The Totem People's Preservation Project, Mongolia

We celebrate a recent extraordinary experience with peoples speaking seven languages and hailing from vast areas surrounding Lake Baikal, Russia, to the inner Asian Republic of Tuva and to the steppe and lake country of Mongolia. In December, 2000, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, a New York State nonprofit, teamed with Cultural Survival and its Totem People's Preservation Project to host twelve professionals from these ancient cultures, comprising a truly interdisciplinary Siberian-Mongolian-Adirondack Cultural and Ecological Exchange.

Our purpose was to foster professional relationships and opportunities among Americans, Siberians, and Mongolians; to further public awareness of the inseparability of cultural and environmental issues within protected landscapes; and to advance international cooperation in addressing transboundary problems threatening economic, environmental and cultural health.

The exchange made stops in New York City, the Hudson River Valley, Albany, New York, Cambridge, and a dozen places throughout the vast six million-acre Adirondack Park in New York State. At each stop, the public had an opportunity to learn of the pressing problems facing the ancient reindeer herding cultures.

The exchange had some extraordinary moments. These include: several professional seminars at Harvard University's Yenching Institute and Asian Studies Department; an interview with Harvard's renowned biodiversity specialist Dr. E.O. Wilson; a throatsinger and shamanic ceremony at Cultural Survival's Cultural Bazaar at Harvard Law School; a discussion of American legislative process in New York's capital of Albany; the renewal of ancient cultural ties with New York's Mohawk Peoples in Akwesasne; an intensely serious discussion about the sacredness of springwaters with New York State's Adirondack Park Agency; a day of research on one of America's great lakes, Lake Champlain; an intimate dinner with one of the Adirondack Park's finest local elected officials in Keene, New York; and the signing of a Year 2000 Agreement pledging future cooperation in the fields of ecological and cultural protection between the regions of Eastern Siberia, Mongolia, and New York State's Adirondack Park. These are among some of the rich and enduring memories that we carry forward from this exchange, with great hope in our collective hearts for continued health, friendship, and progress toward international peace through technical assistance on issues of environment and culture.

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