Novosibirsk State University expands project framework on indigenous peoples of Siberia

Viktoria Churikova

A joint project of the Novosibirsk State University (NSU) and UNESCO, “Expansion of opportunities of indigenous peoples of Siberia to receive higher education”, has received a grant from the European Union.

The project has existed for just over one year. Its aim is to counteract discrimination against the indigenous peoples of Siberia , to increase their social status, self-esteem and self-reliance by means of special educational programs and the creation of organisations that would work for such goals.

Specific goals of the project are the development of the linguistics and culture of indigenous peoples of Siberia , the training of highly qualified indigenous staff for preservation and development of their languages, the raising of awareness about their cultures, and the inclusion of their culture and languages into the global knowledge pool. This work goes along with educating indigenous leaders at a higher level, to make them capable of asserting the rights of their people within the Russian state authorities.

NSU is trying to increase study places and social opportunities for young representatives of the indigenous peoples of Siberia . For children and teenagers at the age of 5-15 years an educational model based on a dialogue between the cultures will be created. For youth of 16-30 years a special system of recruitment, examination entry and undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate education will be developed at NSU.

An outcome of the project will be a model of tolerant interaction to facilitate the distribution of information on indigenous cultures, to bring the indigenous peoples of Siberia further towards justice, and to increase their participation in civil society.

A concrete tool to realise the project in remote areas is the creation of contact branches in places of concentrated indigenous habitation. Contact branches are intended for remote training, consultation and regular communication with representatives of the educational sphere in a given sub-area. They are equipped with computers and provide access to the Internet.

Within the first three months it is planned to open such a contact branch in the office of the Union of Itelmen Clans, to carry out corresponding “Olympics” on mathematics among schoolchildren, and to select the representative Itelmen people for a three-weeks’ training course at the Summer School of Computer Science and Programming at the Maximum College of Computer Science at NSU.

The persons in charge of the contact branch, President of the Union , Pëtr Bekkerov, and the NSU teacher, Viktoria Churikova, started their work at the 5th Congress of Arctic Social Sciences in Fairbanks , Alaska , 19-23 May 2004. Participation in sessions and discussions with experts working in Alaska , Canada , Scandinavia and other countries has helped to give to the project real substance. Talks at the sessions on education, history of the eastern and western Pacific, and also on preservation of traditional wildlife management in protected territories led to discussions and new useful contacts.

In the main building of the University at Fairbanks , where the conference was held, a stand was placed, which showed the results of the NSU project and exhibited recent literature. Special attention was attracted by dolls representing the ‘numerically-small’ indigenous peoples of Siberia , made by children in Russia .