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Fall 2011



! Telengit people make offerings at a sacred site known as Jeele during the Jashyl Buyr (“green leaves”) holiday. Photos courtesy of Ere-Chui Association of Obshchinas of the Telengit


stop the Pipeline on the sacred ukok Plateau


or at least 8,000 years, people have journeyed to the high Ukok Plateau to bury their dead with sacred ceremonies and give offerings to the spirits of the heavens, the mountains, and the waters. Today, the Telengit people carry out their ancient rituals on the Ukok amid the burial mounds, stone stellae, and petroglyphs of their ancestors in this mountainous borderland between Russia and China. Through centuries of experience, the Telengit people learned the survival skills—herding, hunting, fishing—that sustain their clans and communities in this remote, arid, permafrost landscape. But now they are facing a new challenge: Russia and China are planning to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Siberia to China. The pipeline would bisect the sacred Ukok Plateau and the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site in Russia, and the Kanas National Park in China, one of China’s last undeveloped wilderness areas. This remote mountain region is critical habitat for snow leopards, argali mountain sheep, and other endangered species. The Telengit people and Russian environmental organizations are calling out to the international community for help to stop construction of this gas pipeline across the Ukok Plateau. Please write letters to Russian and Chinese officials today. w w w. c u l t u r a l s u r v i v a l . o r g

You Can Help Write a Letter for this Campaign Please send polite letters to Russian and Chinese government officials. Model letters in English, Russian, and Chinese are available at Express deep concern that the proposed Altai Gas Pipeline from Russia to China would bisect the Ukok Plateau, the Chuya Valley, the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a Nature Park in Russia, and the Kanas National Park in China. Pipeline construction threatens critical habitat of many endangered species, pristine rivers, permafrost wetlands, mountain wilderness, and archaeological treasures. Urge Russia’s president to respect the rights of the Telengit people, who are recognized as a “small-numbered minority people” with legal rights, and for whom the Ukok Plateau is a sacred place for burials and religious ceremonies. Construction of the pipeline would violate their rights and threaten their livelihoods based on free-range livestock herding, hunting, and fishing. Inside their yurt, Telengit women prepare food for their guests during the San Salary ritual.

A Message from the Telengit People: Dear Friends! As representatives of the Telengit Indigenous People of Altai Republic (Russia), we ask for your support in conducting a campaign against plans to build a natural gas pipeline from Russia to China across the Chuya Valley and the Ukok Plateau. Ukok is a sacred territory for us. Over many centuries, our ancestors have conducted rituals and buried our dead there. The San Salary takes place on Ukok, a ritual to honor the spirits of the heavens and our ancestors. Each visitor to Ukok leaves a rock in offering at each obo (cairns located at mountain passes), ties a dyalama ribbon, and leaves “white food,” while those who travel on horseback leave a hair from the horse's mane. A pipeline across the Ukok Plateau will destroy numerous monuments of scientific and historical importance, and, more importantly, vital to our people's sacred traditions. The planned pipeline will inflict serious environmental damage in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Ukok Nature Park where we have many animals and birds that are listed in the Red Book [Russia's list of endangered species]: snow leopard, argali mountain sheep, manul (Pallas) cat, black stork, bar-headed goose, steppe eagle, and others. Damage to permafrost on Ukok is particularly dangerous, as it will hasten the melting of glaciers in the Tabyn-Bogdo-Ola and Southern Altai ranges.This region is also prone to earthquakes that could cause devastating pipeline leaks and spills. Construction of the pipeline also threatens our local economy. In our Territory of Traditional Natural Resource Use we practice free-range animal husbandry, fishing, and hunting, and we are developing cultural and ecological tourism. Construction of a pipeline, contamination, and the melting of permafrost will affect all our economic activities and we will lose our sources of food and livelihood. We have appealed to Russian and Chinese government agencies and Gazprom, but our rights and demands are being ignored. Our only hope is for broad-based international support, and we turn to you with a request to send letters of protest in our names to the companies and governments of Russia and China. Thank you in advance,

Commend China for nominating Kanas National Park as an extension of the Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site, and remind them that UNESCO opposes pipeline construction through the World Heritage Site. Urge China not to put the pristine Kanas wilderness at risk of contamination and degradation. Send letters to: President Dmitry Medvedev 23, Ilyinka Street, Moscow, 103132 RUSSIA Fax: +7 (495) 910-2134 Send email via: Li Baodong, Ambassador to the United Nations People’s Republic of China 350 East 35th Street New York, NY 10016 Fax: +212-634-0042 E-mail: Premier Wen Jiabao General Office of the State Council People's Republic of China No.2 Fu You Street, Xicheng District Beijing 100017 Peoples Republic of China E-mail: For more information, see: Tips: Postage to Russia and China from the US is 98 cents. Model letters in English, Russian, and Chinese are available at Personal, mailed letters have highest impact! Thank you for joining in this campaign! The Telengit people say, “Слерге jаан быйaн болзын!”

Roman Mikhailovich Tadyrov, Chairman Ere-Chui (“Sacred Chui”) Association of Obshchinas of the Telengit Small-Numbered Minority People

w w w. c u l t u r a l s u r v i v a l . o r g





Fall 2011


TO Arzhan Tudenev, a young Telengit throat-singer, prepares to participate in the San Salary ritual. He plays a twostringed instrument called a topshuura. Photos courtesy of Ere-Chui Association of Obshchinas of the Telengit.


stop the Pipeline on the sacred ukok Plateau


ultural Survival encourages children and teens to learn about Indigenous Peoples, especially how Indigenous communities work to defend their rights and protect their lands. Sometimes, when governments and companies are not respecting their rights, Indigenous Peoples ask us to help them by writing letters. Right now, the Telengit people in Russia are asking us to help them stop construction of a gas pipeline that would cut right across their most sacred place, the Ukok Plateau.This high plateau in the Altai Mountains on the border between Russia and China has been a sacred burial ground for at least 8,000 years.The Telengit people journey to the Ukok Plateau to make offerings to the spirits of the heavens, the mountains, and the waters amid the graves, stone monuments, and petroglyphs (rock carvings) of their ancestors. Snow leopards, argali mountain sheep, and other endangered species roam the permafrost landscape of the Ukok Plateau.We can help the Telengit people save the Ukok. Learn more, and then please write a letter to the president of Russia! w w w. c u l t u r a l s u r v i v a l . o r g

YOUTH ACTION Stop the Pipeline on the Ukok Plateau

The Telengit People

The Telengit are horse people. Some say their forefathers served as the personal guards of the famed Mongol warrior, Genghis Khan, who conquered Eurasia. They call their horses “human wings” and treat them with great honor. The Telengit also raise yaks, camels, sheep, and goats.They use the yaks and camels for carrying heavy loads. All the animals provide meat, hides, wool, and milk. The Telengit make round houses called yurts out of felt and bark. When singer-storytellers come to visit, everyone gathers to hear them sing the long Telengit SaCrEd PlaCES legends. They sing a special way called throat singing, DO YOU HAVE A SACRED PLACE? with each singer making two WHAT IS IT LIKE? WHY IS IT SACRED TO YOU? notes at the same time, one HOW DO YOU BEHAVE IN A SACRED PLACE? high and one low. At the Telengit Culture Center, young WHAT DOES “FREEDOM OF RELIGION” MEAN? people learn throat singing, and they compete for prizes at regional festivals.

what difference would a Pipeline Make?

Russia wants to sell natural gas to China by building a 1700-mile pipeline across the Ukok Plateau. Pipelines can break or explode and leak gas into the lands, lakes, and rivers they cross. Earthquakes are common in the Ukok region, so that would be a big danger to the pipeline.To build the pipeline, they will have to build a road alongside it. Once a road is built, it is very hard to keep people from using it, so in no time traffic will be criscrossing the sacred lands. How will the Telengit people be able to protect their sacred sites and burial grounds? How will animals like the snow leopard, that need large undeveloped territories, survive?

The Ukok Plateau is in UnESCo’s golden Mountains of altai world Heritage Site. UnESCo warned russia that building the pipeline would put the world Heritage Site in danger. now our letters can help convince russia’s president to stop the pipeline and save the Ukok Plateau.

The Telengit people are asking you to help them protect the sacred Ukok Plateau. Please write a polite letter to the president of Russia. Tell him what you think about the idea of building a gas pipeline across the Ukok Plateau. Ask him to respect the rights of the Telengit Indigenous people.

SEnd yoUr lETTEr To: President Dmitry Medvedev 23, Ilyinka Street, Moscow, 103132 RUSSIA

lETTEr wriTing TiPS: Start your letter with this salutation: Dear Mr. President: Make sure your letter is polite and respectful. At the end of your letter, ask the president for a reply. Include your name, your age, and your address on your letter.You might get a letter back from the president! Postage from the US is 98 cents.

The Telengit people say “Слерге jаан быйaн болзын!” – Thank you! Photo Above: During the Jazhl Byur (“green leaves”) holiday, Telengit people travel to the Ukok Plateau to place rocks at sacred places and participate in other ancient ceremonies. Photo Left: Snow leopards are well adapted to cold, rocky, mountainous terrain far from human populations. Scientists think only about 5,000 snow leopards exist in the wild because humans keep invading their habitat. Photo by Rob Brooks.

w w w. c u l t u r a l s u r v i v a l . o r g

Russia/ China Action Alert Fall 2011  

Russia/China: Pipeline Threatens Sacred Highlands. Construction threatens World Heritage Site, national parks, and sacred lands of the Telen...

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