Report from Sargylana Zhirkova, Master Programme in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø. Project 200501253-20
Financial support to the project:
“School on the “move”: Analysis of the school training of the indigenous children in Republic Sakha (Yakutia), Russia”
Since my educational background is pedagogy I decided to write my thesis about the nomadic schools of the Evenk (indigenous small numbered people) reindeer herder community in Republic Sakha, Russia. I am interested in discussing whether it is reasonable to apply the old system of nomadic schools from the 1930s in modern time and whether this could result in positive outcomes. It is also of importance to examine the different application perspectives from other school models. The study’s research question is whether the nomadic school constitutes a step towards future or it is just a backward move to a primitive lifestyle which could make the indigenous people unable to sustain in a modern world. In order to collect data for the thesis it was necessary to conduct a fieldwork and I was given support by the Sami Centre for a research stay in Yakutia from June to September 2005.
In the first month I visited the Scientific Research Institute of the National Schools of Republic Sakha (SRINSRS) in Yakutsk, the capital of Republic Sakha. The staff expressed interest in the research areas of the Sami Centre. I was given unlimited access to the rich institute library and focused my attention on the publications about the nomadic schools and the indigenous people’s situation in Republic Sakha. The experience was very useful for me because I also met researchers who developed theoretical models based on the existing nomadic schools projects and drafting suggestions for further improvements. Another positive point of the visits was that I interviewed the staff and deepened my understanding of the different views concerning the nomadic schools’ purpose and structure. I also visited the Institute of the Indigenous Peoples of the North in Yakutsk to learn more about the ideas of preservation, revival and development of the small numbered populations in Northern Russia.
Afterwards I stayed in Aldan ulus (administrative unit in Sakha) where Evenks live. The reason for choosing this community were its well established links with SRINSRS. The aim of my visit was to meet and interview people working at the nomadic school or somehow related to it. I should note that it was the most important part of my fieldwork because during that time I got more first hand information from community members and that experience helped me to
understand clearly their attitudes and ideas concerning the nomadic school. It was not surprisi
ng for me that their opinions about necessity of that kind of school differed from the SRINSRS’ views in Yakutsk. That is why I decided to pay more scientific attention to these differences in my master thesis. This will make its content more interesting and increase its scientific quality.