Warm winters distress reindeer herders

AFP – Reindeer stand in a holding pen at a farm in Lovozero. In a billowing cloud of white, Russia’s Arctic …
by Alissa de Carbonnel – Sun Feb 28, 12:52 am ET

LOVOZERO, Russia (AFP) – In a billowing cloud of white, Russia’s Arctic herders drive thousands of panting and wild-eyed reindeer through the knee-deep snow to the first slaughter this year.
But warm winters in recent years have forced herders here in the far northern Kola Peninsula to delay for months the rounding up of their reindeer from the vast tundra — at great economic cost.
“We’ve had to move the slaughter forwards from December to February because the lakes haven’t frozen over,” said Vladimir Filippov, an ethnic Komi herder who heads the farm Tundra, the main employer in this remote village.
These reindeer have lost roughly 20 percent of their weight during the extra months spent in the tundra while herders waited for the ice to thicken enough for the forced migration.
“It’s not a small but a huge problem for us and a constant worry,” said Filippov.
With meat sold at 4.34-6.01 dollars per kilogram (2.2 pounds), it can amount to a loss of up to 167,000 dollars per year. “That’s a huge loss,” Filippov sighed.
Over the past decade average temperatures have risen by 0.7 degrees C (1.25 degrees F) and satellite images show melting ice cover on the Arctic pole, said Anatoly Semyonov of the regional Murmansk state climate monitoring agency.
Even though 2010 has been relatively icy, herders who have faced more than a decade of mild winters dismiss the general scepticism amongst the Russian public over global warming.
Climate changes has also disrupted the breeding cycle and made it tough for reindeer to feed on lichen beneath the snow as late thaws and freezing rain create an impervious ice coating, veterinarian Vasili Pidgayetsky said.
At Tundra, global warming is forcing innovation.
Last year, the farm entered a proposal to build freeze-storage sites powered by wind turbines near grazing grounds to avoid the need to cross the vast tundra for slaughter in a grant contest run by the World Bank.
“We could kill the reindeer in situ in December and carry the meat back to the village by snowmobile,” said Tundra’s director Viktor Startsev.
It is a radical idea that is not without opposition amid the indigenous Saami and Komi-Izhems herders clinging fast to age-old way of life on the peninsula.
“Of course, the older generation says this isn’t right,” admitted Startsev.
— ‘The young don’t want this life’ — The herding crisis began here with the Soviet experiment: Herders were moved from their pastures to Lovozero in the collectivization of the 1930s and forced resettlements in the 1960s to make way for military and industrial activity.
Valentina Sovkina, an expert with the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, was one of hundreds of Saami children who were torn from their parents and placed in dormitories.
“They were tragic years when families were split, mine too. I saw it fall apart,” she said. “I use to live half a year in the tundra… We slept on reindeer pelts but then the authorities insisted each child had to have a bed.”
The Soviet changes led many commit suicide and turn to drink, she said.
Today, many have left Lovozero and few young people in the impoverished village of 3,000 want to take up their forefathers’ profession.
Rubbing his mittened hands in frigid exhaustion, 42-year-old Grigory Khatanzei said he began herding at 16 and recalled how much tougher the job was without cell phones and snowmobiles — using sleighs and dogs.
Despite satellite television and other improvements at bases in the tundra, “My kids, the young don’t do this; they don’t want this work probably because it pays so little,” he said.
The average herder earns 7,000 rubles (234 dollars) a month and lives in the tundra in shifts between March and November.
With less people to mind the herd, squeezed by industrial growth and powerless before armed poachers, reindeer numbers have dropped drastically.
By the end of World War II — during which reindeer brigades transported Soviet armed forces — the Tundra farm had 43,000 animals. In 2010, some 26,000 reindeer are left.
The reindeer and caribou herds are in steady decline across the Arctic, the first global study of their numbers published in 2009 found.
“The vast degree of global change in the north casts doubt on the species’ ability to recover,” study author Liv Vors of the University of Alberta, Canada told AFP.
In the last sprint of the day-long, 50-kilometre (30-mile) rampage over the tundra, herders chase alongside, flapping their arms to spur on reindeer.
When one sinks exhausted into the snow, they swoop in and drag it by the antlers onto wood sleds at the back of their snowmobiles.
“We’re always worried, not only because of climate change,” Filippov said. “I’m afraid that if people don’t pay attention to reindeer herding, it may die away.”

Original article here

New World’s first humans may have come via Arctic

Did the original inhabitants of the Americas take a detour through Nunavut?

Two scientists from the University of Utah argue that the first humans to inhabit the Americas may have arrived as early as 30,000 years ago, then headed south after travelling through the High Arctic.
This map shows the possible routes that early humans from Asia may have followed on their journey into North America.
This map shows the possible routes that early humans from Asia may have followed on their journey into North America. (ILLUSTRATION COURTESY CANWEST NEWS SERVICE)

Canwest News Service

Two U.S. scientists have published a radical new theory about when, where and how humans migrated to the New World, arguing that the peopling of the Americas may have begun via Canada’s High Arctic islands and the Northwest Passage — much farther north and at least 10,000 years earlier than generally believed.

The hypothesis — described as “speculative” but “plausible” by the researchers themselves — appears in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology, which features a special series of new studies tracing humanity’s proliferation out of Africa and around the world beginning about 70,000 years ago.

The idea of an ancient Arctic migration as early as 25,000 years ago, proposed by University of Utah anthropologists Dennis O’Rourke and Jennifer Raff, would address several major gaps in prevailing theories about how the distant ancestors of today’s aboriginal people in North and South America arrived in the Western Hemisphere.

The most glaring of those gaps is the anomalous existence of a 14,500-year-old archeological site in Chile, near the southern extreme of the Americas, that clearly predates the time when East Asian hunters are thought to have first crossed from Siberia to Alaska via the Bering Land Bridge at the end of the last ice age some 13,000 years ago.

The new theory may also have implications for a lingering Canadian archeological mystery.

For decades, the Canadian Museum of Civilization has stood largely alone in defending its view that the Yukon’s Bluefish Caves hold evidence of a human presence in the Americas — tool flakes and butchered mammoth bones — going back about 20,000 years.

The Utah scientists, pointing to genetic affinities between certain central Asian populations and New World aboriginal groups, suggest an Arctic coastal migration may have begun from river outlets in present-day north-central Russia.

Two scientists from the University of Utah argue that the first humans to inhabit the Americas may have arrived as early as 30,000 years ago, then headed south after travelling through the High Arctic.

Using skin boats and hunting along glacier-free refuges while the last ice age was still underway, the prehistoric travellers could have moved quickly along the northern Siberian coast to northern Alaska, Canada’s Arctic Islands and beyond to eastern and southern parts of the Americas, they say.
“Movement to the interior of the continent via the Mackenzie River drainage,” the authors assert, “is plausible.”

And suspected gaps among Arctic glaciers means “open coastal areas for continued movement eastward would have provided access to the open water of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait and a coastal route along the eastern seaboard of North America,” the study states.

O’Rourke told Canwest News Service the theory doesn’t exclude existing models, but offers a new way of thinking about the movements of the earliest North Americans that deserves to be considered and “to be tested in rigorous ways.”

In recent years, the routes and timing of New World migration have been among the most contentious issues in science.

The Siberia-to-Alaska pathway for early hunter-gatherers, followed by a southward migration down a mid-continental “ice-free corridor” in present-day Northwest Territories and Alberta, is widely accepted and backed up by numerous archeological findings.

But a growing number of scientists, troubled by the age of the Chilean site and other wrinkles in the conventional migration story, have recently touted the likelihood of an earlier migration by seafaring people along the Pacific Coast.

However, purported coastal archeological sites that could yield traces of humans from 16,000 years ago or earlier are underwater today. Canadians scientists and others are probing potential sites in British Columbia and Alaska, but evidence remains extremely sketchy.

Equally puzzling is the fact that eastern North America has generated far more artifacts from the continent’s first known civilization, the Clovis people, than archeological sites in the West, where more relics would be expected.

Finally, DNA studies of current aboriginal populations — which can provide evidence of the geographic origins and migration patterns of ancient ancestors — have been at odds with the conventional migration models.

“As neither archeological nor genetic data have yet been able to unequivocally resolve many of the long-standing questions regarding American colonization, the generation of new models and hypotheses to which new and more powerful analyses may be applied is essential,” O’Rourke and Raff state in their paper.

In an interview, O’Rourke said the possibility of a very early northern migration is supported by recent research in Russia. In January 2004, a team of Russian scientists reported the remains of a 30,000-year-old human settlement near the Arctic Ocean outlet of Siberia’s Yana River, the most convincing evidence ever found for such an early, northerly human presence near the Bering gateway to the New World.

David Morrison, the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s director of archeology and an expert in Canada’s prehistoric Arctic peoples, applauded the U.S. researchers for floating a fairly “wild” theory because “that’s how science advances.”

But he said “count me skeptical” about the hypothesis, citing the “unspeakably harsh” conditions that the ancient Asians would have encountered in Canada’s Arctic before the full retreat of the glaciers.

“It was,” says Morrison, “a terrible environment.”

While he still thinks the Bluefish Caves predate the migration times in prevailing theories, he says such remote history is still only dimly understood pending the development of more comprehensive and credible scenarios.

“Going back 30,000 years requires you to speculate,” he says, “because we really don’t have much of an idea what was going on.”

But he added that Bluefish “has got to tie into the solution somehow.”

New research: Forbears of today’s Inuit sought trade

Did the first Inuit migrate to Nunavut chasing metal?
Original article: NunatsiaqOnline

The probable migration route of Inuit from Alaska to Greenland, part of Robert McGhee's paper, “When and why did the Inuit move to the Eastern Arctic?” The paper was published in the book <I>The Northern World AD 900-1400: the Dynamics of Climate, Economy, and Politics in Hemisphere Perspective.</i>
The probable migration route of Inuit from Alaska to Greenland, part of Robert McGhee’s paper, “When and why did the Inuit move to the Eastern Arctic?” The paper was published in the book The Northern World AD 900-1400: the Dynamics of Climate, Economy, and Politics in Hemisphere Perspective.

The direct ancestors of today’s eastern Arctic Inuit may have come looking for iron.

A new theory by a Canadian archaeologist argues that the ancestors of modern Canadian Inuit traveled rapidly from Alaska to Greenland, in search of iron for tools and trade.

Ruin Island, between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, may be the earliest Inuit settlement outside Alaska, Robert McGhee, former curator of the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s Arctic archeology department, says in an essay.

“The Ruin Island complex would not appear to be the product of a slow Inuit expansion from the Western Arctic, but of a purposeful expedition across approximately 4,000 kilometres of Arctic geography that had no previous Inuit occupation,” McGhee said in his essasy, “When and why did the Inuit move to the Eastern Arctic?”

Ruin Island lies near Cape York in Greenland, where an iron meteor fell from the sky sometime in the past.

The region was also frequented by Norse hunters, and many Norse-style iron tools were among the artifacts uncovered at Ruin Island.

McGhee asserts that rumours of the iron at Cape York and-or the potential for Norse trade reached the ancestors of today’s Inuit in Alaska through the Dorset people, or Tuniit, who inhabited the eastern Arctic at the time.

Also, McGhee said Ruin Island’s Inuit artifacts have more in common with the societies of the western or northwestern Alaskan coast than with the northern coast.

Citing earlier research. McGhee said the people of that region were involved in trading metal between Asia and North America, so rumours of eastern iron could have acted as a magnet, drawing Inuit explorers and settlers east.

Previous theories hold that the migration of Inuit from the west took decades at least, driven by environmental factors.

But McGhee points to Knud Rasmussen’s expeditions and the documented travels of 19th century Inuit to argue that a group of families could have traveled the distance in only a few years by dog-sled and umiak.

So, according to McGhee, the Inuit mounted what amounts to a mercantile colonial expedition into the eastern Arctic.

“In not comprehending this interpretation earlier, we may have been led astray by the deeply-rooted archaeological tendency to ascribe different sets of motives and different cultural processes to aboriginal peoples than we apply to Europeans or other societies with a written historical record of individual accomplishment,” he wrote.

“Future archaeological work may indicate that ancestral Inuit may be more accurately viewed as an entrepreneurial people from the coasts of the Bering or Chukchi seas, who were attracted to the Eastern Arctic during the 13th century in order to trade with Europeans, and whose way of life has developed as a part of the European world ever since.”

In the essay, McGhee took a new look at older evidence, especially radio-carbon dating that he says is not reliable.

Radio-carbon dating is a method by which a modern laboratory can test an artifact made from a plant or animal.

Such a test gives the approximate date when the plant or animal stopped living, and therefore when the artifact was made by a human being.

The method is one of the lynchpins of archeology.

But in the Arctic, radio-carbon dating is often based on artifacts made from willow trees or driftwood. In both cases, the original tree may have died long before being made into a tool.

So reliance on wood-based radio-carbon samples isn’t a good way of estimating the age of an artifact and where it came from.

McGhee looked at older research and took out the data that came from such unreliable sources, and came up with new, later, dates for the approximate ages of Inuit settlements.

Based on the new dates McGhee estimated, the Inuit settlement on Ruin Island started around AD 1330, rather than the established estimate around of AD 1280.

An Inuit settlement at Creswell Bay on Somerset Island had been thought to begin around AD 1190

After removing data from wood radiocarbon dating, McGhee estimated the site there only dates back to about AD 1360.

Hornorkesteret posted news of this interesting theory earlier, as this touches on one of our favourite subjects: The habit historians have of completely underestimating the abilities of ancient peoples. Of course ancient man travelled the oceans long before the british naval empire. They knew the world was round, they navigated by the stars. Of course the early inuits would cross the tundra in less than a generation for such a precious resource like iron.

Alaska village embraces Native dances banned by church

(Rachel D’Oro/Anchorage Daily News, 22 February 2010) — NOORVIK — Bobby Wells has lived all his life in this remote Alaska village, where the Eskimo dancing of his ancestors was banned by Quaker missionaries a century ago as primitive idolatry. Now Wells, 53, and other residents of Noorvik have wholeheartedly embraced the ancient practice outlawed in the Inupiat settlement, which was established in 1914. “This is the way God made us, to express our thankfulness to him with dancing,” Wells said. The belief of traditional dancing as somehow evil, however, remains deeply ingrained in scores of Native villages around the state. But some communities have broken away from that ideology in recent decades. One by one, they have resurrected the old dances and songs of the long ago past, along with culture camps and language immersion programs. Mike Ulroan can’t imagine life without dance. It was already revived in the Cup’ik village of Chevak when he was born 21 years ago, long after the practice was prohibited by Russian Catholic missionaries. Dancing has always been a constant for Ulroan, even after he left four years ago to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage. In Alaska’s largest city, he dances with several groups. “It’s just a way to make me feel happy,” he said. “With the movements we do, we push away bad spirits and keep away sickness.” Noorvik’s decision to lift the ban last fall came after residents learned they would be the first in the nation to be counted in the 2010 U.S. Census. The idea had been kicked around before, but this time locals wanted to make it a reality for a celebration with visiting census representatives and other officials. Tribal leaders formally approved the proposal after it received the blessing of the Noorvik Friends Church, despite opposition from a few elders. It’s a huge change because dancing had never been done in the current location of Noorvik, which means “a place that is moved to” in Inupiaq. “I don’t speak for the church, but in my own view we’re going to come to a place in the afterlife where we sing and dance to the Lord,” said church pastor Aurora Sampson. “While we are on this earth we might as well practice.”

Posted 22 February 2010; 3:37:52 PM.   Permalink

Vil ha snøleopard til reinområde (NRK, norwegian only)

NRK 23.02.2010 19:28.

Forsker vil sette ut den utrydningstruede snøleoparden i Nord-Sverige. Svenske samer sier bestemt nei.

– Det er god plass i Sverige, og vi har et globalt ansvar for å bevare utrydningstruede arter, sier forsker Carl-Gustaf Thulin ved senter for vilt- og fiskforskning i Sveriges Landbruksuniversitet i Umeå.

Snøleoparden er nest etter tigeren det mest truede kattedyret i verden, og arten finnes nå for det meste i Sentral-Asia.

– Arrogant

Dette forslaget møter sterk motstand fra de svenske samene.

Sara Larsson (Foto: Åse Pulk/NRK)Det svenske sametingets leder Sara Larsson fnyser av forslaget om å innføre snøleopard til Nord-Sverige

Foto: Åse Pulk/NRK

– Forslaget er arrogant og vi sier bestemt nei til at nye rovdyr skal inn i reindriftsområder, sier det svenske Sametingets politiske leder Sara Larsson.

I disse dager er det sametinget samlet til plenumsmøte, og rovdyrsproblematikken er høyt oppe på dagsorden.

– Vi må først få svar på om det i det hele tatt skal finnes reindrift i Sverige. Så må vi få svar på hvordan næringen skal få erstatning for de rovdyr som allerede fins. Det er allerede altfor mye rovdyr som truer med å ødelegge hele reindriftsnæringen, sier Sara Larsson til SVT.

Permalenke http://www.nrk.no/kanal/nrk_sami_radio/1.7009208
Her slutter Hornorkesteret seg fullt og helt til Sara Larsson. Dette er jo det rene tøv. Snøleoparden er jo fin, og det er trist at den er utrydningstruet, men arten har ingenting i Nord-Skandinavia å gjøre. Dette minner om hippie-miljøvernere som fokuserer på å redde delfiner, koalabjørner, snøleoparder og andre dyr som er søte og vakre med store øyne, samtidig som de driter i alvorlige miljøproblemer og måten vi driver industrielt dyreoppdrett på. At et slikt forslag kommer fra en forsker ved Sveriges Landbruksuniversitet er mildt sagt sjokkerende!

Sami languages disappears

Barents Observer 2010-02-19

Two Sami women on the Kola Peninsula.The world’s smallest language, Ter Sami, is only spoken by two persons. Also, Ume Sami and Pite Sami will not last long.

According to Pravda, there are only two people left speaking Ter Sami, a Sami dialect spoken in villages in the eastern part of the Kola Peninsula. In the end of the 19th ventury, there were six Ter Sami villages, with a several hundred inhabitants. Now, there are some 100 ethnic Ter Sami in the area, of whom only two elderly persons speak the original languages. The rest have shifted to Russian.

The Sami languages are also challenged in the southern part of the Barents Region. In, Sweden there are only some 10 people who can still speak the Ume Sami, traditionally a Sami language spoken on the course of the Ume River.

Also Pite Sami, traditionally spoken on both the Norwegian and Swedish side of the border in the Arjeplog area, is a dying language. According to Wikipedia, there are only some twenty native speakers left and only on the Swedish side of the border.

In Finland, a severe lack of teachers could threaten the future of Sami people in the north, YLE News reports this week.

A study carried out at the University of Oulu says that an investment is needed in training Sami language teachers and other educators who speak the language. It suggests that teacher training be organized at one of the universities in the north of the country and in Sami-speaking areas.

It calls for special attention to be given to the future of the languages spoken by the Inari Sami and the Skolt Sami, YLE News reports.

Population growth in northern Norway

Barents Observer 2010-02-19

Northern NorwayIn 2009 northern Norway experienced the highest population growth since 1974. For 35 years northern Norway has had a steady decline in population, but last year the population grew with 2196.

It is the three northernmost counties of Norway, Nordland, Troms and Finmark, which is defined as northern Norway. This is the most scarcely populated areas of Norway, and there has been a steady decline in population through since the mid 70ties.

The latest population countings from Statistics Norway states that the negative demographic trend is beginning to turn. With the 2196 new northern citizens, there were a total of 465.621 people living in the three northernmost counties on January 1st 2010. The largest county is Nordland with 236.271 inhabitants, while there are 156.494 inhabitants in Troms and 72.856 inhabitants in Finnmark. All three counties had a population growth in 2009, and an important part of the growth is that the birth rate is also growing considerably.

However, it is the most populated municipalities and the city centers which count for most of the population growth. Still the smaller remote communities suffer from depopulation.

Original article here.