Russia's indigenous peoples have been struggling with economic, environmental, and socio-cultural dislocation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In northern rural areas, the end of the Soviet Union most often meant the end of agro-industrial state farm operations that employed and fed surrounding rural populations. Most communities adapted to this loss by reinstating some form of pre-Soviet household-level food production based on hunting, fishing, and/or herding. However, mass media, globalization, and modernity challenge the intergenerational knowledge exchange that grounds subsistence practices. Parts of the circumpolar north have been relatively successful in valuing and integrating elder knowledge within their communities. This has not been the case in Russia. This article presents results of an elder knowledge project in northeast Siberia, Russia that shows how rural communities can both document and use elder knowledge to bolster local definitions of sustainability and, at the same time, initiate new modes of communication between village youth and elders.
Surplus production is a hallmark of Alaska's prehistoric coastal societies. Over the millennia, foragers procured greater quantities of resources with increasing efficiency, developing economies dependent upon storage and institutionalized exchange. In the central Gulf of Alaska, notable evidence of surplus production comes from the late phase of the Kachemak tradition. Since de Laguna's pioneering studies, archaeologists have noted that intensified fishing, storage, and exchange typify this tradition. However, few have investigated the roots of these behaviors. When, how, and why did foragers begin producing well beyond immediate needs? This paper explores archaeological evidence for surplus production in the Kodiak Archipelago, focusing on patterns in land use, technology, and exchange preserved in Ocean Bay II and Early Kachemak assemblages from the Chiniak Bay region. It suggests that surplus production for the purposes of seasonal food storage began in the Early Kachemak, and accelerated in the Late Kachemak as population levels climbed.
This paper uses a mixed methods approach to characterise the experience of food insecurity among Inuit community members in Igloolik, Nunavut, and examine the conditions and processes that constrain access, availability, and quality of food. We conducted semi-structured interviews (n= 66) and focus groups (n= 10) with community members, and key informant interviews with local and territorial health professionals and policymakers (n= 19). The study indicates widespread experience of food insecurity. Even individuals and households who were food secure at the time of the research had experienced food insecurity in the recent past, with food insecurity largely transitory in nature. Multiple determinants of food insecurity operating over different spatial-temporal scales are identified, including food affordability and budgeting, food knowledge and preferences, food quality and availability, environmental stress, declining hunting activity, and the cost of harvesting. These determinants are operating in the context of changing livelihoods and climate change, which in many cases are exacerbating food insecurity, although high-order manifestations of food insecurity (that is, starvation) are no longer experienced.
Changing economies and patterns of trade, rather than climatic deterioration, could have critically marginalized the Norse Greenland settlements and effectively sealed their fate. Counter-intuitively, the end of Norse Greenland might not be symptomatic of a failure to adapt to environmental change, but a consequence of successful wider economic developments of Norse communities across North Atlantic. Data from Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and medieval Iceland is used to explore the interplay of Norse society with climate, environment, settlement, and other circumstances. Long term increases in vulnerability caused by economic change and cumulative climate changes sparked a cascading collapse of integrated interdependent settlement systems, bringing the end of Norse Greenland.
A collaborative study of the Smithsonian Institution's ethnology collections has inspired the narration of Alaska Native oral traditions, including Yupik Elder Estelle Oozevaseuk's re-telling (in 2001) of the story of Kukulek village and the St. Lawrence Island famine and epidemic of 1878–80. The loss of at least 1,000 lives and all but two of the island's villages was a devastating event that is well documented in historical sources and archaeology, as well as multiple Yupik accounts. Yupiget have transmitted memories of extreme weather, bad hunting conditions, and a wave of fatal contagion that swept the island. The Kukulek narrative, with origins traceable to the late nineteenth century, provides a spiritual perspective on the disaster's underlying cause, found in the Kukulek people's disrespect toward the animal beings that sustained them. This paper explores the cultural and historical contexts of this narrative, and contrasts it with Western perspectives.