English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World Living Arctic) No. 5, 2001

From the editor

Dear readers, we have entered a new age, a new millennium, and this sensation of novelty obliges us to take a fresh look at our problems.

Shortly after you receive this issue of the magazine, Moscow will host the 4th Congress of Indigenous Minorities of the North, Siberia and the Far East. Like ten years back, discussions of the critical and tragic situation of the Northerners will give rise to acrimonious debate. A variety problems and methods for their solution, further plans of our movement, the future of our organization and prospects for the development of indigenous peoples will be discussed heatedly.

Unfortunately, discussions of our issues fall into a usual groove: first we complain and then beg for or demand that President, Government, General Assembly, regional administrations, local administration bodies should do the impossible: find a solution to our problems for us. Actually, we employ this approach when we write project proposals for administrative bodies and this is one of the reasons why our requirements and requests remain unanswered. We are not yet aware that that the time of complaints and requests is gone.

Hence, we call upon the future delegates of the Congress and their electors to think about the issues the Congress is to address. The Congress should not only be an accounting-elective meeting. The most important thing is progress in the awareness by all the regional public organizations of their goals and the objectives of our entire movement.

We must realize that the situation has changed now that indigenous peoples have federal and regional laws protecting their rights and at the same time they have strong opponents challenging or neglecting those rights. Hence, the strategy of our movement ought to change. We should not beg or complain, but rather learn to stand by our interests expertly and efficiently. Our magazine will supply some examples of this new attitude, but those are only some individual cases rather than an overarching strategy.

The Congress will address a program of action for ourselves, for the Association, and for other public organizations of indigenous minorities of the North. We must address our basic issues: allocation of traditional subsistence lands, development of self-administration, and the protection of the natural environment and traditional economy of indigenous peoples of the North. The authorities do not resolve these problems for various reasons. We must develop our own approach to their solution, our own action plan, our strategy of relations with administrative bodies, and our response to their action or inaction when our rights are violated.

Still another problem is our legal ignorance, and, hence, vulnerability. We should learn to apply the relevant laws and to express articles of the law in the various regulatory documents to be issued by executive bodies.

And, finally, comes the problem of the implementation of the national program for socio-economic development of indigenous minorities of the North and the «Children of the North» program. To date, these programs have failed to ensure development and support of indigenous minorities of the North, but are instead used as stoppers for local budget holes. Moreover, the ideology of those programs has a strong paternalist flavor. Those programs make indigenous people feel like inferior beggars, grateful to the state and to all those who distribute charity, while these same alms-givers plunder our natural resources and destroy the environment that supplied nourishment to numerous generations of our ancestors and provided food for our children. Violations of the law are implicated in these programs, which is neglected by the authorities. We regret that our reproaches are so bitter, and hope that authorities will understand us properly.

We indigenous people must come to the realization that the time for expert and well-judged actions has come. And the time cannot be lost, because the 21st century may become the last for many of our peoples.

We believe in the wisdom of indigenous minorities, and their natural stamina and we hope for cooperation on equal terms of indigenous minorities and their organizations. We believe that the 4th Congress of the Indigenous Minorities of the North, Siberia and Far East should become an important step in the progress of indigenous peoples to a worthy life in Russia, our common home.