Indigenous peoples and scholars are gathering in the far North today for the opening of a unique circumpolar institute, the EALAT Institute, in Kautokeino, Norway.
A Sami elder states about who made the many leaders of the circumpolar region come together in a day of lectures and celebrations: “The reindeer has given us a very good reason to gather.“ Work at Ealat insitute is very much connected to the reindeer. The institute has the focus on traditional knowledge in reindeer husbandry and climate change. Local knowledge is to be compared with scientific knowledge. A Sami Council representative says: “It is a new way how to promote community knowledge and bring it in the international arena.” Questions asked are amongst others: What do societies need? What are their wishes. What can be achieved through learning by herding, traditional knowledge and Sami snow how and what is the academy able to offer? How can both systems be blended together?
One presenter explains about the cultural significance of the reindeer to Sami people: The reindeer is giving us, food and transport, is giving us warmth and clothes. The reindeer is carrying our language and songs and stories, carrying our arts and crafts and designs. Reindeer has made us into the persons who we are.
UNESCO representative states that: “The establishment of the new institute brings attention to one of the most unique lifeways.” It is a symbol of solidarity and choice of self-determined lifestyles, indigenous ways of knowing and epistemologies. Or as one presenter summarizes: “It could be a school model to the rest of the world.”