An ongoing problem in Altai Republic is the disrespecting of sites that are sacred to the Altai people. This takes many forms, but the garbage left on sacred Mount Belukha by tourists and climbers has been particularly egregious. The mountain is both a Russian national park and and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
However, our Altai partner Svetlana Katynova knows how to "make lemonaid from the lemons." She's using the 100th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Belukha (altitude 14,783 feet) as impetus for the first-ever major clean-up of the complex of trails around the mountain. In 2006, an Altai Mir University expedition did a clean-up at the base of the mountain, but this project is much more ambitious.
The clean-up is co-organized with Igor Saylankin (Director of National Nature Park “Belukha”) and supported by the Altai Republic Ministry of Tourism, Ust Koksa District Administration, owners of local tourist facilities, and local individuals involved in tourism. 100 kilometers of trails will be divided into sections for which groups from different cities are being invited to take responsibility.
Svetlana and I -- and the Altai people -- thank you for your ongoing support, which makes projects like this possible.
Two years ago, our intrepid Altai project leader Svetlana Katynova completed a five-year research project to document the wisdom of elders in the Ust Koksa district of Altai. This project prevented the loss of cultural history, which is critical for the recovery of Altai culture. Although Svetlana has had a successful professional career doing similar work, she did this project as a volunteer. Her out-of-pocket costs were funded in part by your contributions.
One year ago, Svetlana completed the compilation of all this data into book form, including an article by me giving a foreigner's perspective on the unique Ust Koksa area. Her goal is to have the book published in Russian, Altaian, English, and German. In one of the most impoverished regions of Russia, finding fundors for such an ambitions project has been a major effort.
We are pleased to announce that the Altai Republic Ministry of Tourism stepped forward to publish and distribute the Russian version of the book. Svetlana is still working away on publication of the translations.
Wholeheartedly, I invite you to support this project.
The Altai people deeply spiritual, but they are also semi-nomadic horsemen, so it is fitting that the an object as practical as a hitching post is central to their sacred culture.
The deep symbology of the hitching post serves the Altai people in their efforts to sustain their culture, so that they can continue to care for their traditional lands, which are sacred to them. Even though many Altai families are now living in cities far from their beloved horses, ceremonial installation of a hitching post can serve to tie them to their ancient culture. This is one of the projects which your donations support.
A home's hitching post documents who lives there
As late as the middle of the 20th Century, every Altai home had a hitching post, installed on the right side of the home. Horses were tied to it, but it was also constructed to document information about the ancestral lineage of the family. A similar post was installed inside the yurt, to document information about how many sons and daughters the family had, the year the couple was married, and more.
The symbology of the hitching post
The design of the hitching post conveys the Altai cosmology of the three worlds. The upper part of the post rests against the sky and connects people here on Earth with those in the afterllife. The middle rests on the ground and is the backbone of life on Earth. The buried section represents the underworld -- that which is hidden from our awareness.
Ceremony to maintain the connection between the three worlds
A hitching post is installed is more than a concrete material object. To pay homage to the upper world, people put food at the base of the hitching post to satisfy people in the afterlife. People give thanks, say blessings, sing songs, and conduct other ceremonies. Through the post, Altai people can speak to the other worlds.
When we ceremonially install a hitching post, it is a fusion of the material and the spiritual -- an moment of intimate knowledge about life. Thank you for enabling such joyful rituals to continue.
The ancient Altai culture is being lost, overwhelmed by ethnic Russian culture. As traditional Altai pasture lands are being sold out from under them, Altai families are forced into the city to survive and their children have no experience of their sacred way of life.
Project leader Svetlana Katynova has an audacious plan to save her culture: build a traditional village at the edge of the capital city of Gorno-Altaisk, where schoolchildren can be immersed in their traditional culture. Svetlana has the land and the volunteer residents to build and the village and teach the children, but she still needs the funds required to actually build the village.
Summers in the Altai Mountains of Siberia are short and Svetlana dared not let another summer pass, so she has borrowed the $5000 needed for this summer and is counting on your help to pay the bank.
TODAY for the next few hours, your generous donation will be matched at 50% by GlobalGiving. What is it worth to save a culture?
Today is GlobalGiving "Matching Day" and we are excited to be fund-raising for an innovative model Altai village that will immerse city kids of Altai descent in their culture -- which may be their only access to their heritage. Your donation this morning will get an extra 30% matching bonus.
The sash around my waist in the photo is a traditional way of honoring people. I had just brought English-language primers to her small village library so her students could practice reading English -- a necessary skill, unfortunately, for articulately protecting their traditional culture.
The matching starts at 9am ET and goes until the matching funds are all allocated, which usually takes not more than half a day. So please donate immediately if you can.
Your donation not only enables this project, but it also is a significant step toward the preservation of ancient indigenous wisdom that our world cannot afford to lose. Thank you for both previous and future donations!!!
The donation link is below.
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