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

The Russian Indigenous Training Center (RITC) to mark its first year

P.V. Sulyandziga, Director of RITC

More than six months have already passed since the Training Center for Indigenous Peoples of Russia’s North (alias, Russian Indigenous Training Center – RITC for short) opened its doors for representatives of all indigenous peoples inhabiting the immense expanses of Siberia and the Far East. The time has shown that the establishment of such a training center with no analogue in Russia is both well-timed and right for the purpose. The main objective of RITC is to render educational and consultative services in the sphere of market-oriented economic development of indigenous peoples.

At present, the Center has worked out two educational programs each focusing on training representatives of indigenous peoples in the fundamentals of small business and entrepreneurship as well as federal legislation regulating indigenous peoples’ rights and their traditional subsistence activities. It should be emphasised that both programs envisage familiarisation with Canadian experience in aboriginal and small business development resorting to good offices of Canadian specialists and businessmen of indigenous origin.

The first course entitled “Project development. Fundamentals of small-scale and subsistence business” was conducted in Moscow, in the RITC educational classroom from February 25 to March 9, 2001. Seventeen representatives of indigenous peoples of the North from 15 regions of the Russian Federation became the first trainees of the Center. The course stirred a good deal of interest among indigenous peoples igniting their anxiety to acquire economic and legal knowledge. 75 applications were received from virtually all the regions inhabited by Northern peoples. 17 of them were satisfied. Priority was given to representatives of indigenous peoples residing in outlying villages and having at least some practical experience in administrative or entrepreneurial activities. Out of the 17 trainees seven were female participants, which is an indicator of their active part in the social life and economic development of their communities and villages. All the trainees made a positive contribution to the two-week course sharing information about what was going on in their village or region, offering their commentaries and recommendations with regard to further improvement of the course. Judging by the feedback received by now including the appraisals made by the trainees themselves it can be stated with confidence that convening courses like that is badly needed and extremely vital for the task of preserving and developing traditional economic branches. The extracts below are just a few opinions expressed by the course attendees.

“First and foremost, it’s been an information breakthrough for me since back home we are under blockage in our regions, cut off from incoming information and with no access to it”.

“We had a chance to socialise with each other and share information”.

“It’s been the first step on the way to overcome the scaring roadblock of entrepreneurship”.

“Thank you for the course. We’ll try to apply the received knowledge in practice so that a positive educational wave would spread across all the outlying villages and communities”.

The training center tries to maintain uninterrupted contact with its former trainees so that the people in localities would not feel isolated from information and could implement their plans and initiatives. RITC publishes its own information bulletin, which is circulated among the Center’s trainees. On its pages, we invite them to become active participants in the exchange of information and are anxiously waiting for their letters. We are happy that many of them have become leaders in their regions, communities, and villages. Some of them were elected delegates to the Fourth Congress of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation.

In May-June 2001, the Training Center convened its second specialised course to train regional coordinators in economic development. To participate in the course, four individuals were selected representing the Khabarovsk Territory (Ms. Galina Bel’dy), Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area (Ms. Elena Salinder), Taimyr Autonomous Area (Mr. Gennadiy Shchukin) and Kamchatka Region (Ms. Janna Dolgan). The candidates having gone through the contest selection enjoyed a wide support from regional associations and organisations of indigenous communities. All of them had higher education and were experienced in practical work. The training program consisted of two parts, the first one, based in Canada, providing the future coordinators with a two-week theoretical course in the organisation of economic development of communities and villages. It was followed by practical studies and familiarisation with subsistence activities of an Indian reservation and organisation of Canada’s cooperative movement engaged in deliveries of goods and fuel to the North. The second part of the program took place in Moscow where the trainees were educated in the field of organising small businesses, legal fundamentals, project proposals writing, fund raising techniques. On completion of the course, the trainees returned back to regions as regional coordinators in economic development with their tasks spread out to include elaboration of economic project proposals at the level of an individual community, ethnic village, enterprise or region as a whole. In this instance, we hope for positive cooperation and support of all the parties concerned including regional associations, indigenous communities and villages, authorities, private companies, non-governmental organisations. The Center is currently involved in negotiations about possible opening of its subdivision with a direct support from the administration of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area, thus laying the foundations for long-term cooperation.

The immediate plans

When the first course was over, specialists and experts of the Training Center produced a book of instructions with practical recommendations for preservation and development of subsistence economies of Northern peoples under the prevailing conditions of market economy. At present, preparation of a textbook for a course in small and subsistence business is also underway. A reference book on legislation with a bearing on subsistence activities of indigenous peoples is being compiled. A practical textbook on dealing with donor organisations and funds is nearing completion. Efforts are underway to adjust the training course for regional coordinators taking into account the trainees’ comments and wishes. The Center’s immediate plans envisage elaboration of similar training programs for representatives of the state-owned sector on issues of international legal standards of defense of indigenous peoples’ rights, fundamentals for nature use and co-management of natural resources.

In addition, RITC will render further consultative assistance in making project proposals, coming from the regions and oriented at economic development, and their expert assessment. To this effect, the Center will employ an expert with an assignment to look for funds in support of projects worked out with an active cooperation of regional coordinators and former trainees from ethnic villages.

Summing up the results of the first year of the Russian Indigenous Training Center, I would like to say that we have laid good foundations for our future work. Such notions as business and subsistence activities, profit and kinship community might be still incompatible and, at times, antagonistic but the prevailing market economy relations provide no other way except the one imposed on indigenous peoples of the North by history and the state – to look for their own forms of survival and further development. The only method to achieve that is to acquire necessary knowledge and skills appropriate for today’s economic and social realities. Our potential is huge. It is substantiated by the applications coming in from the regions. Unfortunately, due to some organisational limitations, we cannot conduct courses for more than 15 to 20 trainees at a time so far but we shall push ahead so that to put such training on a more regular footing. We understand that it is impossible to teach anyone how to become an entrepreneur or a businessman in a short span of time but we try hard to lay the foundations and improve legal literacy among indigenous peoples in this new sphere of activities. We are also aware of our social mission aimed at a widespread coverage and popularisation of the subsistence lifestyle as a basis for the survival of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East and preservation of their culture.

Announcement about the upcoming courses and contests

(1) RITC announces the next training course on “Project development. Fundamentals of small-scale and subsistence business” scheduled for February 2002 (the exact date is being verified in Moscow). All those interested in participation are kindly invited to have a thorough look at the contest conditions and send us the attached questionnaires with answers filled in not later than the indicated deadline.

Explanatory note about the training course

The training course on “Project development. Fundamentals of small-scale and subsistence business” will be conducted in February 2002 (the exact date is being verified), in the RITC classroom in Moscow. A two-week course will be focused on tapping into potential economic projects in regions; checking their financial feasibility (for example, making a business plan and learning how to put it into effect, studying supply and demand economics); looking into traditional subsistence activities and their present-day state; learning how to write projects for their submission to donor organisations; coming to understand the fundamentals of business and gaining initial stage business management skills; studying the federal laws. Trainees will be also acquainted with Canadian experience in developing aboriginal entrepreneurship.

The candidates wishing to attend the classes are expected to comply with the following criteria:

- To be ready to travel and be inclined to do so;

- To possess communicative abilities;

- To have support of the local indigenous population;

- To be actively involved in the activities of his or her community and village;

- To have working experience, preferably, in some economic activity;

- To be aware of his or her region’s resource and potentials.

Note: when forming the training group, sex ratio, age distribution and regional balance will be taken into account.

Preference will be given to representatives of indigenous nationality.

The number of trainees in the group is 15.

Those interested in attending the course should fill in the application form and meet certain criteria. All the expenses of the selected candidates, including the cost of return tickets from and back to their regions, accommodation and meals, will be covered by the Training Center.

The application form for participation will be distributed by post and e-mail. You can also get it at the head-office of RITC at the given address or filing a request at www.raipon.org.

Filled in application forms should reach the Center not later than January 15, 2002. Each of them should be accompanied with a supporting letter (recommendation) from an organisation of indigenous peoples (Association or its subdivision, kinship community, ethnic enterprise or economic unit) as well as applicant’s brief account of the economic situation in his or her community (village, region). Your application without a letter of recommendation will be regarded as incomplete and will not be accepted for consideration.

(2) RITC announces the beginning of a contest for small grants as of December 1, 2001 to foster economic development of communities, villages and regions. To participate in this contest, corresponding application forms of project proposals should be filled in and mailed with a full description of the whole project to the given address prior to July 1, 2002.

Explanatory note about the Contest of project proposals

The program to support regional project proposals is slated for implementation in 2002 focusing on proposed projects selected during the contest and meeting the following criteria:

- To bring indigenous population into profit and improve its employment situation;

- To envisage self-repayment for a long term;

- To rely on local resources;

- To envisage participation of women and youth;

- To be of benefit and serve the village (community) as a whole;

- To take into account traditional knowledge and/or forms of economic management;

- To be supported by the village (community) and indigenous peoples’ organisation on the local and regional levels;

- To be supported by local offices and regional authorities;

- To be good in financial accounting.

The application forms for project proposals are readily available in the Center’s head-office. They will be also distributed by post and e-mail.

Your assistance in distributing this information in your region will be highly appreciated.