How did you get involved in the Barents Cooperation?
I worked as an advisor at the Norwegian Barents Secretariat for five years, mainly with indigenous peoples' cooperation.
You have been involved especially with the indigenous Barents cooperation and you are at the moment the Chair of the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples (WGIP). In your perspective, how does the future of WGIP and the whole indigenous cooperation look like? What should be especially paid attention to in the future?
Since 1995, the WGIP has been the cooperation hub for indigenous peoples in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region, although a lot of the cooperation is also bi and trilateral, initiated by enthusiastic Sámi, Nenets and Veps outside of the formal BEAC cooperation. This WG has been active throughout these soon-to-be 20 years, and I look forward to the future for indigenous peoples in the region.
Yet, there are certainly challenges to face, and it is crucial that member states and regional authorities include the indigenous peoples in the development of the region, both in the preparatory face and in the implementation of the plans.
Extractive industries represent severe challenges for the traditional livelihood of indigenous peoples, and that is why the WGIP do pay a lot of attention to the matter. Traditional livelihood may not add up to tons of cash for business men and women, but are nonetheless crucial for those making a living out of it, those who are most definitely inhabitants of this region.
The many different cultures - and our very rich history - have made us who we are today, and that must never be ignored. People from outside the region must understand this if they are to implement activities in our territories.
Another important task for indigenous peoples in the region, as well as globally, is to preserve and develop the indigenous languages. Our languages are endangered (at least most of them), and we need to put them forward, so they are not totally replaced by the majority languages. Those responsible for our loss of language ought to make efforts to revitalize and develop the indigenous languages of the region.
Finally, the representation of the indigenous peoples of the region in the formal cooperation is important, and the WGIP welcome the efforts of the BEAC and the BRC in including the indigenous voices into their activities.
Could you tell in your own words bit about the main objectives of the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples for the next years and the backgrounds of these chosen focuses?
As mentioned, challenges related to extractive industries will continue to be a focus for the WGIP, as it continues to have impact on the lives of indigenous peoples. Finding the best possible path to co-existence has been a target for the WGIP the lately. Seminars and conferences on the topic will be arranged throughout the coming years, and we do hope for a constructive dialogue between regions and peoples.
Use of indigenous peoples' languages is another prioritized area, as well as media cooperation, environmental cooperation, cultural cooperation and political cooperation.
The best things in your Barents work?
The best thing about the Barents work is the amazing people inhabiting the region. The warm and lovely Nenets people in the tundra, the enthusiastic Veps people in Karelia and neighboring areas, and of course the people inhabiting all four states, the Sámi brothers and sisters.
Where are you in 10 years?
Hopefully, I will be teaching North Sámi to kids in Kirkenes, still working for Sámi and other indigenous peoples' issues in 10 and 20 years from now.
Favorite place in the Barents region:
Girkonjárga - Kirkenes, my hometown.
The best Barents music:
Sofia Jannok and Boknakaran
Greetings to BarentSaga readers:
Never forget to include the indigenous peoples' perspective, whatever you do :-)