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

Coordination Council of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East in Salekhard

Sergey Kharyuchi, President of RAIPON / Chairman of the State Duma of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonom. Okrug

From 24 to 25 November 2000, Salekhard hosted the regular conference of the Coordination Council of the Russian Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North, Siberia and the Far East. In his interview for our magazine, S.N. Kharyuchi spoke about the significance of that Coordination Council.

«The most characteristic feature of the present Coordination Council lies in the fact that it was held for the first time in the region of residence of indigenous minorities. The holding of the Coordination Council in Salekhard marks a new initiative: Coordination Councils being held in the regions in which indigenous peoples are concentrated. Different northern regions have their specific situations, and every regional leader has a lot to say and to discuss with his colleagues regarding progress made.

Over the last years, the Yamalo-Nenets Autonom. Okrug has accumulated extensive experience solving the problems of indigenous minorities with respect to legislation and the practical problems of the organization of socio-economic life of indigenous peoples.

The members of the Coordination Council heard the presentations by E.L. Kerpelman (Deputy Chairman of the State Duma of the YaNAO) and V.S. Sondykov (Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug) and could familiarize themselves with the attitude of legislative and executive bodies toward the problems of indigenous peoples of the regions concerned. Meetings with municipal leaders of those regions were organized. The Council members learned about the life of an ethnic fishing community in Gornoknyazevsk. The community leader Nikon Kuigin told about the experience of self-administration and self-support of the community and the village, about their methods of coping with unemployment. Hopefully, the meeting was of interest to everybody.

There are grounds to hope that the traditions of Coordination Councils being held in the regions will go on and be useful to all the leaders of regional associations.

Another feature of the November 2000 Coordination Council was its importance for the forthcoming Congress. The Coordination Council concerned addressed not only organizational problems, but also the Congress ideology. We have seen members of the Council become real politicians and are ready to conduct constructive discussions. It was nice to hear that members of the administration were surprised at the highly professional level of our meeting.

We don’t want the Congress to be associated with elective activities, which are also of great importance. The most important thing is that the Congress should take a step forward in the understanding by the regional associations of their new state. Today indigenous peoples have federal and regional legislation protecting their rights. Hence, their circumstances have changed. The time of complaining, begging, unsubstantiated claims and searches for the guilty is gone. The associations should not only document their problems but also try to find the ways for their solution under the new legal conditions.

In the present-day socio-economic state of the country, the indigenous minorities of the North – being its citizens – must elaborate a new concept of the development of indigenous peoples and their associations, a new strategy for joint actions. That is what I would like to call to the attention of the members of the Coordination Council in Salekhard. That is what the Coordination Council should discuss.

It is important that the issues of training of young specialists should be addressed as well as assistance to our students, the issues of legal education so needed by indigenous peoples in order to expertly defend their rights, and the also problems of environmental protection. Everything depends on ourselves, on the work of regional associations.

Where the regional associations work efficiently, they achieve success. For instance, two years ago Gazprom had a drilling rig constructed in the mouth of the Tazovskaya Guba – without land allotment authorization and without ecological impact assessment. The regional association «Yamal to Descendants» launched an active campaign against the rig and made sure that the rig was removed.

But there are also some other examples. Not all the regional association presidents attended the Coordination Council despite the fact that the central office managed to obtain the funds so that everybody could come. This demonstrates that some regional leaders are not aware of their roles and duty. In fact, the Congress does not only consist of the report of the President and his office. In addition, we are involved in the elaboration of federal legislation and development of international projects thanks to which we sent a number of people for internship, to seminars and conferences and our own magazine is published. Every president of the regional association is to report to the Congress. Hence, only through a balanced work were everybody contributes, can we constructively discuss the concept of the development of indigenous minorities of the North, Siberia and the Far East and develop a joint strategy for cooperating with the legal and executive powers of the Russian Federation and the regions, international organizations and our regional organizations. This is necessary for the successful solution to the problems of indigenous minorities of the North in future.»