Events and Newsletters -
Summer 2002 - Issue 18
Into The Wilds of Tuva
by Bill Pfeiffer
Tuvan women greeting the groupphoto by Lucien Kragiel
In June, SEN teamed-up with another not-for-profit, Dream Change Coalition (DCC) and ran an expedition to Tuva in southern Siberia (see map on page 3). The trip was co-led by myself, Bill Pfeiffer, and Lyn Roberts-Herrick of DCC. Our goal was to learn about the ancient Earth-honoring traditions that are still alive there, particularly the practice of shamanism. After many years of explaining second-hand the multitude of reasons for working in that part of the world, I had an opportunity to show first-hand a group of twelve very motivated people (from the US, Costa Rica, and England) the beauty, mystery, and challenges there.
Yurt near wilderness campphoto by Lucien Kragiel
Participant reactions following the trip were filled with superlatives. Wendy Taylor, remarked, “after traveling all over the world I can say that the most powerful shamanism in the world is practiced in Siberia, and it’s not just the shamans, it’s the land.” And according to Lucien Kragiel, “despite the physical demands and lack of sleep, the whole experience in Siberia was magical and transformative.”During the very full week we were in Tuva we traveled to four different communities in some of the most remote countryside on the planet; participating in ceremonies and healings and learning about the richly-endowed native ecology. The group’s largest collective impression was the warmth, generosity, and graciousness of the Tuvan people. For a country that has experienced both the Manchurian and Soviet yokes over the past 200 years, the sincere friendliness that hundreds of Tuvans showed a group of “strangers from the West” was remarkable.
Herrell, a Tuvan shaman, leading a ceremonyphoto by Lucien Kragiel
From an organizational standpoint, what is particularly exciting are the numerous possibilities that can grow out of such a trip. For example, during a four day stay in yurts on the pristine Erzin River, our hosts unexpectedly used a generator for refrigeration and lighting. Although our group could have lived without these “creature comforts,” the Tuvans wanted to give us a first-class experience that would attract other Westerners for longer periods of time. The possibility of SEN helping them finance a solar electricity system before our next trip would make this more solidly an eco-tour. For years, indigenous peoples and environmental activists have been telling us that eco-tourism can provide vital revenue to local people, which in turn can help prevent poaching and preserve land. E. O. Wilson says it simply and eloquently “the better an eco-system is known, the less likely it will be destroyed.”
Trip participant Charline Souffrant with shamans Herrell and Ai-Idaphoto by Lucien Kragiel
After this trip, I can say that SEN and DCC have begun something that may turn out to be just as effective as providing Internet access to environmental organizations to promote positive change. Equally important is the cross-cultural teaching that takes place. When Tuvans and other Siberians see that people are willing to travel thousands of miles to experience their nature and culture, there is greater incentive to pass on their knowledge and wisdom to the next generation. Come join us next year!