Reindeer Portal Interview with Dmitry Khorolia, President of Assn. of World Reindeer Herders

October 20, 2008 • Philip BurgessBlog, ICR/WRH

Dmitry KhoroliaDuring the EALAT Information workshop (September 2007) and seminar on the Yamal Peninsula, a series of interviews were made with key people related to reindeer husbandry in the world’s largest region of reindeer husbandry, including Sergei Haruchi, Dmitri Khorolia and Leonid Khudi.  In this feature, we are reproducing the interview with Dmitri Khorolia, who is Nenets, and is the President of the Association of World Reindeer Herders.

What is the importance of information exchange and what will be the results of such seminars in the tundra?

It is very good and fine that this international seminar in the framework of the EALAT-project was held here in Yar-Sale in the Yamal district, the centre of Russian reindeer husbandry. It is really so that this is a district where the traditional ways of reindeer herders existence are preserved. And this is very important.

 

We have also talked about the establishment of a reindeer institute at the Yamal Peninsula. Could you comment this?

 

Of course it is very important for today’s Russia to have an educational establishment on reindeer husbandry for the youth. It is needed. That’s why today there exist proposals to establish such an institute for reindeer herders. For both Russia and for reindeer herders from around the world.

 

Do you think that such an institute can help to document traditional knowledge about  reindeer husbandry in Yamal for the coming period so that we also in the future can have a strong reindeer husbandry at Yamal?

 

Of course this institute for reindeer husbandry which we must establish, shall reflect and generalize reindeer herders’ traditional experience and knowledge. There exists no science which uses the experience of reindeer herders. This knowledge is only used by the reindeer herders themselves. Both in Yamal and in Scandinavia, in Norway, Finland and Sweden their experience is not available to the general public. That’s why such an institute is needed. Let us call it the international institute for reindeer husbandry.

 

Dmitry Khorolia on the Yamal tundra

Dmitry Khorolia on the Yamal tundra

There are challenges in the reindeer husbandry. One of them is global warming. Do you, as a leader in the Yamal region,  see some challenges?

 

Especially now, when we talk about global warming it is very important [with traditional knowledge]. Reindeer herders have always used observations and signs handed on by tradition. Still now they can predict what type of summer or winter is coming, prepare themselves for this in the right way and choose which pastures can be used under the given conditions and which can’t.

 

We have just left Yar-Sale. Several reindeer herders who participated in the seminar will have negotiations with Gazprom. They have begun to exploit oil and gas in the Sami regions too. Can you as President give some advice to the Saami reindeer herders as to how they should relate themselves to development that is coming to the Sami  region?

 

Of course there are today several regions in the Arctic (in Alaska, in Canada, in Norway) where oil and gas exploitation takes place. Norway, Canada and Russia must use the experiences of these other countries in order to reduce the possible negative impacts on the traditional nomadic ways of living of reindeer herders. This is very important. My advice is to use the best experience from those countries which are ahead of us. I was in Canada. There they build roads, communications and exploit oil and gas. The Russian company Gazprom tries to do as good as possible. This is important. We don’t have to invent something new. We must use the positive experiences which already exists in this world. This is very important.

 

Please say some words about the lessons learned from this development.

 

Today Yamal is not only an oil and gas region, but also a region where the reindeer husbandry is kept and will be developed. How do the parties come to terms with each others? Relationships are not built overnight. Co-operation and information exchange have existed for quite a time now. Reindeer herders are asked where to build a road, a railroad or a sand-pit in order that the nature is not destroyed more than necessary. I often get questions about how it is possible for this busy oil and gas sector to be present here at all. One would expect that the reindeer husbandry would have died out here for a long time ago.  But here in Yamal oil and gas companies and the reindeer husbandry do exist together in a perfect way and as a result the whole region prospers. This is fantastic.

 

We have hade nice days here. We have seen how skilfully you use money locally. We have seen an  impressive slaughter house in Salekhard. Sami regions should be able to learn from this how State funds can be used locally for building up  infrastructure.

 

Many of the good things which are done at Yamal have been borrowed by us from the Scandinavian countries. At the same time we have also things to tell to our reindeer husbandry colleagues in Scandinavia. First of all they can adapt traditional ways of living from us.

 

The International Polar Year was initiated by Arthur Chilingarov. You are the President of the World Reindeer Herders Association. Would you like to say some words on behalf of the   world reindeer herders?

 

I would like to address myself to all Arctic states and especially to Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. These are the super powers of the reindeer herding regions. This was my first point. My second point is that one in these countries exploits oil, gas and other natural resources. And wherever I am, I always give examples: Once there was a Norwegian reindeer herder who took reindeer to Canada and Alaska from Norway. He wrote in his diary that both gold, coal, oil and gas are good but that reindeer are God’s creatures. Reindeer were created for the Arctic peoples. All these natural resources will finally get depleted. Soon there will be no gas and oil left and new sources for light and heating will have to be invented. But the reindeer are here to stay there forever. Reindeer husbandry has a long history which stretches over many centuries. That is why this is so important. There exists an international organization for reindeer herders. It heralds that reindeer husbandry is its own civilization, a civilization which is connected with nature. This is very important too.

 

On behalf of the IPY EALAT project we would like to thank you as the local host for our very unique and impressive days on the Yamal peninsula.

Thanks to you from all of us

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