Indigenous knowledge, mercury, and a remote Russian Indigenous river basin—Ponoi River

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A new science article about the mercury and Indigenous knowledge has been published. These Indigenous collaborations happened before the war.

The Ponoi River basin occupies a remote wilderness area in northwestern Russia near the borders of Norway and Finland. It is considered as the most ecologically intact river system in the European North. The communities that occupy the Ponoi basin can be accessed only by aircraft and as such are referred to as “fly-in” communities. These include the communities of Krasnochelye, Sosnovka, Chalme-Varre, and Kanevka, which are home to Indigenous Sámi, Komi, and Russian-Pomor peoples.

During the Soviet era, 1917–91, Ponoi was a part of the Murmansk regional administration under the Soviet regime. This chapter reviews the Indigenous and local-traditional knowledge elements of the basin and focuses on an elusive indicator of environmental change—mercury. The use of the word “Indigenous” indicates association with the original Sámi Indigenous habitants of a place, while “local-traditional” knowledge is associated with traditional land-based activities, for example, of the Komi, Pomor, and other minorities in this river basin.

The Ponoi is an Atlantic Salmon stream, and since the 1990s it has been the primary place where large international salmon tourist companies have operated. This has created equity issues in the fisheries. The chapter is based on a community-monitoring and co-production process that began between the local communities and the non-profit Snowchange Cooperative in 2006.

Given the extreme remoteness of Ponoi, and because of the system changes to the natural environment under way in the Arctic, this chapter is a needed addition to the research on how Indigenous and traditional communities of the Russian North are addressing present shifts in their lives.

The article is here.

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