International expert group meeting on the theme:Indigenous Children and Youth in Detention, Custody, Foster Care and AdoptionTseil-Waututh Nation Community Centre in North Vancouver, BC from 4 – 5 March 2010
President of the International Public Organisation
Foundation for Research and Support of Indigenous Peoples of Crimea General considerations At the process of the preparations for the meeting I tried to collect the information about the situation at the region of Eastern Europe, Russia, Central Asia and Trans-Caucasia. So far as there is a lot of different Indigenous Peoples and their organizations who live and act in the region.
My request directed to both associations and individual organizations of IPs mostly were faced with understanding but at the same time left without any positive response due to the total lack of information about the issue.
One of the most dramatic for the IPs problems i.e. the situation of Indigenous Children captured by the State or on the behalf of the State is not transparent for IPs themselves.
Despite the very wide variety of the cultural, ethnic, religious, social and way of life background of the IPs of the region so large as between the Caucasus’ mountaineers and reindeer herders of the Russian North, Crimean Tatars in Ukraine and Siberian Hunter Peoples nobody of them has more or less adequate data about their children under the State custody or control.
For instance I would quote the answer of my partner for Khakassia Republic (Southern Siberia, Russia): “As for Indigenous children it is rather difficult to find any information. The officials don't want to give such an information. Sure, I could send the official request but they say they don't count the children if they are Indigenous or not. They refer to Russian laws that every person is equal”.
At the same time practically all of them emphasize their deep concern for the State policy so far as on the range of the examples and not systematic overviews the IPs of the region make a conclusion that State policy in relation to Indigenous Children and Youth being in Detention, Custody, Foster Care and Adoption is differing at the frame of more or less spontaneous or intentional assimilation and degradation.
That policy deforms the social perspective but first of all the Indigenous identity of the Indigenous Children and the Youth.
I would illustrate this point with the disaster situation of Nenets and Dolgan Children in Taymyr (Russian Far North peninsula)
Up to my source there are 10190 of Indigenous People in Taymyr for the 1st of January, 2009. Children are about 1/3 which means approximately 3060 of people.
There are two basic State Institutions in Taymyr dealing with children living separately from the parents, which are child's house and boarding-schools.
There are totally 704 children in boarding schools Indigenous children consists 95-100% of them and 60 at child’s house, where Indigenous ones consist 75%.
In order to evaluate how these children are treated we should pay attention to the housing conditions, food, their education. The housing conditions may be understood if we see that at the space pre-conditioned for 579 people there live 764 people in boarding schools. 103 of children are orphans or have no parent’s care or every seventh one. Only 27 or ¼ of them have the pace to live after the finishing of education and only 1 child (less than 1%!) has the house in a property!
They are feed with the food prescribed by the Governmental norms which is not in accordance with the traditions and usual way of life of these people. So they do not use fresh local food but are made to bring it from the hundreds kilometers from the place of residence and of very bad quality. For these reasons the chronic gastric illnesses are typical for them.
At the climate where -50 degrees on Celsius is an average the children have no warm clothes and even mittens.
The average level of education is the 7th class of standard school. Those ones who try to study more in boarding-schools are classified as spongers because standard educational course does not teach the children skills which are necessary for their life at homeland as hunting and fishing or housekeeping. The consequent educational degradation of those children may be illustrated through lowing of the number of the pupils in the senior classes 1st -4th - 203, 5th -8th 355, 9th - 72, 10th – 51,11th – 54 of people.
Under the predict that there is not enough space at the child’s house the Ministry of the Education has decided to re-settle about 50 of children to the Southern Part of Krasnoyarskiy kray (region) of Russia that we may compare with the re-settlement from Vancouver to Mexico. In this case the children lost all their contacts with the relatives, natural and cultural environment.
As one of the most tragic consequences of that situation is that Taymyr has become one of the leaders of children mortality in Russia.
The absurdness of the situation is seen from the fact that two of the most powerful mining companies in Russia Norilskgazprom and Norilsknickel use the Taymyr’s land excavating the tons of nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum, gold etc. per year but without any benefits for the Indigenous Peoples and even children.
The paradoxes of the situation consists of the State official position that State policy towards the Children and Youth is not and must not be selective in depend of the ethnic background of the people so State even “does not indicate, collect or use” the statistics about Indigenous Children and Youth “being similarly paternal for all Children and Youth in need”. But that approach allows to the State to escape any measures and responsibility for the preservation and promotion of Indigenous identity of Children and Youth held at the State’s control.
As a consequence the lack of the verified data about Indigenous Children and Youth being in Detention, Custody, Foster Care and Adoption is not only a question of the theoretical discussion or scholar interest. This is one of the effective methods of manipulation with and annihilation of the Indigenous identity not only at the current situation but endangering in strategically perspective the survival of the Indigenous Peoples in principle.