A Conversation with Danil Mamyev

This year The Altai Danil MamyevProject has had the pleasure of spending more time than usual with partner Danil Mamyev. He is the founding director of the regional Uch Enmek Nature Park, one of Russia’s most successful regional parks, and director of Tengri School of Spiritual Ecology, an organization that works for the integration of traditional indigenous culture and customs with environmental conservation as well as the overall revival and transmission of Altaian traditional knowledge and culture. A geologist and geographer by education and native-born Altaian, he worked for years in Uzbekistan before feeling called to return to his home valley in central Altai Republic.

Danil kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his work.

Tell us about your history working with The Altai Project.

In the early days of The Altai Project’s existence, the organization’s staff periodically visited Karakol Valley, so I’ve known about the organization for a while. I’ve known Jennifer Castner since the mid-2000s when she first came to Uch Enmek Nature Park, and in 2006, The Altai Project began supporting the park and my organization with a series of small grants to improve park management and conservation measures. We have maintained close contact ever since, and in recent years, Jennifer has been instrumental in supporting a capital campaign and program fundraising for the new AruSvaty Center for Traditional Knowledge. I don’t speak English, and this would be very difficult without her support and expertise.

How would you describe the connection between sacred lands and biodiversity conservation?

For me, sacred lands are special places on the Earth’s surface that are responsible for the work of the planet’s entire ‘organism’. Another way of thinking about sacred places is that they are the Earth’s acupuncture points. Sacred lands are often home to biodiversity hotspots, and diverse wildlife persists in those places in large part thanks to indigenous peoples. So, for this reason, the condition of sacred lands often reflects the health of the ecosystem.

Danil’s ultimate vision is the development of the AruSvaty Center for Traditional Knowledge. With philosophical links to Roehrich and the Himalayas, the Center’s buildings and programming will fully launch in 2015 and support the intergenerational transmission of Traditional Knowledge both among native Altaians (particularly in the Karakol Valley) but also regionally and internationally, exchanging wisdom with other indigenous peoples.

Danil, what is your long-term vision for the Center’s work? What does success look like in this context?

Sacred lands are not only a guarantor of biodiversity but also are protectors of information, including the land’s history – sometimes described as Ancestral Knowledge. The AruSvaty Center will work to formulate and generate this Knowledge by using modern teaching and curriculum methodologies that combine Western science with traditional culture. We believe that because our valley is one of the planet’s key energy centers, the Center can become a critical transmission point. We hope that in the future, AruSvaty Center will become an important and global institution for traditional knowledge.

How can The Altai Project’s supporters learn more and support the work of the Center, Uch Enmek Nature Park, and Tengri School of Spiritual Ecology?

You can learn more on the Park’s website. Tengri and AruSvaty Center’s website are under construction, but you can also follow the Park on Facebook. For more questions, you can write me at danil-mamyev@yandex.ru or connect with me through Jennifer Castner at The Altai Project. Below is a clip of Standing on Sacred Ground, a film created by our friends at Sacred Land Film Project, featuring Danil.