Tatiana Degai

Tatiana Degai
Assistant Professor

Accepting MA/PhD students

Office: COR B242

PhD University of Arizona

Area of expertise

Indigenous research methodologies, ethics, and community-engaged research, ethnographies of the North-Pacific/Arctic, language revitalization

I am an Itelmen scholar from Kamchatka peninsula, the Pacific coast of Russia. My research and teaching is inspired by the epistemologies of my community and is focused around three key areas:

  • Indigenous knowledge systems;
  • revitalization and stabilization of Indigenous languages;
  • Indigenous visions on sustainability and well-being in the Russian North and Arctic.

While my formal training is in Anthropology, American Indian Studies, Education and Linguistics, I continue my education through maintaining strong connections with knowledge holders of my community and beyond advancing my understanding of unique methodologies and technologies Indigenous peoples have developed for comfortable and sustainable life in the Northern climates. In my research and teaching I use an interdisciplinary and transcultural approach that fosters knowledge exchange and knowledge co-production.


  • Language revitalization
  • Indigenous research methodologies, ethics, and community-engaged research
  • Ethnographies of the North-Pacific/Arctic
  • Indigenous visions on sustainability
  • Community and land-based learning
  • Creative arts and community well-being


Fall 2023

  • ANTH 393 Indigenous Storytelling
  • ANTH 483 Arctic Anthropology

Spring 2024

  • ANTH 318 Ethnographic Research Methods
  • ANTH 393 Indigenous Visions on Sustainability


Indigenous visions on sustainability

  • Navigating New Arctic Track 1: Collaborative Research: ARC-NAV: Arctic Robust Communities-Navigating Adaptation to Variability (supported by NSF). With this project our research team is aiming to look at how communities in Kamchatka, Chukotka, and Alaska respond to the sea ice change and what we could learn from them in planning sustainability agenda. (https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1928202)
  • Indigenous Knowledge And Salmon Conservation In Kamchatka. This project is aimed to support the ongoing ethnographic research and educational work on the Nymylan and Itelmen Indigenous communities in Kamchatka who traditionally subsist on salmon that has been initiated in partnership with several U.S and Russian academic institutions and Indigenous communities in Kamchatka
  • Navigating New Arctic Track 1: Collaborative Research:. Frozen Commons: Change, Resilience and Sustainability in the Arctic. (supported by NSF)

Community well-being

  • AIVAN (Itelm. North) - Arctic Indigenous Virtual Arts Network: Sharing Indigenous Wisdom through Creative Arts. It is an  informal platform that unites Indigenous artists throughout the Arctic and beyond to  share Indigenous wisdom through creative arts. Our virtual circle is held  on a weekly basis  to exchange knowledge, traditional crafts techniques, and facilitate discussions on the place of Indigenous arts in the 21st century and in the community well-being. 
  • Tracking and Understanding Spatiotemporal Dynamics of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Arctic (COVITA) (supported by NSF) This research is focused on near real-time data collection (both statistical information and testimonies from the Arctic residents), sharing and analysis (https://arctic.uni.edu/arctic-covid-19). We hope this research will play a critical role in making important and up-to-date information available for all COVID-19 pandemic stakeholders and will enable informed decision support of immediate and long-term responses in the Arctic.

Ethnographies of the North-Pacific/Arctic

  • Itelmens on the crossroads of the XX and XXI centuries. Together with Dr. David Koester (University of Alaska Fairbanks) and Itelmen scholar and my grandmother Dr. Viktoria Petrasheva (Kamchatka Branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography) we are working on a monograph of the Itelmens who lived on the crossroads of the XX and XXI centuries
  • Mapping of traditional Itelmen knowledge to encourage land-based education, language revitalization and land rights of Itelmens in partnership with Dr. Brian Thom (UVic).
  • Documenting Indigenous Knowledge through the Museum Objects, visit with Itelmen speakers from Kamchatka to the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera) and the Russian Museum of Ethnography, St. Petersburg, Russia

Language revitalization

  • Collaborative Research: Integrated Audio/Video Documentation of Itelmen and Collaborative Research: Comprehensive Itelmen [itl] Dictionary (community liaison) with Jonathan Bobaljik (UConn), David Koester (UAF), Chikako Ono (Hokkai-Gakuen University), and Aleksander Volodin (Institute of Linguistics, St. Petersburg). https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1065038



Arctic, Remote and Cold Territories Interdisciplinary Center (ARCTICenter), University of Northern Iowa, USA https://arctic.uni.edu/


Articles and book chapters

Forthcoming  - Indigenous Perspectives on Sustainability in the Arctic. In ASUS: Arctic Sustainability: Synthesis of Knowledge. Ed. Graibill J, Petrov. A.

Forthcoming - Degai, Tatiana, D. Koester, J. Bobaljik and Ch. Ono.  Kŋaloz’a’n Ujeret’i’n Ŋetełkila’n - Keepers Of The Native Hearth:  The Social Life Of The Itelmen Language – Documentation And Revitalization. In The Siberian World, to be published by Taylor and Francis, as part of their "Worlds" series edited by John Ziker, Vladimir Davydov, and Jenanne Furguson

2021- Petrov, A.N., Welford, M., Golosov, N., DeGroote, J., Devlin, M., Degai, T. and Savelyev, A. Lessons on COVID-19 from Indigenous and remote communities of the Arctic. Nat Med (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-021-01473-9

2021 - Petrov, A.N., Welford, M., Golosov, N., DeGroote, J., Devlin, M., Degai, T. and Savelyev, A., 2021. The “second wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Arctic: regional and temporal dynamics. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 80(1), p.1925446.

2021  - Degai TS, Petrov A.N. Rethinking Arctic sustainable development agenda through indigenizing UN sustainable development goals. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology. 2021 Jan 17:1-6.

2020- Petrov, A.N., Hinzman, L.D., Kullerud, L., Degai, T.S., Holmberg, L., Pope, A. and Yefimenko, A., 2020. Building resilient Arctic science amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature Communications, 11(1), pp.1-4.

2020 – Petrov, A.N., Welford, M., Golosov, N., DeGroote, J.,, Degai, T. and Savelyev, A., 2020. Spatiotemporal dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic in the arctic: early data and emerging trends, International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 79:1, DOI: 10.1080/22423982.2020.1835251https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/22423982.2020.1835251

2018 - Colombi, Benedict, Brian Thom and Tatiana Degai. Googling Indigenous Kamchatka: Mapping New Collaborations. Pp. 195-203 in Indigenous Justice: New Tools, Approaches, and Spaces. Edited by Hendry, J., Tatum, M.L., Jorgensen, M., and Howard-Wagner, D. Palgrave Socio-Legal Studies. https://dx.doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-60645-7_13

2016 - Thom, Brian, Benedict Colombi and Tatiana Degai. Bringing Indigenous Kamchatka to Google Earth:  Collaborative Digital Mapping with Itelmen Peoples.  Sibirica. 15(3):1-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/sib.2016.150301 (original)

2014 - Koester, David, Viktoria Petrasheva, and Tatiana Degai. Religious Belief and Practice in Itelmen History: The Historical Efficacy of Ideological Frameworks." Sibirica 13.2: 5-27.

2013 – Petrasheva, Viktoria and Tatiana Degai. Religiosity in the remote Kamchatka: coming out of the oblivion. Istoria and Pedagogika Estestvoznaniya. 4: 52-56 [Православие в глубинке Камчатки: выход из забвения», История и педагогика естествознания, №4, 2013, стр. 52-56]

2010 – Koester, David,  Viktoria Petrasheva, and Tatiana Degai Church, faith and contemporary life: Remembrances and stories from Tigil village. Recordings of 2006. Kamchatpress: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, Kamchatka.

Other Publications

2019 - York, BurnSilver, Petrov, Degai (2019) Understanding Heterogeneity in Socio-climatic Risks: Adaptation Experiences in Arizona, USA and the Arctic, In Regional problems of the development of the Far East Russia and Arctic: Abstracts of the 1th National (AllRussian) science and practical conference «Moiseev’s Meetings», dedicated to the memory of the Kamchatka scientist R.S. Moiseev. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky: Publishing house Kamchatpress. pp. 252- 261 http://www.terrakamchatka.ru/conf/moiseev/conf_moiseev2019/%D0%9C%D0%BE%D0%B8%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%B5%D0%B2%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B5%20%D1%87%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F-2019.zip

 2019 - Petrasheva V.V., Degai T.S., Koester D. The Main Principles of Sustainability: Visions of Arctic Indigenous Peoples.  In Regional problems of the development of the Far East Russia and Arctic: Abstracts of the 1th National (AllRussian) science and practical conference «Moiseev’s Meetings», dedicated to the memory of the Kamchatka scientist R.S. Moiseev. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky: Publishing house Kamchatpress. Pp. 204-207. http://www.terrakamchatka.ru/conf/moiseev/conf_moiseev2019/%D0%9C%D0%BE%D0%B8%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%B5%D0%B2%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B5%20%D1%87%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F-2019.zip

2019 – Report from Indicator Practitioner Gathering. Co-editor with other participants. April 19-20, New York City: American Museum of Natural History. https://www.amnh.org/research/center-for-biodiversity-conservation/convening-and-connecting/events-and-symposia/2019-indicator-gathering

2019 – Spaces for Preservation of a Disappearing Languages: Itelmen Language in the XX and XXI Centuries, Kamchatka. Co-presented with Koester, Bobaljik at the International Symposium on the Interethnic and Language Relationship in Sociocultural Space of Russia: Past and Present, Saint-Petersburg, May 24-25.   

2019 - Ethno-Ecological Education, Traditional Knowledge, Children, Kamchatka Salmon. Presented at the scientific and practical workshop on the Pacific Salmon in the world of human relationships: economic, social, environmental, historical, ethnic and cultural aspects, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Elizovo, May 21–22, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski: Kamchatpress.http://www.terrakamchatka.ru/conf/docl2019/%D0%9B%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%B2%D1%8B%D0%B9%20%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%80_%D0%A2%D0%B5%D0%B7%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%8B%20%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BA%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B2-2019.zip 

2019 – Salmon Communities of Alaska and Kamchatka: Sustainability in Every Day Life. Co-Presented with Petrasheva at the Pacific Salmon in the world of human relationships: economic, social, environmental, historical, ethnic and cultural aspects the scientific and practical workshop, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Elizovo, May 21–22, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski: Kamchatpress. http://www.terrakamchatka.ru/conf/docl2019/%D0%9B%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%B2%D1%8B%D0%B9%20%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%80_%D0%A2%D0%B5%D0%B7%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%8B%20%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BA%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B2-2019.zip

2016 – co-author with V. Petrasheva, B. Colombi “Lesyaya Nymylan” (ethnographic notes). Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski: Kamchatpress.

2016 – Language Initiatives from Up to Bottom and Bottom Up  - Report for the UN Expert Meeting on Indigenous Languages: Indigenous Languages: Preservation and Revitalization: Articles 13, 14 and 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (New York, 19 - 21 January 2016)  https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/meetings-and-workshops/8109-2.html  

2011 – “Me and My Salmon Friends: A programme of ethno-ecological education among the youth of rural Kamchatka in the Russian Far East strives to revive traditional indigenous knowledge in salmon fishing” in Samudra Report No.59, July

Educational Materials for Schools and Libraries on Itelmen Language and Culture

2020 - Go Fish in Itelmen. Language card game.

2016 – Degai, Tatiana and Victoria Petrasheva. Ethno-methodological children book for learning Itelmen language and culture “Games of Kutkh the Raven”.

2014 – DVD of Itelmen songs with video, subtitles and translation (Itelmen karaoke) https://vimeo.com/channels/990935/videos/rss

2014 –  editor of the newspaper of Itelmens “Ӄэрвэԓхатном” #1, 2, 3.

2012 – educational poster in Itelmen “Kamchadal/Itelmen Calendar”

2012 – educational poster in Itelmen “Salmon parts”

2011 – Itelmen children activity book editor “Kamchatka – Mәzvin Sәmt”

2011 –Russian version of the UNESCO posters on traditional knowledge

Community Service

Community Service

As a daughter of the Itelmen nation I am dedicated in advancing Itelmen language revitalization and culture through developing educational materials for the learners of Itelmen.  

As a community liaison and an Indigenous scholar I am involved in a number of UN processes including: Global Indigenous Languages Caucus (UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues); International Indigenous Women Biodiversity Network (UN Convention on Biological Diversity); World Forum of Fisher Peoples.