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.

Posted in News

Comments are closed.

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.





Posted in News

Comments are closed.

Second ICCA Site, Linnunsuo, Established in Finland

Linnunsuo, May 2017. Photo: Janne Raassina

Linnunsuo, May 2017. Photo: Janne Raassina

Snowchange has established a second ICCA (Indigenous and Local Community Conserved Area) in Finland. It is a 110-hectare wetland Linnunsuo, located in North Karelia, Finland. This action strengthens the capacity of local communities, hunters, bird watchers and other stakeholders to use (I)CCA as a method for conservation of significant sites in Finland.

The Linnunsuo Wetland is a south/middle boreal marsh-mire area in the village of Selkie, community of Kontiolahti, North Karelia, Finland. Selkie village is one of the oldest settlements recorded in the written history in the region.

Jukajoki Delta

Jukajoki Delta

It is likely that the first inhabitants of the area were Indigenous Sámi people – hunting pits and other stone-age artefacts that have been located in very close proximity to Linnunsuo (>5km). A second population of inhabitants that are known to have occupied the area are a Karelian-speaking society, which was present until the 1650s. Geopolitical changes in the region at the time resulted in an influx of Savo-Karelians (belonging to Lutheran Christianity as opposed to Russian Orthodox Karelians) who took over the Selkie territory. Many of the Karelians escaped and moved to Tver and other regions of Russia, while a few individual families remained.

This Savo-Karelian population is today the main cultural group that occupies Selkie. The 20th century saw some movement of people from other parts of Finland, but Linnunsuo and Selkie remain, in dialect and culture, Savo-Karelian areas today.

The traditional lifeways, some of which persist to this day, have included swidden slash and burn agriculture of the boreal forest, hunting and fishing. Today the economic structure of the village reflects the societal changes of eastern Finnish peripheries, including the service sector. Hunting and fisheries are maintained as a cultural-traditional activity. Notably, the collective moose hunt gathers several hunters together in the autumn, and the village gathers together for the ensuing Moose Feast early November.

Between the early 1980s and 2010 the Linnunsuo Marsh-mire was utilized for peat energy production. In 2010, an acidic leak from the site led the village of Selkie to end the Vapo Company’s activities on the site. They also decided to construct a 120 hectare manmade wetland to control the acidic leaks into the nearby Jukajoki river.

finland-marshmireBetween 2013 and 2017 the Linnunsuo wetland emerged as an internationally-relevant MAALI (Maakunnallisesti tärkeiden lintualueiden selvittäminen ja nimeäminen) site for birds, in addition to being in close proximity to an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). The site was subsequently purchased by Snowchange Cooperative in 2017, and is now co-managed by the village of Selkie, hunters, conservation groups and Snowchange. Over 185 species of birds visit the site and over 100,000 geese rest on the site yearly (per night) during their migration to the south.

The families involved maintain their presence and traditional land use forms in the area. One of the families is active in the Selkie village council, the decision-making body for the community. Linnunsuo is also actively used by the villages for hunting, bird watching and hiking.

The community and others involved in the co-management of the site have agreed to register it as the second internationally-registered ICCA in Finland, to stress the importance of the ICCAs and wetlands that are co-managed by Finnish villages. These wetlands support traditional-cultural subsistence, including hunting, berry picking, cultural-spiritual health, and protect against the larger threat of mining in the area. In addition, they act as carbon sinks and serve as biodiversity hotspots.

Ravens, a central bird on Linnunsuo. Photo: Eero Murtomäki, 2017

Ravens, a central bird on Linnunsuo. Photo: Eero Murtomäki, 2017

Biodiversity highlights

In addition to being an MAALI site for birds, the site is home to rare species including visiting Terek Sandpipers and nesting Northern pintails. Mammals such as the wolverine, fox, otter, European brown bear, moose and lynx utilize the site, among others. The site’s important biodiversity has been the subject of a US documentary and TV series and it is also the second Re-wilding site in Finland. Most recently, the site’s significance has been recognised by the national government, which designated it as a strict protected area in December 2017 with the agreement of the community and Snowchange who still owns the land base.

Link to the ICCA Registry.

Posted in News

Comments are closed.

2017 Ends, 2018 Expands Snowchange Work At Home and Internationally

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

Nuunoq, a knowledge holder and a Disko Bay hunter and staff member Kaisu Mustonen in Aasiaat, Greenland, December 2017.

As 2017 draws to a close, we wish to thank all partners, friends, allies and supporters. 2017 was a big year, with operational work in the Näätämö Skolt Sámi catchment area, on Jukajoki, and lake Kuivasjärvi restorations as well as the international partnerships in Russia, British Columbia and NWT in Canada as well as forming new relations on the Elwha river in Washington, USA and with the Greenlandic hunters in Aasiaat. Purchase of Linnunsuo in the spring with Re-wilding Europe transformed the organisation into new directions. Puruvesi winter seining saw a documentary film being released and being included into the National Registry of Cultural Heritage in Finland. The Science journal  paper on Species on the Move and other scientific releases complemented the year.

Uilu harvesting capelin, Summer 2017.

Uilu harvesting capelin, Summer 2017.

As we look forwards to 2018, several events will be underway early in the year:

  • Näätämö Skolt Sámi restoration, monitoring and database work will expand considerably, with announcements in January.
  • Jukajoki restoration moves forwards to trout and grayling spawning areas and more wetland units in the catchment area.
  • The Greenlandic-Sámi-Finnish report “Deepening Voices” will be released in early January
  • We ll present our key operations at the ISAR-5 in Japan and renew relations with the Ainu of Hokkaido in January.
  • The visual histories archives of Snowchange will be unveiled in a new platform soon.
  • Solar panel work continues in Siberia thanks to new support from the Hogan-Lovells support.
  • Oral history report from river Koitajoki, in Finland will be released in March
  • Expanding the community-to-community exchanges, we plan to host a Tahltan First Nations and Tongaporutu Maori delegations here in Finland in 2018.
  • Festival of Northern Fishing Traditions is slated to be organised in September, 2018 in Tornio, Finland
  • And many more, watch this space for announcements.

Intercontinental Cry and Re-Wilding Europe report on Snowchange end of the year activities as well.

With that we ll see already great 2018! See you starting in early January with major annoucements.

Snows of Sámi community of Purnumukka.

Snows of Sámi community of Purnumukka.


Posted in News

Comments are closed.

UN Calendar Features Snowchange Work for 2018

Chukchi nomadic Turvaurgin in reindeer separation, Winter 2005. Photo: Snowchange

Chukchi nomadic Turvaurgin in reindeer separation, Winter 2005. Photo: Snowchange

The UNFCCC Poster “Local communities and indigenous peoples: Leadership for a resilient future” features two Snowchange key regions – the Skolt Sámi co-management efforts in Finland and the Turvaurgin Chukchi nomadic reindeer herding in NE Siberia, Russia.

Local communities and indigenous peoples stand at the front lines of climate change due to their dependence upon, and close relationship with, the environment and its resources. Indigenous people care for 22% of the earth’s surface, including “an estimated 80 percent of the planet’s remaining biodiversity”. The IPCC recognizes how much we have to learn with and from local communities and indigenous peoples, which is a “major resource for adapting to climate change”. Recognizing the need to strengthen the knowledge, technologies, practices and efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples related to addressing and responding to climate change, the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP 21) established a platform for the exchange of experience and sharing of best practices on mitigation and adaptation in a holistic and integrated manner.

The local communities and indigenous peoples platform broke fresh ground in 2017 by giving indigenous peoples and local communities an active role in shaping climate action, including a prominent role in the first open multi-stakeholder dialogue. The calendar showcases the experiences and good practices of the local communities and indigenous peoples in adapting to climate change.

The calendar is available here.

Posted in News

Comments are closed.