Sacred Earth Network
Winter Update 2001
Indigenous Peoples Project Hosts Historic Exchange
Native Siberians Meet Native Americans
Back Row Left to Right: Lyubov, Jani, Gulvaira, Paul, Lyudmila, Front: Milan, Erjen
The Sacred Earth Network's Indigenous Peoples Project (IPP) brought five very talented and committed indigenous leaders from Siberia to the U.S. this fall to meet with their Native American counterparts in New England and the Southwest. The participants were Lyudmila Ignatenko (Yupik), Lyubov Krivileva (Evenki), Milan Kynyraa (Tuvan), Gulvaira Shermatova (Kumandin), and Erjen Khamaganova (Buryat). Their fields of expertise include cultural restoration, environmental protection, native rights and tribal government. They are all part of a newly-formed NGO called "Light of The Ancient Lands" a network devoted to the rebirth of indigenous culture in Siberia and the Russian Far east.
This first-of-a-kind exchange was made possible through the generosity of the Trust for Mutual Understanding and the devoted membership of SEN. It was coordinated by Cathy Pedevillano and Bill Pfeiffer and videotaped by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Skurnik. This was an extraordinary trip for all concerned. There was excitement and magic as each side shared their experiences and traditions, as well as sadness and tears as they shared their histories.
Why host an exchange such as this? The immediate answer is
that it is the right thing to do. Siberian languages, culture,
and sacred sites are fast disappearing. Tribes face starvation,
joblessness, alcoholism and despair. Their lands are being destroyed.
Native Siberians and Native Americans are two very proud but subjugated
cultures at varying stages of a revitalization process. In general,
Native Americans appear to be further along in their re-emergence,
and it is of great value to share what has assisted them. Both
sides felt that this kind of exchange made them part of a relatively
new global indigenous movement for self-determination . . . and
they want more.