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We Adapt. We Restore. We Survive – Reviving Tahltan Knowledge, Governance and Territory

Checking the nets on Stikine. Photo: Mika Honkalinna

Checking the nets on Stikine. Photo: Mika Honkalinna

In June 2019 Snowchange, Christensen Fund, Tahltan TWild, Land Is Life and IUCN co-organised the We Adapt, We Restore, We Survive Summit on the Stikine river in northern British Columbia, Canada. This event has now been captured in a high-end multimedia presentation to allow the voices and knowledge from the event to be shared more widely.

Elder David Rattray shares Tahltan traditions. Photo: Mika Honkalinna

Elder David Rattray shares Tahltan traditions. Photo: Mika Honkalinna

In June 2019, Tahltan elders and leaders, members of Snowchange’s Finnish and Alaskan teams and representatives from The Gaia Foundation, Land is Life, ICCA Consortium and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature came together in the heart of Tahltan Territory. Main coordinator for the event was the co-founder of Snowchange, Tahltan leader and educator Curtis Rattray.

At the confluence of the Tahltan and Stikine Rivers, delegates spent 5-days learning about Tahltan fishing traditions, hiking the territory and meeting elders to discuss the challenges the Tahltan face and how they are responding. This event followed a year-long process of documenting and implementing Snowchange – Tahltan community-based monitoring and reflections of Indigenous knowledge under the context of rapidly proceeding climate change.

The event was the first of the off-shoots of the Festivals of Northern Fishing Traditions, held before in Russia and Finland. The event also included a week-long review and critical reflection on the possibility of establishing ICCA territories (of life) in North American North. Indigenous leader from Taiwan, Sutej Hugu, presented the key concepts and ideas associated with the ICCA development for the region.

Please see the Gaia-developed multimedia case below.

We Adapt. We Restore. We Survive

 

Pacific salmon. Photo: Mika Honkalinna

Pacific salmon. Photo: Mika Honkalinna

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On the Wings of the Raven Film Honours the Lifework of Finnish Elder Eero Murtomäki

6_Smiling EeroCelebrated Finnish nature photographer Eero Murtomäki has mastered what is called, in Finland, a “deeper understanding” of nature. Built upon seven decades of exploration at sea, and in the forests and marshmires of Finland, this understanding contains both the seen and the unseen aspects of nature. Central to this process has been Eero’s close relationship with the Raven, the bird of knowledge for Finns. “On Wings of the Raven” explores the career and worldview of Eero Murtomäki, combining interviews, Eero’s archival films and photographs, and contemporary travel footage in the forests of Vaasa and marine environments of Kvarken, on the Bothnian sea—a duality of locations that is central to Eero’s lifework.

Rita Lukkarinen

Rita Lukkarinen

The Work of Eero Murtomäki

Eero Murtomäki was born on the 10th of January, 1943. He has been a freelancer author since 1962. Themes emerging in his literary and photographic work include the regions of Kvarken, Lapland, and South Ostrobothnia, their species, territories, and changes in nature.

Eero has released over 20 nature-related books, as well as several TV and feature-length nature films. He often refers to himself as a hunter, though nowadays he hunts mostly with a camera. As early as the 1960s, he was vocal opponent, both in his books and in the public, of the ditching of marshmires and large-scale forestry that permanently altered the forests and nature of Southern Finland.

On-Wings-of-the-RavenMurtomäki was also involved with the restoration work of Sea Eagle populations of the Baltic. These large predator birds hit rock-bottom in late 1960s and early 1970s because of large amounts of DDT, pesticides, and mercury in the food chain. Working with the WWF Sea Eagle team, Eero was able to help return this magnificent bird back to health. In 2010s, over 340 young sea eagles each year are hatching. Eero says that this work has given his own life more meaning but the enemy this recovery faced is within us—the levels of consumption and ways of life that are out of place.

However, it is Raven that proved to be the guiding bird in Eero’s life. Through the interaction that Eero and Raven have had over decades Finns have re-learned the earlier name of this bird: Kaarne (as opposed to the modern Korppi). Life with Raven and learning from Raven has been, according to Eero, his central theme all his life in all he does.

9_Owl film

Director’s Statement- Thomas Miller (USA)

In the summer of 2018, I stood on the shore of a small island in western Finland, waiting for Eero Murtomäki, who was waiting for an eagle. The tall grasses hissed gently. The sea lapped softly on the smooth rocks. The sun was warm on my face. There was no place I would rather be: waiting for Eero, who was waiting for an eagle.

Photo: Eero MurtomäkiAs we stood, cameras at the ready, the land was literally rising under our feet—albeit slowly—at about 10mm per year. The land of the Kvarken Archipelago is still rebounding—recovering—from the crushing mountains of ice-age ice, some 10,000 years ago. Similarly, the eagle population in the archipelago is also rebounding.

Not as long as an ice age ago, but back when the land was 50mm lower than it is today, Eero played a crucial role in rescuing the Baltic’s sea eagles from mercury, DDT, and other pesticides. The eagles survived, and there I stood: waiting for Eero, who was waiting for an eagle, who was there—probably—because of Eero.

When you start to repair one hole, another larger hole tears open,” says Eero, in the film. “That’s just how it is…And there is too little of the world compared to all the needs we want to fulfill.”

Eero’s spent his life repairing holes. But also sharing his unique experience of nature in Finland through his films, photography, and writing. Eero’s work has the effect of being very specific (a stark, black and white photo of a raven) but also complex (ravens have been a guiding force throughout Eero’s life—he communicates with them). There is a seen and unseen element in Eero’s work. And much of it cannot be captured in books, it must be lived.

I ponder all this, as I sit inside the cacophony of my modern life in California—with the cars, the gadgets, the internet, the fires, the millions of people, my job, my life. I think of all my “needs” and what it might mean to let it all go. (You know—all those “big” questions we Americans ask ourselves before turning on the TV again.)

New book by Eero about the loon

New book by Eero about the loon

I go back to my computer and pull up a scene from the film. Eero is sitting in his quiet house, the fire crackling, patiently answering all of our questions. “I dohave a certain kind of wish,” Eero says, “to show others, through [my] work, how beautiful it still is somewhere.” And I realize I have the same wish. Art is a record, but also an experience. That’s why I was standing there, on that little island, waiting with Eero, who was waiting for an eagle. I was waiting to show others how beautiful it is—somewhere.

Director’s Bio

Tom Miller is an artist, musician, filmmaker, and educator. Through his production company Pretty Good Productions, he has directed the feature documentary films Puruvesi(2017) and Jukajoki (2016),the three-part climate change series Our Place on Earth (2017), more than twenty short films, including For All of We(2015),  In-Between (2017), and is currently in production for the mystery/comedy mini-series, Honest Abe: The Backstory (2019). Tom led a multiphase community-led storytelling project with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and has taught classes around the world on filmmaking theory and technique.

In addition, Tom is also the Creative Director at a renewable energy company and the editor of Solar r.e.view magazine, where he hosts podcasts and produces videos and articles that help solar contractors run successful businesses.

2_Eero PhotographProducer’s Statement 

Tero Mustonen: Eero Murtomäki is the Elder of Snowchange Co-op. Whilst this is also an honorary title, universally, being an Elder means that this person has special knowledge, wisdom, and capacity to communicate his thoughts to wide audiences. Working with Eero and Tom brings Eero’s story to a visual reality has been a journey we, in Snowchange, would not have missed for the world. Eero’s knowledge of Finnish nature and his capacity to reform and re-think the meaning, scope, and significance of the Forest Finnish traditions and relations with nature have no peers. In an era of immense ecological and cultural losses, Eero has pointed out ways we, and our organization, have been able to re-build, re-vitalize and re-connect. He is also respected by many Finnish photographers and cultural persons, as well as Indigenous and cultural leaders around the world, including First Nations and Maori. This speaks to the deep quality and commitment of nature in his work. We hope this film can convey aspects of Eero’s monumental work and thoughts to larger audiences and new generations.

On Wings of the Raven premiers at the Vaasa Climate Change Conference at Vaasa Library Auditorium at 6 pm on 28th September, 2019. Open premiere followed by a Q&A with producers, director and Eero afterwards. Worldwide screenings annouced later including November dates for Australia. 

Premiere co-sponsored by Snowchange, Botnia Regional Film Center, Vaasa Climate Change Forum and Goethe Institute, Finland for the advancement of the “Right to Be Cold” Residency Programme for the North.GI_Logo_horizontal_grey_sRGB

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Professor Gretta Pecl on a Visit to Finland: Marine Area Science to Also Include Indigenous Knowledges

profile_image grettaProfessor Gretta Pecl, a marine ecologist, visits Snowchange for a week in North Karelia. The visit will include public lectures, excursions to Snowchange restoration sites and traditional fishing. Her work has focused, amongst other things, on addressing key questions for climate-driven species redistribution requires integration of ecology, conservation and social science.

Climate change is driving a pervasive global redistribution of the planet’s species, with manifest implications from genes to ecosystems across multiple temporal and spatial scales. Species redistribution defies conservation paradigms that focus on restoring systems to a baseline and challenges management strategies, which are often static and based on human-dictated boundaries drawn in the past.

Likewise, changes in distribution of marine resources create difficulties, particularly when species cross jurisdictional boundaries and where historical catch rates and assessment processes may no longer be appropriate. Moreover, we are still a long way from understanding the suite of mechanisms and processes underlying the high variation in rate and magnitude of shifts. Building on that uncertainty, we have even less understanding of how species redistribution will drive changes in ecological communities and further complicate aspirations of ecosystem-based management.

IMG_20190806_142721Climate-driven species redistribution therefore presents intriguing ecological challenges to unravel, as well as fundamental philosophical questions and urgent issues related to conservation, food security, Indigenous and local livelihoods, and many other aspects of human well-being. This presentation will highlight some of the key questions for climate-driven species redistribution in marine systems in the context of ecology, conservation, natural resource management and social science.

Understanding range shifts from ecological, physiological, genetic and biogeographical perspectives is essential for informing and designing conservation and natural resource management strategies for a changing future. However, for species redistribution research to support development of relevant adaptive strategies and policy decisions adequately, studies need to take an interdisciplinary approach and must recognise and value stakeholders.

Coastal fjords are a Sámi socio-ecological system.

Coastal fjords are a Sámi socio-ecological system.

Gretta Pecl is a Professor of marine ecology with broad research interests and a passion for science engagement and communication with the public. Much of her current research centres around understanding climate change impacts in marine systems, and how our marine industries and communities may best adapt to these changes. She developed and leads the very successful National citizen science project Redmap Australia, the Range Extension Database and mapping project, which invites fishers and divers around our coastline to help monitor changes in our seas. Gretta is also currently working with international colleagues on a Global Network of Marine Hotspots to facilitate learning and communication among the world’s most rapidly warming ocean regions. Professor Pecl is the Director of the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania, a Fulbright Fellow, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, and a Lead Author for the current IPCC report.

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Wendat Knowledge Holder Releases a New Book on “Native Roots of Democracy”

Wendat Professor Georges Sioui and a Snowchange steering group member, who is also one of the most recognized Indigenous scholars and defenders of Indigenous rights in Canada and globally, releases a new book.

eatenotEatenonha is the Wendat word for love and respect for the Earth and Mother Nature. For many Native peoples and newcomers to North America, Canada is a motherland, an Eatenonha – a land in which all can and should feel included, valued, and celebrated. In Eatenonha Georges Sioui presents the history of a group of Wendat known as the Seawi Clan and reveals the deepest, most honoured secrets possessed by his people, by all people who are Indigenous, and by those who understand and respect Indigenous ways of thinking and living.

Providing a glimpse into the lives, ideology, and work of his family and ancestors, Sioui weaves a tale of the Wendat’s sparsely documented historical trajectory and his family’s experiences on a reserve. Through an original retelling of the Indigenous commercial and social networks that existed in the northeast before European contact, the author explains that the Wendat Confederacy was at the geopolitical centre of a commonwealth based on peace, trade, and reciprocity.

This network, he argues, was a true democracy, where all beings of all natures were equally valued and respected and where women kept their place at the centre of their families and communities. Identifying Canada’s first civilizations as the originators of modern democracy, Eatenonha represents a continuing quest to heal and educate all peoples through an Indigenous way of comprehending life and the world.

The book is available here.

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Koitajoki River Documented in a New Seining Film

Seiners of Koitajoki

Seiners of Koitajoki

Snowchange, the community of Ala-Koita fishermen, PrettyGoodProductions and the Interreg SHAPE project release a new film, “Koitajoki”. This short documentary focuses on an iconic, but highly endangered cultural fishery in Karelia – river seining.

The film is available here.

Koitajoki at Möhkö.

Koitajoki at Möhkö.

Koitajoki is a cross-border stream between Russia and Finland. It is the home of the runesinger villages who inspired Kalevala, the Finnish and Karelian epic. Despite ecological damages the river remains a vibrant wilderness area with strong local knowledge.

Koitajoki is a a mystic river flowing in the Finnish-Russian borderlands. It is the ancestral home of Sámi and Karelian cultures. The villages of Koitajoki were the home of the rune singers- for example families like the famous Sissonen contributed to the Finnish national epic Kalevala that went on to inspire J.R.R. Tolkien in his works.

There is no other river like Koitajoki

Upper part of a seine

Upper part of a seine

It was the spawning stream of land-locked Atlantic Salmon and endemic whitefish. But a century of change brought huge changes – hydropower, industrial logging, peat production that transformed the catchment area and the river itself. Whitefish still lingers on.

And so do the fishermen, Koitajoki seiners, who have kept their traditions and skills alive in the village of Ala-Koita. This film documents a seining day on Koitajoki and highlights a unique fishery on a river worthy of UNESCO recognition for cultural heritage.

Rune singing may have ended but the unique river seining still continues.

The people are still on the river.

The whitefish is still there.

Salmon spawning areas are being restored.

Oral histories and stories of the river linger.

Seining spots on a stretch of Koitajoki river. They are orally known and passed on.

Seining spots on a stretch of Koitajoki river. They are orally known and passed on.

Koitajoki may still have a chance 

The home stream of rune singers, unique boreal villages and endemic species – women and men fishing on their home river, both depending on each other – the people and the river. Snowchange Co-op and other partners are now working to register Koitajoki catchment into the UNESCO World Heritage area to make sure it can be preserved for future generations.

Furthermore, Snowchange has channelled resourced to purchase and restore marshmires and wetlands in the Koitajoki system already since 2018 under the Landscape Rewilding initiative. We are working with a range of partners to install catchment-wide measures and support other initiatives to bring Koitajoki and its diverse cultures back to health.

Kesonsuo, a fully intact marshmire in the Koitajoki catchment area.

Kesonsuo, a fully intact marshmire in the Koitajoki catchment area.

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