reasons and causes of events happening to and around them can play a role. The results of quantitative research conducted among teenagers representing both indigenous and non-indigenous populations of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region and the Republic of Komi generally confirm this hypothesis.
Alena V. Ivanova
This article covers the process of identity construction in children; this process defines the focus of Russian educational policy, which also provides a venue for alternative ways to implement it. The article presents research on designing a system to form national, regional, and ethnocultural identity in children of the indigenous people of the North via the curriculum and teaching aids. The article examines regions of Russia inhabited by indigenous small-numbered peoples, as well as their distinctive features, which have a significant impact on the process of identity construction in children of the North. This has revealed the specific character of the large formation of positive types of identity within the educational system.
A Demographic Portrait at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century
This article describes and contextualizes the current demographic status of Russia's indigenous northern peoples, considering their demographic transition and making comparisons with other indigenous Arctic populations and the entire population of the Russian Federation. Census data, public documents from 1959 to 2004, and birth and death certificates from 1998 to 2004, collected by the author, provide the source data for this demographic portrait. Russia's indigenous northern peoples are in a critical demographic situation. Extremely high and persistent adult mortality rates raise doubt about the "moderately optimistic" estimates made in some recent ethnographic accounts by Russian scholars.
This article focuses on the ways the urban Buriats in the city of Irkutsk construct the notion of homeland. Based on the analysis of family stories, observations, and interviews with the Buriats in Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude collected between 2006 and 2011, the article investigates how urban indigenous Buriats sustain their ethnic identity in the city through various activities, interactions and solidarity with rural people, and how they use urban resources to maintain their ethnic identity.
Mixe language and biodiversity loss in Oaxaca, Mexico
Alfonsina Arriaga-Jiménez, Citlali Pérez-Díaz and Sebastian Pillitteri
English abstract: The community of Tlahuitoltepec, in the Sierra Mixe of Oaxaca, is losing Traditional Ecological Knowledge due to socially driven changes in its natural environment. Mixe is one of the 69 indigenous languages spoken in Oaxaca, and is spoken almost exclusively in Tlahuitoltepec. Using an ethnographic approach, with loosely structured interviews among key members of the community, we analyzed the theory that biodiversity loss is linked to the loss of indigenous languages and traditional ecological knowledge. Our findings show that certain words in Mixe, used to refer to animals that are no longer observed in the community or its surroundings, are not well known by young people. The case of Ka’ux reflects what happens to traditional ecological knowledge and to an indigenous language when biodiversity is lost.
Spanish abstract: La comunidad de Tlahuitoltepec, en la Sierra Mixe de Oaxaca, pierde conocimiento ecológico tradicional debido a cambios sociales en su ambiente natural. El Mixe es una de las 69 lenguas indígenas habladas en Oaxaca, y es hablado casi exclusivamente en Tlahiutoltepec. Aplicando un enfoque etnográfico, con entrevistas semiestructuradas a miembros clave de la comunidad, analizamos la teoría sobre si la pérdida de biodiversidad se relaciona con la pérdida de lenguas indígenas y conocimiento ecológico tradicional. Nuestros resultados muestran que algunas palabras mixes usadas para nombrar animales que ya no se observan en la comunidad o sus alrededores, no son bien conocidas por la gente joven. El caso de Ka’ux refleja que ocurre con el conocimiento ecológico tradicional y a las lenguas indígenas cuando la biodiversidad desaparece.
French abstract: La communauté de Tlahuitoltepec, dans la Sierra mixe d’Oaxaca, perd ses connaissances écologiques traditionnelles en raison de changements sociaux dans son environnement naturel. Le mixe est l’une des soixante-neuf langues indigènes parlées à Oaxaca et elle est parlée presque exclusivement à Tlahuitoltepec. En utilisant une approche ethnographique, avec des entretiens semi-structurés parmi les membres clés de la communauté, nous avons analysé la théorie selon laquelle la biodiversité est liée à la perte des langues autochtones et des connaissances écologiques traditionnelles. Nos résultats montrent que certains mots en mixe utilisés pour désigner des animaux qui ne sont plus observés dans la communauté ou ses environs ne sont pas bien connus des jeunes. Le cas de Ka’ux reflète l’impact de la perte de biodiversité sur les connaissances écologiques traditionnelles et sur une langue autochtone.