Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Dolgan Indigenous Peoples and Oil and Gas Development in Russia

The Dolgan (meaning "people living on the middle reaches of the river") indigenous peoples of the Arctic are experiencing many challenges in the face of climate change and the growing drive in Russia to exploit Arctic oil, gas, and coal deposits. Descendants of several Evenki clans (Tungus speaking peoples), who later adopted a dialect of the Turkic-speaking Yakut, the Dolgan indigenous peoples currently form the basic population of the Taymyr Autonomous Okrug (Province) of Russia. Their population is believed to be around 5,500, although there are no recent figures.

Migrating from the southwest to their present area of residence in the eighteenth century because of activities in the former Russian empire, they traditionally were nomadic reindeer herders and hunters. Under the Soviet regime they were strongly encouraged to abandon traditional lifeways - especially nomadism. In 1930 the Taimyr, or Dolgan-Nenets National Territory, was proclaimed and the traditional tribal councils were liquidated, and new territorial councils were formed. At the same time the process of collectivization was begun. The result was the complete destruction of the Dolgans' traditional economy and currently the Dolgan indigenous peoples subsist on agriculture and dairy-farming.

However, their current homeland along the Yenisey and Lena Rivers in Arctic Russia is also the area of growing oil and gas exploration and drilling. The Yenisey River - the largest to drain into the Arctic Ocean - starts high in the Mongolian Plateau and widening further down. This remote region (Tunguska - Тунгуска) is most famous for the 1908 meteorite impact, but is now being explored for oil and gas. As Russia has recently noted, there are plans to construct several new, large hydrocarbon-producing centers in the Lena-Tunguska oil- and gas-bearing province. In the Lena-Tunguska basin of the Siberian-platform, a Large Yurubchen-Tadhom zone of oil and-gas accumulation has been discovered in the sub-salt formations, with-the Yurubcheri and Omorin fields containing the aggregate reserves of more than 1 trillion meters of gas and about 300 million tons of oil.

The Dolgan indigenous peoples are not part of this process, and are largely being left out of any discussions about development of the region and their homeland. Another development project taking place in the region involves tapping into the huge coal reserves found under the ground to feed the growing Russian energy needs. Again, with little say from the Dolgan indigenous peoples.

How the impacts of this new development impacts the Dolgan indigenous peoples is still unknown. Because much of their lifeway depends on continued access to large areas of good land for reindeer herding, it is thought that if major oil and gas development does take place traditional pastoral practices will no longer be viable. However, there is little stopping Russia from continuing with this development as indigenous peoples in Russia have comparatively few rights. One organization working to amend this is RAIPON. RAIPON was created in 1990 at the First Congress of Indigenous Peoples of the North. The Association was originally called the "Association of Peoples of the North of the USSR" and united 26 indigenous groups of the North. On November 24, 1993 the Association was registered as public political movement “Association of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russian Federation” and on July, 1999 it was reregistered at the RF Ministry of Justice as All-Russia public organization and received the registration number 2174.

Do you know of any other organizations working to help the Dolgan indigenous peoples or other indigenous peoples in Russia? If so, leave a comment and add them.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

June 23 - July 1, 2008: Five Key Indigenous People's Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Weeks of June 23 - July 1, 2008

Major General Cunanan's Baptism is a Defilement of Indigenous Culture

The PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao decried the baptism of Eastmincom Commander Major General Armando L. Cunanan led by the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Conference on Peace and Development (MIPCPD) last June 13 as the MIPCPD paid the newly appointed chief a courtesy call.

Traditionally, lumads would use the rite of baptism to welcome someone into the tribe, an act which many lumad groups consider tantamount to accepting someone as a blood relation or member of the tribe.

But PASAKA calls it a defilement of the lumad culture and warned the military that not all lumads are party to the agreements or negotiations entered into by the MIPCPD. Read the rest of the story here....

Malaysian Indigenous People Face Arrest at Logging Blockade

A month-long blockade of logging roads by indigenous people in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia set to protest illegal logging on their communal lands is about to be broken up by police. More than 100 indigenous Kenyah people gathered at the blockade site on the upper Moh River on the island of Borneo claim that the blockade is their only way of calling on representatives of the Samling Timber Company and government authorities to have a consultation and meet with them to listen to their problems and demands.

Otherwise, they say, the Samling Timber Company will continue to ignore their demands and plights. According to the Borneo Resources Institute in Miri, which issued a statement today on behalf of the Kenyah peoples, ever since Samling started its logging operations in the upper Baram area, the indigenous communities have suffered the environmental impacts of logging.

They say the company simply encroached into their communal land and forest areas to carry out logging activities, without any consultation and consideration for their source of livelihood. Read the rest of the story here....

Jumma Indigenous People Pushed to the Edge of Existence

Members of one of the least-known groups of indigenous people in the world are facing what they see as a struggle for survival in Bangladesh. They claim that their way of life is being increasingly threatened by the Bangladeshi government and military while the world's back is turned.

There are around 600,000 Jumma living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, in south-east Bangladesh, where they can trace their history back to the 12th century. For many years, they lived a remote existence in the jungle area above Chittagong. A treaty with the British in 1900 appeared to offer them protection "to help preserve the tribal culture" and to leave them to their own devices, in exchange for taxation. They continued this existence, largely untroubled, as part of East Pakistan - after the partition that followed India's independence in 1947 - until the 1970s. Read more about this story here....

Summit Dreams For Siberia Oil Town Despite Indigenous Peoples Concerns

For the next few days, this small town deep in a Siberian forest will bask in the spotlight as European and Russian officials try to move their stalled partnership forward.

Regional leaders hope the Russia-EU summit, which opens Thursday evening, will lead to more foreign investment. Beaming local residents, meanwhile, insist that the choice of their town, some 2,700 kilometers east of Moscow, to host the event is no surprise.

"Khanty-Mansiisk is the center of the universe today," said Yeremei Aipin, deputy speaker of the regional parliament and a writer of Khanty origin.

Such a notion may be in part shaped by a local legend that a great flood covered the whole world, and life returned on Samarovskaya Mountain, a sacred site for the region's two main indigenous groups, the Khanty and the Mansi, Aipin said.

But when Aipin and other officials speak of Khanty-Mansiisk's significance, they also use hard facts.

The region accounts for about 40 percent of the country's oil exports and pumps 7.5 percent of the world's oil, while its taxes account for almost a quarter of federal budget revenues, according to officials' estimates. Read more here....

Greenland Indigenous Peoples Denied on Whale Catch

The first vote at this year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting has resulted in defeat for Greenland's request to expand its hunt. Many countries were unconvinced that Greenlanders need the extra meat that catching 10 humpbacks would provide, and believe the hunt is too commercial. A Greenland delegate said the decision would deprive its indigenous Inuit communities of much needed whale meat.
The EU's decision to vote as a bloc on the issue drew harsh criticism.

"I deeply regret that the IWC was not able to fulfil its obligations when all its requirements were met by Greenland," said Amalie Jessen from Greenland's fisheries ministry.

"I feel those opposing our proposal just wanted to find new excuses not to award humpbacks; and I anticipate that when we bring the proposal back in a year's time, they will have prepared other excuses." Read the rest of the story here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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