Learning from Indigenous Peoples

ROVANIEMI. – We can’t learn skills from indigenous peoples. But more about life attitudes, mobility, flexibility. A relaxed attitude. Freedom. And raise questions like: How much do we need in our lives? Who are we? What do we need for our happiness?How to deal with our stress?

Anna Strammler Gossmann is a senior researcher in anthropology at Lapland University, Rovaniemi. After many years of field work and research connected with the Russian North, she is today busy with finishing a book about Nelmin Nos, a reindeer herder’s village in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. She stayed two months together with local people, documenting their knowledge and experiences.
Today, anthropologists don’t approach people with an attitude from above. On the contrary, the perspective is from bottom up, Anna explains. And the material collected can also be useful outside of academicians’ circles.
– We produce books and exhibitions, and try to give back knowledge to the communities. People are of course interested in how we describe them and their lives. With our publications we can also show politicians on the problems. The drinking water should have been fixed, the erosion of the river bank continues, etc. Why didnt’t it work at all?

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Anna Strammler Gossmann in a northern landscape.

How is the situation, then, for indigenous peoples in the Russian North today?
– On the local level it’s not black or white, there is also co-operation. In Sakha, eastern Siberia, for example, transports are made with big tanks that drive straight over trees, and destroy reindeer pastures. But they transport food for long distances, and local people are dependent on these transports.

Today, the Arctic is in strong focus, because of the international competition for natural recources like oil, gas, fish and minerals. One could think that anthropology is especially needed in these times.
–  It’s always important, Anna Strammler Gossmann, firmly states.



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