Aleskam is a community uniting the aboriginal peoples of Kamchatka. Our mission combines three goals: to assure the ecological health of the region; to influence legislation in the defense of indigenous peoples; and to develop infrastructure for ethno-ecotourism.
Our community is located 45 kilometers from Kamchatka's only city, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatksky, and includes representatives from the Aleut, Innuit, Itelmen, Kamchadal, Koryak, and even Chukchee peoples. Today we have 146 members. We have united in order to preserve and revive our traditional lifestyles, occupations, and handicrafts--such as hunting, fishing, gathering, and others--and to bring back our spiritual culture.
Our community was founded in 1993 when a large hatchery was being built along the shores of a wild-salmon-spawning river located on our land. We originally united to ensure the environmentally safe operation of the hatchery. Thanks to our efforts to raise the awareness of the environmental community, and the office of the public prosecutor, the community forced the builders of the plant to conduct an environmental-impact statement.
Since that event, we have begun to address a much wider scope of environmental issues. We have also begun efforts to preserve the cultural treasures of our people and to revive our traditional feasts. As an example, the International Assembly of Aboriginals of the World took place on our territory. This event gathered representatives from Alaska, Canada, Poland, the United Kingdom, and other nations and aimed to conserve our national identity in the contemporary world.
The south of Kamchatka has traditionally been inhabited by natives. Many of the native settlements in the north of Kamchatka were closed in the past, forcing many of the inhabitants from those areas to migrate south. Our members, whose people are originally from the north, still maintain close contact with their relatives and friends, and we often participate in conferences, feasts, and events organized there (in the north of Kamchatka).
Some of the environmental issues that we have tackled include: (1) protecting spawning grounds from wastes introduced by settlements; (2) ensuring that the national parks that have been established in Kamchatka do not jeopardize the traditional lifestyles of Kamchatka's indigenous peoples; and (3) fighting proposed gold mines that threaten healthy ecosystems. In addition, our community has a branch organization for youth called "EthnoInitiative." The organization carried out a monitoring program on the Avacha River, "Biogenic elements flowing into the Avacha River and their influence on the hydrochemical regime of the Avacha Bay."
Overall, influencing regional legislation is among our most important activities. Members of our community have participated in the creation of legislation on communities; traditional land use in the Kamchatka region; youth politics in Kamchatka; priority territories in Kamchatka; and other issues.
We are now working to promote the concept of sustainable development in the south of Kamchatka based on the knowledge of Kamchatka's aboriginals (traditional knowledge). We have plans to create an ethnocultural center for the minorities of Kamchatka on our 10-hectare property, which we have leased out of an area totaling 64,000 hectares. This land is located not far from medicinal hot springs. The center will be a place for physical and spiritual healing and the revival of national and traditional occupations. Eventually, we would like to create an "ecovillage" on our land that will help us to develop some infrastructure for ethno-ecotourism.
We have received support in the past from the Russian Society of Nature Protection; the Kamchatka nongovernmental organization (NGO) "Harmony"; the NGO Kamchatka League of Independent Experts; and the Kamchatka NGO Sarana. Technical and financial support have come to us through the "Glocal Greengrants" program, the Pacific Environment and Resources Center, and the Sacred Earth Network, which provided us with the capacity for communication.
In 1998, the community received a grant for Internet access for the purpose of serving the aboriginals in our region. We are open for collaboration and new ideas.