Interview with BBC and Voices from the IPCC Conference

Coast of Norton Sound, Alaska, USA

Coast of Norton Sound, Alaska, USA

Snowchange attended the recent Cities IPCC Conference in Alberta, Canada. This included an extensive interview with the BBC World Service, available here (at 26.40). The themes in the interview include for example the old Finnish-Karelian songs, role of Indigenous and traditional knowledge in climate change work and our re-wilding and ecological restoration work in the boreal.

The actual panel with the IPCC Conference is available as a podcast here.

Panelists, in order of appearance, included:

  1. Convener: Dr. Fred Wrona, Government of Alberta Presenters
  2. Dr. Brenda Parlee, Univerity of Alberta
  3. Dr. Tirso Gonzales, INTE-PUC
  4. Dr. Leroy Little Bear, University of Lethbridge
  5. Laura Lynes, The Rockies Institute
  6. Dr. Tero Mustonen, Snowchange Cooperative
  7. Dr. Igshaan Samuels, South African Agricultural Research Council

More information on the panel:  Multiple Evidence Based Approach to Knowledge Co-Production to Inform Decision-making Monday, March 5th, 1:00 pm-2:30 pm  A discussion to explore the challenges, opportunities, and best practices of braiding Indigenous and scientific knowledge systems to inform climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies and programs, particularly as they relate to enhancing resilience of the interdependent urban and rural Indigenous populations. Panelists included representatives from the Government of Alberta, Indigenous experts from around the world, and academia. The Panel session will inform research gaps and recommendations for further work between the science, practice, and policy communities on cities and climate change.  The information will be important input for the IPCC research agenda being developed as an output for the conference. In addition, conference proceedings will also be published that will include contributions from the session.

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Co-Management Efforts Expand Significantly in Näätämö Watershed, Finland

Work team restoring habitat on Kirakkakoski.

Work team restoring habitat on Kirakkakoski.

This unique Indigenous-led climate change work has received significant new support. From 2018-2019, actions will be expanded on all fronts. In December 2017, the Kone Foundation in Helsinki, Finland, provided a grant of approximately 680.000 euros. A major part of the grant will support the co-management work as part of a larger initiative/grant to support Sámi communities in the region.

Skolt Sámi Pauliina Feodoroff leads this project, whilst the Snowchange Co-op is responsible for the scientific and ecological restoration aspects of the work. In short, new support from the Kone Foundation will enable:

  • Restoration of all of Vainosjoki river area (which has been heavily altered) using renewed spawning areas and juvenile trout and grayling habitats;
  • Start of the restoration of the altered Kuosnijoki sub-catchment area;
  • Start of the restoration of the altered Lake Sevettijärvi, a central water body for the village of Sevettijärvi, the home area of the Skolt Sámi;
  • Expansion of Sámi and scientific monitoring regarding the health and status of the Näätämö river;
  • Development of Indigenous-led “Living Maps” of past land uses and traditional culture;
  • a Documentary film;
  • Several regional workshops and conferences, including the Festival of Northern Fishing Traditions in Torneå, Finland, September 2018;
  • Local employment of the Skolt Sámi in actual restoration projects, contributing to self-esteem, Indigenous pride, empowerment of women and support for the Skolt Sámi language and ways of life;
  • Producing a global model of Indigenous-led actions that can address climate change in reality and on the ground, led by the people for the people.

Restoration and catchment area maps.

Restoration and catchment area maps.

Co-management efforts in the Näätämö/Neiden watershed started in 2011, when the Indigenous Skolt Sámi and Snowchange Co-op initiated research and actions to combat the negative impacts of climate change. A central concern for the Indigenous Sámi was the fate and survival of Atlantic salmon in the context of drastic changes underway in the Arctic and their local impacts.

Between 2011-2017, baselines of change, community-based monitoring and scientific analysis led to a realisation that the restoration of altered sub-catchment areas and ‘lost’ spawning sites would provide a central answer to mitigating the impacts of climactic changes. The Sámi felt that by providing safe havens and renewed space and sites for the salmon, trout, grayling and other cold water fish across the catchment area, they would have a better chance of adapting positively to shifts in the river system.

IMG_4011In summer 2017 the very first ecological restoration led both by Sámi indigenous knowledge and science took place. The spawning areas of Kirakkakoski rapids as well as the Vainosjoki altered stream were partly restored. In October 2017 community-based monitoring reported that trout had returned to spawn at restored sites on Kirakkakoski rapids.

The Näätämö Co-Management Project has also gained significant international and scholarly attention. It has been featured in the Arctic Resilience Report, Science journal, Biological Reviews as well as media sources such as National Geographic and Take Part. A central feature of these news stories and scientific articles has been the fact that Sámi themselves are taking meaningful action on climate change using their own knowledge, as well as science, with concrete results.

The Näätämö work has provided a new analytical window through which to view and respond to Northern climate change – by addressing the damages of the past century the future decades will be more resilient, both for the people and for the ecosystems.

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Deepening Voices from Greenland Lead to Visual Histories

Nuunuq, a knowledge holder and a Disko Bay hunter in Aasiaat, Greenland, December 2017.

Nuunuq, a knowledge holder and a Disko Bay hunter in Aasiaat, Greenland, December 2017.

Throughout 2017 Snowchange, Greenlandic partners, Skolt Sámi and the Danish NORDECO partnered on a Nordic Council -sponsored project “eXchanging Knowledge”. The purpose of the process was to find new, direct ways of expressing Indigenous and local-traditional knowledge, as well as support direct exchanges between hunters, fishermen, women, reindeer herders, managers and researchers. One of the outcomes of the process is a new website: “Snowchange Archive of Visual Histories” that will be updated through the year.

Uilu harvesting capelin, Summer 2017.

Uilu harvesting capelin, Summer 2017.

At the eXchanging Knowledge Workshop 2017 held in Aasiaat, December 2017 methods of inclusion of local, traditional / Indigenous knowledge of the boreal and Arctic communities into monitoring and observation of ecosystems was discussed and reviewed. Participants included Greenlandic hunters, fishermen, research scientist and managers, Finnish fishermen and restoration specialists as well as Skolt Sámi knowledge holders from Finland.

Deepening Voices Report captures the results of the Nordic cooperation and the key messages from the participating regions. We are thankful to all co-authors, sponsors, participants and their families for achieving this goal. Especially Snowchange would like to thank Halfdan Pedersen for the translations and Indigenous knowledge reviews.

  1. The Arctic and the boreal are changing in profound and new ways. Dynamic governance and community-based and –meaningful responses are urgently needed to address this ‘new normal’. Sea ice change, warmer winters, impacts to fish stocks, mammals and birds are all examples of this, providing complex new realities that the marginalised Indigenous and local-traditional communities often face first. Yet in most cases they have the least resources at their disposal.
  2. Indigenous and traditional knowledge is a meaningful, but under-used method in monitoring and observing northern ecosystems. PISUNA project, oral and visual histories, land use and mapping as well as community-based and –guided video projects are suitable tools to convey messages of status, change and trends. Community-led work can contribute positively to the self-esteem, -capacity, responsibily and pride of the participants. Free, Prior and Informed Consent-FPIC should be the established standard for all such initiatives.IMG_2365
  3. Indigenous and local-traditional communities in the European North have self-governed natural resources on their own terms for thousands of years. A classical example is the Sámi siida system, a family-based use of lands and waters that contained mechanisms for nature conservation, self-limiting of catches and direct resource management based on the community needs and interests. Modern governance of, for example fish, marine mammals and other renewable resources should include and embrace this Indigenous and local-traditional governance to the best extent possible. The Näätämö river co-management model of the Skolt Sámi and the PISUNA work in Greenland are examples of Nordic Good Practices towards achieving these targets.
  4. Indigenous and local-traditional –led monitoring has the capacity to lead to a community-led restoration of lost or damaged habitats in tandem with science, as has been documented in the Jukajoki case, North Karelia, Finland. Replication of this model has a great potential in the boreal and the North. In order to be meaningful this work needs the resources for success especially in the village level.
  5. Great benefits can be achieved if communications between the communities, managers and the governments are enhanced. A two-way exchange of acknowledging observations back to the communities, and improvements in the ways agencies interact with villages will further enhance effectiveness and equity. Success criteria for collection, inclusion or recognition and use of local knowledge should be further described. Attention should be given to the formulation of criteria that incorporate the different points of view on success, so that all participants are aware of when the goal is reached. IMG_2211
  6. The impacts of monitoring and management of natural resources and ecosystems in Greenland and Finland can be improved by further enhancing culturally and gender appropriate approaches. The involvement of women, children, Elders, schools as well other special stakeholders, often excluded, should feel welcome and to be able to contribute to the future of similar initiatives.

We in Snowchange between 2000-2018 have worked with dozens of communities and hundreds of knowledge holders. eXchanging Knowledge actions in 2017 re-affirmed our belief that Northern local-traditional and Indigenous communities have “visual histories”, their own ways of recording and interpreting their lands, changing weather and distinct cultures. New methods are needed.

Maud, ship used by Amundsen in early 1900s.

Maud, ship used by Amundsen in early 1900s.

Therefore we are unveiling today a website, developed in partnership with the PrettyGoodProductions, called “Snowchange Archive of Northern Traditions Visual Histories“. It is accessible here.

In the future these archives will become comprehensive collection of local and traditional knowledge and practices, photographs, videos, and audio material. Currently there are examples from lake Puruvesi in North Karelia, Finland and Kolyma, Siberia, but these pages will be developed over 2018. eXchanging Knowledge follow-ups will be announced later in the year.

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Japanese Speaking Tour, Renewing Contacts with the Ainu

Kayano family with Tero and Kaisu Mustonen, September 2005.

Kayano family with Tero and Kaisu Mustonen, September 2005.

Snowchange will deliver the keynote speech at the upcoming ISAR-5 Conference, Tokyo, Japan, next week. The keynote speech, titled “Community-led Monitoring and Ecological Restoration in the Arctic: History, Power and Resilience”, will feature Snowchange operations and alliances in North America, Finland and in Sámi areas. Special attention will be on the Njâuddam River restoration as a part of the co-management efforts. We look forwards sharing our work and learning from this important initiative and are very thankful to the organisers and staff of ISAR-5 for this opportunity.

In Tokyo several meetings will be held also to discuss the solar panel work in Siberia with Barefoot College, India and allies. Then between 19th and 22nd, January, renewed contacts with the Ainu and universities in Hokkaido will take place. First cooperation relations were formed between the Ainu of Nibutani and Snowchange in September, 2005.

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Finnish Knowledge Holder and Reformer Eero Murtomäki Celebrates His 75th Birthday

Photo: Rita Lukkarinen

Photo: Rita Lukkarinen

Finnish Eero Murtomäki, “Snowchange Elder in Residence”, originally from Vaasa, but now from the community of Mustasaari, Finland, turns 75 on the 10th January, 2018. His career, spanning almost 60 years, has included several nature photography books, films, work for nature conservation and achievements in the fields of intenational science and cultural diversity.

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

All in all, 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, even though nowadays he hunts with a camera most of his time. Already in 1960s he was vocal opponent, both in his books and in the public, of the ditching of marsh-mires and large-scale forestry that permanently altered the forests and nature of Southern Finland.

Murtomäki was involved also with the restoration work of Sea Eagle populations of the Baltic. These large predator birds hit a 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 magnicifient bird back into health – in 2010s already over 340 young sea eagles / a 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.

Ravens. Photo: Eero Murtomäki, 2017

Ravens. Photo: Eero Murtomäki, 2017

However, it is Raven that proved to be the guiding bird in Eeros 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.

Eero is a recognized cultural keeper in international scientific and cultural work as well. He maintains excellent working relations with several Sámi communities in Vuotso, Inari and Utsjoki areas. Eero was centrally involved in the Snowchange award-winning publication “Eastern Saami Atlas” in 2011. For this, the Skolt Sámi awarded him as a part of Snowchange “Skolt of the Year” in 2011.

As a part of the Atlas work Murtomäki worked with Skolt Sámi knowledge holders to devise a new Indigeous and traditional knowledge method “visual histories” of environmental change in the Arctic. In March 2017 this method and results were included in a Science journal article, which is currently, according to Altmetric, at a position 61 of most influential Science articles of all time.

The uncompromising defender of nature and reformer of Forest Finnish traditions has had deep dialogues for example with the Siberian nomadic communities, Indigenous Australians and Alaskan Tlingit and Inupiaq peoples. In Aoteoroa, the Maori of Tongaporutu honored Eero back in 2009 by naming one of their children as a namesake.

Eero is the recipient of several awards domestically, including the “Environmental Award” by Alliance for Finnish Nature, a national organisation, back in 2012. A large circle of friends and partners supports the work he does. Several of the books and other projects have been accomplished because of the unwavering support of Rita, Eeros wife, who lovingly provides both the criticism and the greatest support for the work.

Photo: Rita Lukkarinen

Photo: Rita Lukkarinen

In summary, Eeros work looks to span a century. We should not ignore perhaps the most significant aspect of Eeros work. Through a life-time journey, helped by the Raven at his side, Eero has re-discovered and re-interpreted the knowledge of the Forest Finns, so destroyed and often considered lost forever. However Eero has never longed for some romantic, distant past, rather always bringing this knowledge forwards, with a punishing self-discipline for these times and for this society. He often says that if we cannot rediscover and re-birth the deeper connections with nature, each in our respective cultures and societies, humanity will suffer adverse consequences.

One of the deepest exchanges between Eero and an Indigenous scholar has been the dialogue with a Choctaw author and scientist Dawn Adams, Ph D from the Tapestry Institute, USA. As a part of the celebrations for Eeros lifework, Adams contributes this poem for their relationship as a brother and a sister, over oceans, but yet joined by the same struggles globally:

To My Spirit-Brother

Who can say how it is?

Life is so mysterious.

I could never have guessed,

                      growing up,

that a brother grew up with me

on the other side of the world.

Currents of the brightly dark waters

                      of a far northern sea

flow through his heart, throb in his veins.

Snows of ancient forests,

Wood cracking in a hard frost

on nights milky with moonlight,

Clothe him body and soul

in a palette that only exists

when pines are so sharp in the nostrils

that life itself springs like tears

                      from every inhale,

frosting his lashes as he stands drinking the wind.

Whereas  I am a child of the sun.

Hard granite and sharp gravel in tans and browns,

A translucence of quartz,

dark flash of mica,

that skinned my bare knees as a girl.

Climbing rocks hot to the touch

and laying in warm satin puddles of sandstone

near stony paths where a river flowed once a year only,

Cottonwood leaves trembling on the hot breath

of the day’s exhale,

the dry scale of a lizard’s tiny claws on the bark.

Silence a friend to us both.

And perhaps that is the thread

                      that binds us

more closely than any DNA.

The spiraling master thread from which

we are each patterned,

cell by cell, soul by soul

at a level that can be seen by no microscope

but that the Land smiles to herself, weaving.

A thread first of silence,

a fullness of crystal

between land and sky,

water and sky,

filling the bowl of breath-taking space

                      between them

with such clarity

that the call of a single bird from pine or from cactus,

the buzz of a fly hurrying past,

the low rumble a moose rolls deep in its throat,

the whistling elk beneath northern lights,

the distant snap of a twig,

the rolling crunch of stone beneath foot,


And speak loudly.

Calling the eye as well as the ear,

turning the whole body,

attention and focus.

So that hearing becomes Hearing.

seeing becomes Seeing.

And one living moment bursts into flame,

                      Bright Life itself

leaping as fire from kindling aflare in the dusk

licking the wood with sharp pops of joy.

We share this.

And then the track that is seen the next moment.

The slipping form that pauses to share a meeting of eyes.

Sharing a flow of Knowing

A comprehension

at once intimate and very much Other.

Moose, elk, lynx, bear,

Raven, eagle, marsh hawk, jay.

Each its own Self

as we are our own Selves,

But reaching out

                      with cocked head,

                      a knowing gleam of eye,

                      a raised gesturing limb,

                      a swaying step as in dance

As eyes shift, and gazes slide

                      and then lock

                      so briefly

                      but in a long instant that stretches out

                                            into the silence

And then ebbs away,

moving apart.

Water seeping into the print of a hoof,

                      the impression in moss-covered mud.

Wind sifting out and erasing

                      the scrape of a claw against sand.

A simple departing snap

                      down the hill, out in the forest.

A last plop of diving beneath water.

Leaves us alone again

in a landscape

where we are never



This is the Life that breathes through us both.

Crystals of ice and of stone.

Shimmering heat in desert air and

shimmering lights on the sea.

The wind that blows clear ‘round the world

and is the living breath of the Earth

fills our lungs,

lifts us onto the balls of our feet,

draws us out into the places

where stones dance

                      slow and stately,

                      joyous steps

that our own feet somehow remember.

So we dance with the world

and with one another.
Brother and sister.

In the thundering waterfall of silence,

whirling with the shimmering wind,

reaching out across the space between us

to touch fingertips in our passing,

before we spin away

                      on the wind

                                            into the shimmering air.





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