Barents Region celebrated the World's Indigenous Peoples

From the commemoration in Teriberka, Murmansk Oblast.

August 9th, the Barents Region celebrated the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day was commemorated in several parts of the region, including Karasjok in Northern Norway and Teriberka in Northwestern Russia.


According to the United Nations, there are currently over 370 million indigenous people living in all parts of the world. Between 300,000 and 400,000 of them are living in the Barents Region.

Indigenous populations exist in around ninety countries, representing a rich cultural and language variety. It is estimated that nearly sixty percent of the world’s languages are spoken by indigenous peoples.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, indigenous peoples’ are forced to face many challenges. Limited political influence, social exclusion and poverty are just a few examples. 

Every year since 1994, the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples has been commemorated to highlight the international cooperation on indigenous peoples’ issues in areas like human rights, health, education and environment.

August 9th raises awareness of these issues, gathering indigenous peoples in all regions of the world to discuss common challenges and development opportunities. This year in particular drew attention to indigenous peoples’ access to health care issues.

In the Barents Region, Karasjok and Teriberka were two of the places that celebrated the day.

Indigenous Sisters from Nepal, Kalaalit Nunaat (Greenland) and Sápmi were gathered in Karasjok to commemorate the UN Internasional Indigenous Peoples Day.From the left: Dr. Sumitra Manandhar Gurung from Kathmandu, her sister Lochen Manandhar (who is currently living in London), Elisabeth Heilman Blind form Greenland, Laila Somby Sandvik and Asta Mitkija Balto (both from Karasjok). Photo: BEASSI Activity Center, Karasjok

Dr. Sumitra Manandhar Gurung from Nepal visited Karasjok during the World’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Photo: Karasjok Sami Womens’ Forum

From Kathmandu to Karasjok
In the Sami village of Karasjok, which has a population below two thousand, the commemoration took on an international character. Organized by the Sami Womens’ Forum in Karasjok, the event event featured not only local traditional Sami “yoik” singing, celebrating the world’s indigenous peoples, but also an introduction to Greenlandic mask dance as a cultural heritage.

Another highlight at the event was a presentation by Dr. Sumitra Manandhar Gurung, an active indigenous woman from the Newari tribe in Nepal. With a thirty-year experience in socioeconomic development programs and community participation from the perspectives of social inclusion, Dr. Gurung shared her ideas on indigenous unity, women’s alliances, peace, justice and democracy.

Preserving indigenous traditions in Barents Russia
This Sunday, the coastal village of Teriberka in Murmansk Oblast gathered over two hundred people from all over the Barents Region. The normally silent and almost abandoned village was suddenly filled with Sami yoik and Pomor songs. This year was the first time the World’s Indigenous People’s Day was arranged in Teriberka, Arctic TV reports. Traditionally, the event has been held in other parts of Murmansk Oblast.

The day was celebrated with performances of folk song and dance groups, as well as fairs selling indigenous arts and crafts. Activities like Sami football, lasso throwing, crossbow shooting and horseback riding were also part of the program.

World’s Indigenous Peoples Day 2015 in Teriberka, Murmansk Oblast. Photo: Tatiana Egorova

Teriberka brought together a group of Russian and Norwegian Sami people who exchanged knowledge about fish leather crafting and traditional Sami medicine. Over the years, the Sami people have developed their own methods of medicine by using elements from the arctic environment, plants and animals. Traditionally, magical healing rites were also frequently exercised in the Sami culture.

Among other guests, Governor Marina Kovtun visited the commemoration in Teriberka, the regional government of Murmansk Oblast reported. During the event she underlined the importance of preserving the indigenous cultures for future generations.

“Our common goal is to create the biggest possible disclosure of the wealth that lies within the indigenous cultures, and to familiarize the younger generation with their rich spiritual heritage. It allows each person to make their perception of the world brighter and deeper,” said Kovtun.

See photo gallery from the events in Karasjok and Teriberka below.