On the northernmost tip of Sweden, Norrbotten County covers 25% of the nation’s land, but is home to just 2% of its population. Now in the midst of its summer season, darkness will not fall for another month and a half and during the extreme winters months the sun will not surface for weeks. This harsh but beautiful land is home to the Indigenous Sami people who continue to live the traditions that have allowed them to survive here. This weekend, representatives of Indigenous communities have gathered from around the world on these Sápmi lands to discuss how to bring their knowledge and vision of food production into modern times at the Indigenous Terra Madre meeting. Opened today in Jokkmokk, it is the first of Slow Food’s Terra Madre events to focus specifically on Indigenous issues and brings together 200 delegates from diverse lands and customs. “As Indigenous people we share much in common,” said Ola-Johan Sikki, president of Slow Food Sápmi. “We are all dependent on the earth and nature. Our cultures are based on respect for the land we are living on. Most Indigenous people don’t own the land they live on, and other people try to exploit this. This is a problem for all the representatives here, whether from Sápmi, or South Africa.” A one-hour flight from Stockholm and subsequent two-hour drive (with interruptions from crossing reindeer), many delegates have traveled for more than a day to arrive in Jokkmokk. Maurizio Fraboni, coordinator of the Sateré Mawé Native Waranà Presidium that made the journey from Brazil is one of the many who have arrived from all over the world, tired yet enthusiastic. “This event is a great opportunity to find mechanisms to give value to traditional culture,” he said. “These traditions and cultures can’t be only a thing of the past, removed from modern life, but will survive only if they are able to participate in the modern world. This is the challenge, to look to modernity through the eyes of traditional culture.” Over the three-day meeting, workshops will focus on issues such as food sovereignty; examples of Indigenous alternative models of sustainable food production; relationships between humans and nature; and the importance of traditional knowledge. Above all, the experience will be a platform of meeting and exchange for the diverse Indigenous groups. “I hope that we are going to organize ourselves with better communication, because we have the same issues and same kind of problems,” said Sikku, talking about the purpose of the event. “For example, together we can be stronger against the countries who want to take our land. And it is only through meeting that we can make stronger connections. “ As well as building a united voice, the event is giving Indigenous groups the opportunity to learn from each other, explained Albina Morilova, who comes from the Itelmen tribe in far eastern Russia. “One of the problems with our people is that many don’t identify themselves as Itelmen,” she said, with many also being ashamed to use their native name. “Being here is a wonderful chance to learn from the Sámi people about their identity – being proud of who they are. I hope that we will come back home inspired by their pride and spread this idea in our community.” Indigenous Terra Madre is organized by Slow Food Sápmi together with Slow Food Sweden and Slow Food International. Terra Madre is a worldwide network launched by Slow Food in 2004, of small-scale farmers, fishers, breeders and artisan producers working with cooks, researchers and youth to build a more sustainable food system. For more information: www.terramadre.org Follow us on facebook for more updates from the meeting.
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