Projects supporting indigenous minorities of the North
Over the period from 2002 to 2020, Exxon Neftegas Limited, acting as Operator of the Sakhalin 1 Consortium and following the Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board recommendations, funded over 500 charitable projects.
Projects supporting indigenous minorities of the North
Language, culture, traditions and native activities define an ethnic identity. Loss of any of these components can trigger change or even obliteration of the rest components that, eventually, can be critical for the survival of a whole ethnic group. The Sakhalin-1 Consortium deems it important to strive for conservation of all aspects of culture of these people. Hence, the Consortium charity contribution program is targeted at comprehensive support of the indigenous minorities through the projects that strive to promote and educate ethnic crafts, preserve traditional household, preserve the language through specific practices, develop and publish textbooks to study national languages as only being integrated together these components will help to achieve to positive results.
Sakhalin Reindeer Population Recovery
For many years reindeer breeding was depressed. Starting 2015 Yukte neighborhood community under the Sakhalin-1 Consortium support has been implementing the multi-component Sakhalin Reindeer Population Recovery Project, which enabled purchase and bringing to Sakhalin of 60 reindeer from the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) for the first time ever. Reindeer from Yakutia were brought to expand and enhance genetic pool of the Sakhalin reindeer herd. For this purpose the best reindeer of Evenk breed were selected in Bolshoy Nimnyr, a settlement in Yakutia as the herd was used to deep snow conditions. Now these animals feel Sakhalin like home and have already delivered several fawns. The project is of great help for reindeer-breeders as it gives hope for recovery of the Sakhalin herd. Yukte is a unique and currently the Sakhalin only reindeer breeding community representing one of the world’s smallest minorities called Uilta. It is a very small community comprising of just several families but they still maintain their traditional household.
Kurey – traditional festival of Sakhalin reindeer herders
Translated from the Uilta language Kurey means “corral” or “fence”. The fest was named after an ancient ritual when in early autumn reindeer-herders got reindeer in a fenced area to count them before migrating to winter pastures. The getting together was a reason for a merry festival to ward off evil spirits and attract the good ones. The tradition is extant nowadays. Today the festival is important not only for young generation of reindeer-herders but also for all residents of Val settlement representing other ethnic minorities as it familiarize them with the Uilta’s culture. Yukte community with the support of Nogliki District Administration and the Sakhalin-1 Consortium has been arranging this traditional event for many years.
Exxon Neftegas Limited supported innovative language projects of teachers in Khabarovsk Krai, who work hard to revive endemic languages and cultures and to create language environment in the native areas of indigenous minorities. Specialists developed language study programs and prepared teaching aids that are now being used for elementary school students.
School students in the Ulchi District of Khabarovsk Krai have received new teaching aids for the Ulchi and Nivkh languages. The meticulous job of creating them took four years. The new teaching aids fully comply with federal educational standards and they are already being used in comprehensive schools.
The lack of schoolbooks in indigenous languages is an issue for many regions of the country. Prior to the publication of the new textbooks and manuals, Khabarovsk teachers only had alphabet books in the Ulchi and Nivkh languages. Language lessons were extremely basic. Now, the teachers have not only alphabet books, but also new reading books, workbooks, and lessons plans.
The efforts of the Khabarovsk teachers were recognized at the first All-Russian Convention of Teachers of Native Languages, Literature and Culture of Indigenous Minorities of the North, Siberia, and the Russian Far East held in St. Petersburg. Schoolbook developers also received awards and recognition for their hard work, including acknowledgements from the Education and Science Committee of the Russian Federation State Duma.
Revival of the Nivkh Language under the Language Nest innovative technique
Majority of children and youngsters of the Russian indigenous minority peoples cannot speak their native language and language speaking skills do not seem to improve. The current situation is mainly caused by absence of the language environment and lack of native speakers in the indigenous communities. In 2015 in the effort to create the language environment in Sakhalin the Okha local non-governmental IMPN organization Kykh-Kykh (the Swan) with the support of the Sakhalin-1 Consortium launched an outstanding project with a unique format called Revival of Nivkh Language. The project is based on an innovative method of reviving of endangered languages that had been earlier tested on other endangered languages including Maori in New Zeeland, Saami languages in Finland, Sweden and Norway, Hawaiian in the Hawaii Islands. Successful revival of these languages and the global experience prove that revival of endemic languages can lead to solutions of many issues not directly connected with a language.
In 2016, the project was awarded in the category The Best Program Supporting Contemporary Art and Culture of the All-Russian contest Corporate Charity Leaders held in collaboration with the Donor Forum Association, international PwC audit and consulting network and the Vedomosti business newspaper.
The monitoring held in the residential areas where the project was implemented showed an obvious progress by students in learning the Nivkh language. Active efforts in preservation of the Nivkh language sparked the interest to the project in other Nivkh communities in Sakhalin and Khabarovsk Krai. In 2019 experts of Helsinki University (Finland) held a weekly workshop to educate endemic language teachers of Khabarovsk Krai on innovative methods of reviving languages that are on the edge of extinction. Drawing preliminary conclusions we can say that the project laid the ground for the attempt to revive the Nivkh language and the new methods have already yielded the first results.
Crafts Eternized through Excellence of Skills
From 2014 through 2017 the Lyudi Ykh Myph (People of Sakhalin) ethnic and cultural center with the support of the Sakhalin-1 Consortium implemented the Crafts Eternized through Excellence of Skill Project. The core of the project was development of video aids and booklets on traditional arts and crafts that eventually were distributed among resource centers, museums, libraries, children’s art schools of Sakhalin Oblast and Ulchi District. Close collaboration with Ulchi craftsmen, whose woodcarving, birch bark and skin processing techniques are similar to those of Nivkhs laid the foundations for the Crafts Eternized through Excellence of Skill Project. In 2014 Ulchi craftsmen Tatyana Borisovna Matveeva and Anatoly Vladimirovich Dechuli were invited to the Sakhalin Art Museum to hold workshops on fish skin and birch bark works and woodcarving. The Museum hosted the exhibition of Ulchi craftsmen called The Colors of the Dechuli’s Land. In 2015 the project continued with focus on birch bark arts of Indigenous Peoples of Amur River Region and Sakhalin and participation of Nivkh craftsmen and craftsmen from Khabarovsk Krai and Sakhalin Oblast. In 2016 the project was dedicated to the art of Uilta’s craftsmen focused on Uilta and Evenks traditional costume. In 2017 close collaboration with Ulchi craftsmen continued on Bending Craft Basics. The Secrets of Carved Ornaments project executed jointly with Yuri Nikitovich Kuisali, Renat Ivanovich Rosugbu and Lyudmila Borisovna Khatkhil. The project’s four year efforts have resulted in publication of four booklets, five master class video records, eleven stationary and mobile exhibitions being organized and held, over 20 master classes held in Sakhalin Art Museum, resource centers and municipal museums of Sakhalin Oblast and Ulchi District. Over 11 thousand participant have taken part in the project.
In 2018 the Crafts Eternized through Excellence of Skills Project received the first place award in the Research and Development of Ethnic Arts, Traditions and Culture of Indigenous Minority Peoples of the North, Siberia and Russian Far East category of the Best Work of Folk Art contest of the 13th International Exhibition and Fair event called 2018 Treasures of the North. Russian Craftsmen and Artists.
New Totem Poles
A project of making and installing totem poles has been launched in Ulchi District in 2015. Many generations of IMPN in Khabarovsk Krai knew what they were for, however, young people need reminding. The totems were used by shamans in their rituals. One could find the last survived authentic shaman poles at the Ulchi Settlements of Silchura and Auri that are no longer on a map. The first new pole was erected on a beautiful cliff on the bank of the Amur River. Seven totem poles of ~11m each have been installed in 2015-2019. The ritual poles are made from larch that is the hardest wood. All totems were fashioned true to the canons of Ulchi culture. The best-known craftsmen of the region – Yury N. Kuysali, Ivan P. Rosugbu, and Nikolay N. Dyavgoda created the totems. For many weeks, they painstakingly decorated the tall pales with fanciful pattern. However, the poles could not be installed without help of fellow villagers. The installation process became an inspiring event for the Ulchi communities. People willingly participate in the interesting effort and feel their involvement into the common and very important goal. The work, which had not been done in over 50 years, was successfully completed. Now there are totem poles standing on the Aury Cape, Kal’ma, Ukhta, Mongol, Bulava, Doudy and Kalinovka Settlements. According to ethnographers, installation of such totems in IMPN villages helps to restore the connection between generations. In addition, traditional carved wooden gates were installed at the entrance to the Local Culture Center at Bogorodskoye Settlement. Old Ulchi believed that the gates protect their houses from evil spirits.
Education support is one of the top priorities of Exxon Neftegas Limited community contribution program. Company implemented a lot of projects on behalf of the Sakhalin-1 Consortium to open new educational opportunities for students like state-of-the-art scientific equipment that provides students with practical opportunities to study the most challenging elements and apply modern technology, moreover, new educational programs enable the students to gain the required knowledge without leaving the Island.