Maria Pavlova & Sardana Nikolaeva
Ethnological Impact Assessment (EIA) has been implemented in Sakha Republic for almost eleven years. The existing literature on the EIA process focuses on the experiences of primary stakeholders – mining companies and Indigenous communities. What is missing from this discussion is a critical examination of the important role of consultants responsible for carrying out assessments, creating links, and contributing to productive negotiations between companies and communities. Most importantly, we need more thorough understanding of consultants’ positionality, their perceptions on practices of EIA, their interactions with all key stakeholders involved, and challenges faced before, during, and after EIA. In this article, we investigate the role of specifically native consultants, who occupy a unique position to conduct EIAs more effectively - practicing more transparent and responsible communication and decision-making, and with more benefits for communities. This article builds on the data collected through the professional experiential narrative of the first author, who has participated in more than thirteen EIAs and other projects as a professional consultant in Sakha, and the ethnographic observations, supplemented with the semi-structured interviews with the consultants and communities by the second author in the Arctic Indigenous district. Ultimately, we argue that the EIA projects (and policies based on them) must involve and be conducted primarily by local native practitioners and consultants since they are essential in trust-building and forging power-balanced partnerships with Indigenous communities without prioritizing companies’ extractivist interests.