Indigenous Wisdom Speaks

16 Jun 2010

In a land where the harsh winter can last up to 200 days, temperatures fall lower than -30°C and the sun does not rise for months, the Sápmi Convivium, that represents the indigenous Sámi people, welcomed members of the Slow Food International Council last weekend for its annual meeting. The indigenous group’s inextricable link with their often severe environment was the inspiration for the meeting’s location in Samì territory in northern Sweden, and identified as a core value in the future direction of Slow Food and Terra Madre.

The land of the Sámi, called Sápmi, stretches across the northern regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia, where nature can be merciless and the terrain is unfavorable for agriculture. Throughout their history, the survival of their people and culture has depended on the respectful and intelligent use of the resources available. “We are the land and the land is us,” said Stefan Mikaelsson, President of the Sámi Parliament of Sweden in a speech addressed to the council, “We have a distinct spiritual and material relationship with our lands and territories and they are inextricably linked to our survival.”

It was precisely this unyielding bond with nature that made the meeting a unique and symbolic occasion for the International Council, illustrating Slow Food’s continually evolving holistic vision of food, which acknowledges that it is indigenous people, more than any other cultures, that have maintained the belief that nature is essential. “This is the valuable lesson that indigenous people of the world can teach us”, said Slow Food International President Carlo Petrini during the conference. “We have forgotten it but they have not. That is the vision Slow Food supports, starting with food.”

During the meeting, the council decided that the link between food sovereignty – the right for peoples to decide what to grow and eat – and ‘knowledge sovereignty’, would be a central theme at the 2010 Terra Madre event, in acknowledgement that the former cannot exist without the latter. The Sámi people, it was decided, will be the first speakers in the opening ceremony of the event, which this year will focus on cultural and linguistic diversity. During the weekend the council also agreed on the development of an International Manifesto of Education and a framework document to give the Terra Madre network a political direction.

The Sámi people have been working with Slow Food since the launch of the Reindeer Suovas Presidium in 2003 and have formed a very active convivium that works to defend their ancient traditions.

Click here for Stefan Mikaelsson’s speech to the International Council.

Click here for more information on the Reindeer Suovas Presidium.

Click here for more information on Terra Madre.

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