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On September 3-8, NNI Research Analyst Mary Beth Jäger (Citizen Potawatomi) traveled to Finland with the Indigenous Foods Knowledges Network (IFKN). The Network connects leaders, community practitioners, and scholars from the United States Southwest and the Arctic who are focused on research and creating community capacity as they relate to food sovereignty and Indigenous Knowledge. Gila River Indian Community hosted the inaugural IFKN meeting which took place in March of 2018. The Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation funds the Indigenous Foods Knowledges Network (Award number 1745499).
Snowchange Cooperative, an organization devoted to the preservation of Finnish traditions and culture invited IFKN to send a delegation to the 3rd Festival of Northern Fishing Traditions in Tornio, Finland. Five representatives from the IFKN participated in the Arctic event: IFKN Steering Committee members Amy Juan (Tohono O'odham), Shawna Larson (Ahtna Athabascan and Supiaq), Althea Walker (Akimel O'otham) and IFKN's Research Coordination Team members Mary Beth Jäger (Citizen Potawatomi) from the University of Arizona, and Noor Johnson from the University of Colorado and Principal Investigator. Over 150 participants gathered from numerous countries and included indigenous delegations from New Zealand, Finland, US, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan. Some of this year's events included: the restoration work of the Vainosjoki River, seining for whitefish on Sevettijärvi Lake, net fishing at the Vuento River Rapids, and traditional fishing in the Tornio Valley along the Kukkolankoski River Rapids; and a conference focused on traditions and issues surrounding fish and fishing.
During the day-long conference, discussions focused on the intersection of traditional fishing and commercial production, governance of the waterways and fish, climate change, and waterway restoration to name a few. Along with keynote speakers and round table discussions, delegations presented about their home communities in regards to fish and fishing and answered questions from the audience. IFKN presented an introduction to their work and discussed parallels between the Arctic and the U.S. Southwest desert with the restoration of waterways in both regions. They highlighted a river restoration undertaken by Chickaloon Village, which mirrored similarities to the restoration of the Vainosjoki River.
Throughout the pre-Festival and the Festival events, participants had opportunities to engage direct exchanges of knowledge and hands-on learning. Hands-on opportunities offered participants a chance to witness and learn critical skills and teachings. Jager shared "being able to go out on to the land of the river restoration project before the conference set the tone for this trip. Woven in the walk along the river, I participated and witnessed the beauty of Indigenous resilience, humor, governance, and our relationship to the land, our ancestors, and each other. For centuries water and fish have brought people together and our time in Finland was no different."
Images featuring: Amy Juan (Tohono O'odham), Althea Walker (Akimel O'otham), Mary Beth Jäger (Citizen Potawatomi), Shawna Larson (Ahtna Athabascan and Supiaq), Noor Johnson, Pauliina Feodoroff (Skolt Sámi), Vainosjoki River, Sevettijärvi Lake, Kukkolankoski River, Vuento River
Image credits: Althea Walker, Noor Johnson, and Brie Van Dam