Aiding and Empowering Reindeer Herders:Totem Peoples' Preservation Project

The Totem Peoples' Preservation Project is dedicated to aiding the sustainability of traditionally nomadic reindeer, yak, camel, and other livestock herding, hunting, and gathering peoples in eastern Siberia and Mongolia. Since its inception in 1999, the Totem Project has improved reindeer husbandry and veterinary support for the Dukha of northern Mongolia as well as the Tozhu of the Tyva Republic of Russia. This year it is active in several major project campaigns.

In addition to delivering direct aid bi-annually to improve core totem livestock herds, the Totem Project has facilitated, with stakeholders in Russia and Mongolia, numerous Native-rights workshops and agreements designed to advance indigenous sovereignty, protect ethno-cultural habitat, and reduce outside and Western influences that degrade Native traditional lifestyles, cultures, and their environment. The hardships and challenges facing the Dukha, Tozhu, Buryat, Evenki, Soyot, and other ethnic groups are increasing. These challenges can only be met by concerted action to foster intercultural dialogue, respect of basic human and Native rights, and advances needed in socio-economic development that promote rather than degrade traditional nomadic lifestyles found in the Russia-Mongolia border territories.

With key support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, Nordlys Foundation, the Momentum Earth Foundation, Chris Walters of Yayla Tribal Rugs, and many other private citizen donors, the Totem Project is delivering on its mission in 2003 through three primary program initiatives:
1. Advancing direct aid to improve nomadic livestock husbandry and veterinary care and herder training. This month, the Totem Project will begin training specialized Native veterinary aids in Mongolia and will also provide funds for vet training of reindeer herders in the Republic of Tyva, Russia. This training will advance in-taiga year-round veterinary care. In addition, the project will continue to provide veterinary medicines to support the herds during spring and fall conditions, and a focus will be placed on providing carving tools to advance antler craft development. In addition, camel and yak herders in the Republic of Tyva will gain support from the Totem Project for the first time.
2. Native rights recognition for the Tozhu and Evenki in eastern Siberia, Russia, and the Dukha in Mongolia. Advancing the Totem Project's historical leadership in Native issues seminars, the project will fund the first Dukha elders delegation to Mongolia's capital in 14 years. This work will be undertaken in concert with colleagues from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and Dukha and Mongolian colleagues, including Taiga Nature, a non-governmental organization based in Ulanbator, Mongolia. Other Totem Project funding will aid similar workshops and seminars for both Tozhu and Evenki Natives seeking to gain more authority over their lands and resources under federal laws on territories of traditional nature use.
3. International Cultural and Ecological Exchange Program and the proposed Lake Baikal-Sayans-Lake Hovsgol Peace Park Initiatives. In collaboration with the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the Totem Project will conduct its third international exchange—this time bringing a team of Adirondack and Mohawk specialists to the Republic of Buryatia to share experiences in cultural and ecological protection and sustainable development in Native and Russian rural steppe-grassland and mountain taiga communities. Furthering partner parks' work, the exchange will investigate needed advances in the implementation of the proposed Lake Baikal-Sayan-Lake Hovsgol Peace Park. Major issues confronting the peace park now include proposals by conglomerate oil and natural gas corporations to build extensive pipelines through protected areas with little or no direct involvement or authority granted to Native residents.
Budget and Critical Needs

The Totem Project has fundraised for all its programs and, to date, has raised over $27,000 for major projects during the spring-summer field season in Russia and Mongolia. Please help the Totem Project meet its campaign funding goals: $8,000 is needed to fund its agricultural partnership, livestock, and Native rights programs through August 2003. An additional $9,000 is needed to fully implement its international exchange work through June in the Republic of Buryatia and to produce a major proceedings publication that can foster advances for intercultural collaboration, partner parks work among Siberia, Mongolia, and the Adirondack Park of New York State. Funding is also needed to implement support for the Lake Baikal-Saya -Lake Hovsgol Peace Park.
For more information, or to make a donation, please contact:

Dan Plumley, director
Totem Peoples Preservation Project
P.O. Box 746
Keene Valley, New York 12943 USA
Phone: (518) 576-4430

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