English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World Living Arctic) No. 8, 2001

How to make the federal law on Territories of Traditional Nature Use work1

1 Editor's note.—This is a summary only. Interested readers are referred to the original full-length Russian text, as well as the model claim forms referred to therein published in “Mir korennykh narodov – zhivaya arktika No. 8”; a rough English translation of the article, but not the model documents, is also available from the ANSIPRA Secretariat upon request.

Olga Murashko, IWGIA

On 11 May 2001, the federal law "On Territories of Traditional Nature Use of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation" was put into effect. Six months have passed, but RAIPON is still unaware of a single Territory of Traditional Nature Use (TTP) being established according to this law. However, the Association has been informed that claims to establish TTPs have been already filed by indigenous peoples’ organisations of certain regions but applications have met with a refusal or the matter is still pending.

The lack of legal standards regulating the system, introduced by the above legislation for establishing TTPs, has proved to be a stumbling block both to representatives of indigenous peoples and the authorities. This system for establishing TTPs requires that the Government should elaborate enforceable enactments both regarding the form of claims to establish TTPs and the procedure for their establishment. The Association has already approached the Government in this regard. But time waits for no man: the federal law “On Federal Landed Property Delimitation” is about to be put into effect. Indigenous peoples should declare their intentions to establish TTPs without delay.

To facilitate this, RAIPON has, with the help of the experts at the “Rodnik” Legal Centre, drafted models of claims to establish TTPs and draft TTP regulations in connection with the above federal law. Experience drawn from the establishment of the TTP “Tkhsanom” in the Koryak Autonomous Okrug and its subsequent abolishment has been useful in several ways.  One important lesson is that a TTP of a local subdivision should not be established incorporating lands and natural resources in federal ownership. This presents a problem: many indigenous peoples of the North inhabited and were engaged in traditional subsistence activities basically on lands under federal ownership. Therefore, most of TTPs have to be established at the federal level. The claim structure suggested by the “Rodnik” Legal Centre lawyers is laid down in the article “Educational workshops of the “Rodnik” Legal Center to continue” (in this ANSIPRA issue).

To substantiate the choice of place and size of a planned TTP, the historical relation between the indigenous people concerned and the territory in question has to be supported by information on historical, cultural and archeological monuments, sacred sites, ancestors’ burial grounds, ancient settlements and so on. Statistical data are also needed about the number of indigenous as well as local population likely to be engaged in traditional subsistence activities on the planned territory.

Establishment of TTPs is the only way to protect indigenous peoples’ rights to their territories in the face of federal power. Information is pouring into RAIPON headquarters about lands that were previously allocated to indigenous peoples at a regional level as lineage-based kinship areas, peasant/farming units and other entities now being handed over to other users. It is not necessary for each and every kinship-oriented economic unit to register as a community, that is, as a legal entity. It is possible to register an amalgamation of several neighbour kinship-oriented or peasant/farming units, reindeer herding teams as one territorial community. At this stage associations of indigenous peoples must step in to help people find an optimal form of self-organisation matching the law.

Please contact RAIPON for model claim forms and related documents for in connection with the establishment of TTPs. Electronic versions are also available from RAIPON. So that we can follow the success of these endeavours, you are kindly requested to send to RAIPON copies of your applications to establish TTPs and other documents you have already sent or about to send to authorities as well as copies of the replies you have received.