IV group of interns
October - November, 1997



The Land of Ours
Yukagir School "T'ek'ki-Odul'ok"
Selkoop Family Business Supports Community Center
Chukchi Language in the Chukchi Country
The Fate of Even Village "Berezovka"
Changes in the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation (RAIPON)
Evenk of Yakutsk Go Into Tourist Business
Traditional Law of Ultchi People
Do Not Look for Enemies Among Us

The Land of OursThe corner stone of all rights for the Indigenous peoples is the right to land. The states, as a rule, do everything to undermine and sometimes openly deny the right of Indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands. The states try to ignore their responsibility to consult with the Indigenous peoples insofar as the use of the Indigenous lands and resources is concern. The states endlessly claim that so-called “special treatment” of one group of population will lead to creation of a “privileged group”, and resulted in inter-ethnic tensions.

In Koriak Autonomous region of Kamtchatka the non-indigenous people were outraged by the decision of the regional administration to issue free fishing licenses to the Indigenous people. They call it “discrimination”. Under that pressure the administration was forced to reverse its decision and Indigenous people now must pay for the licenses.

It is understandable that Indigenous people for whom fishing is not only the main food, but a traditional way of life are not very happy. It is clear that we need some kind of a law that can protect us. Especially when it comes to our lands.

It is impossible to calculate how many reindeer pastures are ruined by geologists and gold miners. They do not even bother to fence off their drilling stations and the test mines that are right in the middle of the reindeer migrating routs. How many reindeers broke their legs by falling down into those pits, holes and ditches is difficult to say. The geologists and miners during the short time that they are there manage to wipe out everything alive around their camps. Reindeer herders claim that sometimes those people even have hunting parties on the domesticated reindeers. Truly “civilized” way of dealing with nature is not it?

During the spawning season one can see piles and piles of dead fish by the rivers. Their bellies are cut open, the caviar is taken and the bodies are simply discarded. That barbarian treatment of nature will lay as a heavy burden on the shoulders of the future generations.

The land rights for us, Indigenous peoples, are not only some legal right that gives us possible economic advantages. Before anything it is a way to preserve the harmony in the world, a way to protect that harmony, a way to protect the world itself. For us, who live only by fishing, hunting, gathering, reindeer herding, the land rights are the spiritual as well as the material base for our existence. Without that base Indigenous people are doomed to vanish as people and as peoples.

Valery Etneut,
Koriak, IIC

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Yukagir School "T'ek'ki Odul'ok"


This school is in an Yukagir village Nelemnoe, in Yakut-Sakha republic. There are 52 students. Almost all of them are Yukagir. Besides the general education the students learn Yukagir language, literature and culture. The aim is to pass on to the children the culture and the language, for there are only 10 older people in the village who truly know the language and remember all cultural traditions and customs.

There are even hunting and fishing classes for boys. During the hunting seasons the boys hunt in the tundra. In September there is river fishing; in October and November - the ice fishing; from December through January - hunting the fur animals; in May - duck hunting.

The girls are learning skin tanning, make traditional garments and decorate clothes with bids.

Younger kids have courses in Yukagir history and culture, such as the Yukagir’s wars, Traditional ceremonies of Yukagir, Yikagir astronomy, etc. The old Yukagir come to school regularly to tell traditional legends and stories.

Since 1989, when the school started, 33 school graduates successfully enter various colleges and universities.

But there is a problem. In order to adapt to the Yakut society students must be fluent in Yakut language. Not all Yukagir children who study in universities in Yakutsk (capital of the republic) are fluent in Yakut.

Ezhana Vasilieva,
Evenk, Yakut-Sakha

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Selkoop Family Business Supports Community Center


That business is in village of Stepanovka, Verkhneketsky district, Tomsk region. The head of the enterprise is Mr. Ivan Karelin. He provides employment for more than half of the Selkoop population of the village. Mr. Karelin uses the money that he makes to build and run a Selkoop traditional and cultural center. There the Indigenous people can get together to learn and speak their language, to revive the rituals and customs. This community center is also popular with the non-indigenous people of the village.

Irina Shafranik,
Selkoop, Tomsk

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Chukchi Language in the Chukchi Country


The administration of the Tchaun district of Chukchi Autonomous region is rather attentive and supportive to the indigenous students. It pays for their education in various colleges and universities of Russian Federation.

Furthermore, in every school of the region there are Chukchi language courses.

However, the constant shortage of the text books for those courses and the Russian language which permeates every aspect of the daily life makes it difficult for our children to learn our language.

The only way to learn your language is to live it.

Yelena Montada,
Chukchi, Tchaun,
Chukchi Autonomous Region

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The Fate of Even Village "Berezovka"


The “civilization” came to the nomadic clans of Even people of Srednekolymsky district, Yakut-Sakha republic, in 1954. They were organized into a reindeer herding collective and forced to settle in one village “Berezovka”.

The place for the village was chosen by the authorities without much thought. No body did a survey, no body asked the people. As a result the village is being flooded every Spring. For many years the people of the village have been pleading with the authorities to do something about it. But for no avail.

In the village with 350 people is the only one school in the republic where are courses in Even language. We all hope that “Berezovka” will survive.

Lena Kolesova,
Even, IIC

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Changes in the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation (RAIPON)


On 3 of October, 1997 the first meeting of RAIPON coordinating committee took place in Moscow.

The committee approved the following executive structure of the organization:

President - Sergey N. Khariutchi (Nenetz);
1st Vice President - Sergey M. Kirillin (Even);
Executive Vice President - Pavel V. Suliandziga (Udege);
P. in charge of traditional activities - Vladimir M. Etylen (Chukchi);
V. P. in charge of Science - Tchuner M. Taksami (Nivkh);
P. in charge of contacts with the UNWG on Ind. population - Mikhail A. Todyshev (Shor);
P. in charge of Health care issues - Larisa I. Abriutina (Chukchi);

The following are members of the executive board: Nadezhda I. Bulatova (Evenk), Maia I. Ettyryntyna (Chukchi), Galina M. Volkova (Ultchi), Yuri A. Samar (Nanai), Andrey V. Krivoshapkin (Even), Vladimir V. Uvatchan (Evenk), Viktor I. Gaiulsky (Evenk) and Yelena T. Pushkareva (Nenetz).

IIC L’auravetl’an

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Evenk of Yakutsk Go Into Tourist Business


The Evenk association of Yakutsk (capital of Yakut-Sakha republic) has revival and promotion of Evenk traditional culture as its main objective. The Head of the association is Mr. Ivan M. Atlasov.

They have a piece of land about 45 km from Yakutsk on the river K’enk’eme. The sigt is called “B’ak’aldy’n”. There they do their rituals and traditional celebrations.

There are 5 small huts and 2 warm “tchooms” (traditional tents made out of skins). Those who want to visit and watch or even participate in a ritual or a celebration can buy a one-day tour. In the fall of 1996 there was a day when the sight has 120 visitors at once, including a group of French tourists.

The rituals are ranging from “walking through the tchitchipkan” (a kind of a cleansing ritual) to a ritual reindeer hunt and to “puting the earings on the bear” (one of the most ancient rituals in Evenk culture). The visitors can participate if they so desired.

There are also enough traditional crafts to sutisfy almost anybody. All the huts and log houses for visitors to live a few days in have stoves and are warm and clean.

In the center of the place is a traditional “tagan” (place for cooking). Around are wooden tables and long benches. There the guests are treated with the traditional Evenk cooking.

There are two ski-runs and a skate-rink where one can play the Evenk version of hockey - “telekit”. There are riding horses and reindeers. A shooting range is available for those who likes bow and rifle shooting.

In March of 1977 there was a poetry reading of the work of famous Evenk poet Dmitry Aprosimov. More than 50 literary figures from Yakut republic attended.

Despite all the nice and interesting things Bakaldyn exists solely due to the enthusiasm of the Association and does not get financial support from anybody else.

Ezhana Vasilieva,
Evenk, Yakut-Sakha

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Traditional Law of Ultchi People


Until the midle of the 20th century Ultchi communities lived in family clans. In those settlements where two or more clans lived side by side all the serious conflicts were tried by the court made out of the elders of all the clans. To coordinate the trial an elder from a neutral clan was invited. He was called “manggah”. The manggah usually was a man with great oratory skills, highly respected by everybody and with deep knowledge of customs and traditions.

The last known traditional trial was in 1911 in the village of Kudium. A hunter who shot another man and crippled him was tried. There was more than hundred people present at the trial. The trial had lasted several days. The victim received from the charged a bear, a large iron pot, beautifuly ornamented spear and a chinese silk rob.

Traditionally Ultchi had 10 categories of crime, thus there were 10 categories of penalty.

In case the traditional court could not come to a desision, Ultchi appealed to the administration through their specially selected elders.

Dmitry Detchuli,
Ultchi, Khabarovsk region

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Do Not Look for Enemies Among Us


The meeting convened by the Council of the Revival of Itelmen indigenous people “Tkhsanom” in March of 1997 decided to boycott the upcoming celebration of the 300 years of “incorporation” of territory of Kamtchatka into Russia. The reason was the following - there was no “incorporation” 300 years ago, but open and brutal subjugation.

Today it is impossible to deny the historic facts. We are not trying to misinterpret history or present a false one. The truth is the truth, regardless of opinions. And I would like to ask one question - do we, indigenous peoples, have a right to know the truth about our history? I am sure that no one would deny it.

That is why we demanded the truth about the subjugation of our land and our peoples by the Russians 300 years ago. But our quest for truth has been met with quite a misinterpretation.


Because among the multitude of festive slogans our somber position stands out as a grave reminder about the past. Also, the public in Koriak Autonomous region and Kamtchatka region is not ready yet for something like that. It is important to keep in mind , that most of the people in our country were brought up during the geopolitical struggle of the two systems - the socialist and the capitalist. Remember as we condemned “them” for every sin and, surely, we were better, different. Even our history was uniquely different. Remember how shoked we were while learning the colonial history of the Western world. It is undestandable that when now we suddenly discover similarity between our, Russian, history and colonial histories of other countries we are having difficulties to accept it. But history has its own way of teaching. And whether or not we like it, we have to go over the “previously unknown” moments in our shared history.

My opponents say that past is past, it better be layed to rest. They say that Russia itself was under the tartar for hundreds of years. But at some point Russia became free from the tartar oppression. And thousands upon thousands young Russian people are being raised on those proud moments in Russia’s struggle for freedom and the final victory. Why is it O’K for Russia to remember how it itself was oppressed, and to remember how back in history it oppressed other peoples?

I understand that we have touched the row nerve with our boycott. But I am convinced that as we, indigenous peoples, are different now, the same you will be different in 5 - 10 years, and then we will understand and respect each-other better.

Why “Tkhsanom” wants to remember the past? Simply because we all must now the truth. Without that knowledge any constructive interrelationships between peoples in our multinational and newly democratic state is impossible.

The Itelmen appeal to other Indigenous organizations of Kamtchatka to support our boycott. The regional branch of the association of Indigenous peoples of the North twice supported our initiative. The main reason was the horrible economic and social situations of Indigenous communities in Koriak Autonomous region. The Russian state is a signatory to several international documents that demand positive steps in improving the situations of Indigenous peoples. It has created various federal programs aimed at those improvements. But neither the international obligations nor national programs are being comply with. Some people say - we all (in Russia) are having dificulties. Why to pay a specific attention to the Indigenous? Simply because some of Indigenous peoples of Russia are numbered less than 10 000 and while Russia is concentrated on solving all of its problems without paying a special attention to those peoples they surely will disappear as peoples. It is a proven fact - the smaller the people - the more efforts are needed to give it a chance to life.

Very seldom an Indigenous person of the North actively voices his protest or a disagreement. Usualy the protest is silent and the grief is drowned in liquor or cheep vodka. That is why we are dying earlier and more often than the non-indigenous. Such is the North, such is the reality. But we also have enough support. And quite often from the non-indigenous people living side-by-side with us.

What is a surprise to us is the position of the Vice Governor of the Koriak Autonomous region Ms. Nina I. Solodiakova who is an Indigenous person herself. She tried to present our boycott in the official circuls as a foolish, childish act of a few “fundamentalists with no support”.

Dear Ms. Solodiakova, We represent the Itelmen people. We knew what we were doing. And absence of a support from our communities is all in your imagination. But after your statement we are more united than ever. You stated:” The region will celebrate regardless your boycott!”. But what exactly do you mean by “the region”? If it is 50 dancers and singers performing in the city of Petropavlovsk than you are right.

We appreciate much more the position of the Governor Ms. Valentina Bronevitch, also an indigenous person, who said that the decision is up to us and she will respect what ever it might be.

We are for the equal partnership with the authorities and other peoples of our region. The idea of the revival of Russia is our common idea. We all must stop thinking that the future of Russia is the future of the ethnic Russians only. All peoples have been contributing to the Russian history. The ethnic issue is the sensetive factor in our internal politics. And only when all peoples of the Russian state will be truly equal the ethnic issue will be no more.

Oleg Zaporotzky,
President, “Tkhsanom”
President, Koriak Association of Indigenous peoples of the North

L’auravetl’an Indigenous Information Center is supporting the struggle of Itelmen people for the right of all peoples of Russia to know the historic truth.

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