Last summer, as I was riding along the Kucherla River through the protected lands of Mt. Belukha National Park, I looked across the valley and noticed a bright new wooden bridge across one of the tributary rivers. Because the steep, heavily forested land is essentially uninhabitable for humans, I was astonished. I asked the Altai horseman who was with me if the bridge was for homes? or a tourist base?
"Logging," he said.
"But isn't this park land?" I asked.
"Only on this side of the river," he answered.
The photo shows the at-risk birch/pine/larch forest on the far side of the river. Based on what I know of Altai culture, I can be pretty certain that the Altai people who are the stewards of this land will not be the beneficiaries of the logging. Although they do build wooden houses, the presence of that bridge indicates a capital investment well beyond what locals could afford -- which means that the lumber will be extracted and so will the profits, leaving behind clear-cut in a region with such extreme weather that regrowing the trees will take centuries.Heart-breaking!
Your donations enable the local people to continue their efforts to retain the rights to their traditional lands. "Foreign aid" (read "your donation") provided directly to the village elders is leveraged, not only to pay for the villages' sustainable land management efforts, but also to demonstrate for the people of this remote village that the world cares about primeval forests.
With average temperatures of -30C. at this time of year, we can hardly wait for next summer! With donations made during the winter, village volunteers will continue with the construction of the cultural center in Tyungur Village that will not only provide training in sustainable livelihoods to indigenous villagers from all over Altai, but it will also accommodate and inform the large numbers of tourists that trek from Tyungur to sacred Mt. Belukha every summer -- enriching the tourists' experience while incubating village businesses.
We are so grateful for your support with this project, which is well leveraged to enable the Altai people to recover their traditional livelihoods, which were forbidden during the Communist era.
For a couple of years, we (and you) have been providing support for a promising group of young Altai leaders who are dedicated to serving their communities (and the world) through the tradition of "throat-singing."
Throat-singing is not, primarily entertainment. Rather, it serves two fundamentally necessary purposes within Altai culture. First, throat-singers are the carriers of Altai history. They do not memorize these histories, but rather, in a way that is found in many indigenous cultures globally, they are able to tune into the subtle cultural "mind-space" and directly download images of the events into their compatriots' minds' eye. Second, throat-singing is a direct healing modality, literally smoothing disease through the harmonic vibrations of sound.
The Indigenous Central Asian cultures that were oppressed under Communism are now valiantly recovering their traditions, part of which are the rigorous training of their throat-singers. Thus we are extremely pleased to convey that the young adults we have been supporting have been judged the very best of this new generation, receiving top honors both individually and as a group at a recent regional event.
We thank you for your continued support, and refer you to our website at www.AltaiMir.org for further information.