Indigenous peoples live in the Northern regions, Siberia and the Far East in the traditional settlements of their ancestors, they preserve their traditional way of life, trade and crafts. Each ethnic group has fewer than 50,000 people and is an independent ethnic community.
In the Russian Federation there are 40 indigenous peoples of North, Siberia and the Far East, with a total population of about 244,000. This includes the Aleutians, Dolgan, Koryak, Mansi, Nanai, Nenets, Saami, Selkup, Khanty, Chukchi, Evenks, Inuits and others. The North is also inhabited by indigenous peoples that are not small-numbered - the Komi and Yakuts, with a population of more than 400,000.
Indigenous peoples of the North inhabit the area along the coast of the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, from the north-western borders of Russia (Kola Sami) to the north-eastern borders (Chukchi, Koryak). They belong to a special group, because their culture is the least capable of adapting to the demands of modern civilization. It is the indigenous peoples who are most shocked by its impact. Living in highly extreme conditions, small nations created specific cultures and systems to adapt to the conditions, which cannot be made to suit the requirements of an effective market economy. The policy on small-numbered peoples of the North is therefore faced with a difficult dilemma: either to preserve the lifestyle of small peoples in their traditional form, or to encourage the inclusion of small ethnic groups in the system of the dominant culture.
Photo: Inuit girl with a dog
Almost 50% of the population of indigenous minorities of the North have primary and lower secondary education, 17% of them are completely illiterate. Their average life expectancy is 49 years. The northern peoples lead a nomadic, semi-nomadic or settled lifestyle. They have a distinctive culture and a particular outlook on the world. The main types of traditional economic activities are reindeer herding, hunting, fishing, gathering wild plants and traditional industries.
The indigenous groups in Canada are Indians, Inuit and Métis. There are more than 600 Indian tribes living there. The US state of Alaska is home to about 88,000 indigenous inhabitants - the Indians (Athabasca, Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian), Inuits and Aleuts, which makes up 16% of the total population of Alaska. In Sweden, the number of indigenous people of the North - Sami - is 17,000 (0.2% of the total population of the country).
In Russia the development of the traditional economy of indigenous peoples in the 20th and 21st Centuries was greatly influenced by such major events as the collectivization carried out in the 1930s, the commercial development of deposits that began in the second half of the last century and continue to this day, and also the transition to a market economy in the 1990s. In 1931 - 1932, national districts were established. In 1980 they became known as autonomous regions.
Uncontrolled pollution of the environment due to the industrial development of the North also began in the 1980s. As a result, environmental problems became particularly serious for the people of the North, because for them the natural environment is the foundation of life and the meaning of existence. Negative developments led to the crisis of the small-numbered peoples of the North. The lack of attention from the government towards the problems of indigenous peoples led to a significant deformation of the socio-economic development, culture, original living environment and traditional way of life of these peoples and threatened to make them completely disappear as separate ethnic groups. Today, indigenous peoples are still at a disadvantage and some of them are on the verge of extinction.
The industrial development of deposits of natural resources, which the North has a great deal of, is putting increasing pressure on the indigenous population. Industrial expansion is affecting the economic activity and employment structure of the indigenous peoples. The future of indigenous peoples of the North is largely dependent on whether conditions are to be created for the preservation and development of traditional types of economic activity.
For this reason, protecting their rights to socio-economic and cultural development and promoting their economic, social and ethno-cultural interests have in recent years been brought forward as key areas of public policy in the Russian Federation.
In 1990 the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Russian Far East (RAIPON) was founded. The main objective of this public organisation is to protect human rights and promote the interests of indigenous peoples of the North. In particular, by guaranteeing their rights to protect their original living environment and traditional way of life. The Association also assists in addressing social and economic problems and issues regarding the environment, cultural development and education, and it is an authorised representative of these peoples at international and national levels.