VII group of interns

NOTA BENE: In compliance with principal of equal opportunity Ms. Galina Volkova (Ultchi) is replaced as Director of L’auravetl’an IIC by Mr. Arat Khaidyp (Tyva-Todzhin). Ms. Volkova went back to her community in Khabarovsk region to work as local administrator in charge of indigenous issues. On behalf of all former and present interns of the Center we wish our sister all the success in her new job.

L’auravetl’an IIC


International Day of World Indigenous Peoples
Will We Find the Way Out?
Wedding Rituals of Nanai
Tuvinian Throat Singing
An Open Letter to the L'auravetl'an IIC

International Day of World Indigenous PeoplesIn 1994 UN General Assembly proclaimed the International Decade of the World Indigenous Peoples. The main aim of the Decade is :” strengthening of the international cooperation in solving problems of indigenous peoples in areas of human rights, environment, development, education and health”. The General Assembly also proclaimed the “principal of spirit of New Partnership”.

Within the framework of the Decade the international day of the World Indigenous Peoples (the 9 of August) was established. The UN GA appeals to the member states to bring up the issue to the highest level possible. That was 4 years ago.

And still, most of indigenous people in Russia are still unaware that the world for the last 4 years celebrates their day. Russia simply ignores the fact. And yet there is so-called State Committee for the International Decade and its chairman is federal Minister for Nationalities. Please note that he is the 5th Chairman of the committee for the last 4 years. What that Committee does - nobody knows.

During the last 100 years 7 indigenous peoples of Russia are no more. They are : Ainu, Vod’, Kamasin, Kerek, Omok, Taz and Yug. At the vanishing point are Aleut, Keto, Nganasan, Negidal, Orok, Orotch, Tofalar, Entzy and Yukagir. Every people is unique. When one is gone that is the tragedy for the entire humanity.

Nadezhda Petchenina,
MP, Regional Parliament
Kemerovo Region

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Will We Find the Way Out?


The new realities in Russia add the new headaches for the Indigenous people of Tchita Region. Such as rampant poverty, ruined environment, sharp drop in health care level, increased death rate among adults and children alike. Blaming the absence of funds the local authorities stopped free medical services, free medication and free transportation to the hospitals. And that is while not only salaries but even the child support for needy have not been paid since May of 1996.

My people, the Evenk, are hit the hardest. We have practically not a single healthy child. The last testings show that each child suffers 2-3 curable diseases and many up to 6. For instance in village of Krasny Yar there are only 22 children, but registered pathologies are 63. In village of Ust-Kerenga 46 children and 128 registered pathologies. The rise of TB is unprecedented. All of the above numbers is result of a study done by Tchita Medical Research Institute. But the institute only conducted the study. The treatment must be done by hospitals in the district center (500 km from the villages) or in Tchita (almost 1000 km). Nobody has the money to get there. The most remote hunting and reindeer herding communities are not even being tested due to the difficult access.

The reindeer herding is in decline. Only in my district there are some reindeer left. The main reason for it is the low level knowledge of herding on part of our young people Most of them were educated in boarding-schools away from their communities. Plus the authorities do not view Evenks as serious business partners and avoid dealing with family owned herding enterprises.

One of the main problems for my people is housing. We have no electricity, no gas, no heating, no creature comfort in our homes. With winter temperatures raging up

to -40C it is not merely uncomfortable, it is highly dangerous. 6-8 people are crammed in 20 m2 apartments. Despite our numerous appeals to the federal and local authorities we are constantly being fed only the empty promises. The same time the migrants who came to our land during the times of government support and high wages are moving back in mass. Under the new law the federal government is buying them new homes in Russia proper and their houses and apartments in our communities (that they received for free) are on the market for sale. My people have no money to buy it so many so much needed houses are stand empty and rot without use to anyone. We Evenk are not willing to go anywhere else. This is our land. Our home is only here.

Marina Malkova,
Tchita Region

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Wedding Rituals of Nanai


Traditional weddings of my people, Nanai, are rather complicated endeavor. It has several stages - wedding agreement, pre-wedding rituals, the wedding ceremony and post-wedding rituals.

Wedding agreement depends on the way the bride is planned to be acquired. Most often the groom’s family has to pay “tori”. Usually two infants from different clans were betrothed to each other by their parents. Those infants were called “santcha”.

The agreement was in two distinct parts - prior arrangement and a visit. During three days the parents negotiated the “tori”. The negotiations took place at the feast at the bride’s house. One year later the groom’s parents would deliver the “tori” to the bride’s parents and the two clan’s representatives discussed in details when and how the bride would move to her future husband’s house.

The girl’s dowry usually consisted of clothes (100 dresses and 40 pairs of shoes), dishes (made out of wood, bark and wicks) and various household tools. The wedding ceremony itself would take place at the groom’s house and “financed” by his parents.

The day of the girl’s departure to the house of her groom she was dressed in the following manner : her hair was braided in to two long braids and 2 black and 1 red silk bandeaus would be braided in. Then the braids would be wrapped around the head once so the long tails would hang down at the back. She was dressed in slim undershirt , a light silk robe, a bronze decorated apron over it and finally a heavy wedding robe made out of silk with her family tree brocaded on it. The tree’s branches were covered with birds. The birds symbolized the future children of the girl. She was covered with heavy bronze, silver and gold jewels.

Leaving her parents house the bride would receive the fire making tools - for she must her own fire at the house of her husband. Her father would place two cooking pots upside down on the ground on both sides of the threshold. The girl would step on one than the other and take the second one with her for her new house.

Since my people traditionally live strictly by the rivers, the trip to the new house was always by a boat. A short distance before the groom’s village the boat would stop and the bride would make a camp fire. Her mother would take a piece of burning wood from the fire and place it into a metal case in the boat. Upon arrival to the new house the burning wood was placed into the house fire. Thus the bride added her own fire to the fire of her new clan.

The wedding feast lasted several days. At the morning of the second day the girl would show her dowry outside the house for everybody to see, displaying the craftsmanship and wealth of her parent’s clan.

A shaman was a part of the ceremony. He was just one of the guests.

Yulia Pyzgun,

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Tuvinian Throat Singing


“… Oskus-ool began singing. From his throat rose to the sky the voices of all birds from Kargyraa-Karangyty-Taiga. The roar of the Taiga wind that got entangled in the upper branches of the ancient trees blended with the bird’s voices. The black birds and ravens in the sky over the village fell silent. Women wept and men became dazed. Thirty days - one month and sixty days - two months and ninety days - three months the voice of Oskus-ool reigned over the green Taiga forest…”.

“Khoomey” - the throat singing of Tyva is a special type of mail two-voice singing. It did not change in the course of many centuries. For Tyva indigenous people Khoomey is truly the national genre of singing - it is the most favorite traditional art for the entire people regardless of clans or territories. Every kind of celebration however large or small always has Khoomey at it’s center.

But to say that the throat singing is exclusively Tyvinian is not exactly true. In one or another form some variations of throat singing exist in Altai, Shors, Telengit, Khakas, Chukchi and Koriak traditional cultures. But for Tyva it is the supreme and the most popular form of singing. There are several types of Khoomey in Tyva - sygyt, kargyraa, ezengileer, borbannadyr.

What is exsactly Khoomey? It is impossible to understand without understanding the entire culture of our people as one single entity. At the basis of that entity are the intricate interrelationships of our people and the nature around it that formed during the endless centuries. Traditionally we are nomads. We do not try to separate ourselves and the world around, we do not try to conquer it or to mold it to our ideas. We view ourselves as an integral and rather humble part of the world. And because of that we always looked for a common language between us and the nature.

One can say that “professionally” the masters of that language were shamans. But practically every Tyva person knew at least the basics and that helped in daily life to have a necessary dialogue with nature around.

As one form of such dialgue one can view another Tyvinian art form - stone carving. While carving small figures of animals a master tries not only to duplicate the animal’s physical forms, but to find an additional way of communicating with the world around. The throat singing is continuation and extension of that communication in traditional culture.

Enough just to watch an indigenous person in his daily life - when he rides his reindeer, hunts, smokes his pipe, drinks his tea, talks to his neighbor - to understand that Khoomey is the essence of that unhurried meditating state of soul in its most aesthetic form.

Arat Khidyp,
Director of L’auravetl’an IIC

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An Open Letter to the L'auravetl'an IIC


Greetings Brothers!

We are Evenk. We decided to write to you after an article of our sister Marina Malkova in one of your bulletins. Because she is one of us and she, as no one before, understands the depth of pain of our humiliated and crushed people. We hope very much that she will be on our side.

We already wrote to GREENPEACE complaining about the Russian Federation’s vandalism towards our ancestral land. They turn it into the moonlike lifeless landscape. At least in the district we live in. For some reason the biggest part of gold deposits is in our area. We are being ignored when we claim to be a people with all the rights to the land. It is our understanding that under the international law, since Russia never signed a treaty with us, it has no rights to be on our land.

We lost our land and with we lost our reindeers. We have almost none left. And the Mother Taiga who always took good care of us by providing everything we needed, is almost totally destroyed by the gold miners. Everybody and his mother rushed to our district and before we could do anything “legally” divided the Taiga up among themselves. But there was not enough gold and soon the land was empty, and everybody went back where they came from, leaving behind the raped and destroyed Taiga. Leaving it to us, because we have no other place to go and would not even if we had. It is our home.

We are a vanishing people and soon there will be no Evenk left in our area. Many are “leaving” from fear and despair and much more are drinking themselves to death.We are probably the most obedient and law respecting people on Earth. That is why the Russian state does is safely ignoring us by violating its own federal laws and decrees.

This is the cry for help. Very soon we all be dead from starving. We demand that the Russian State complies with its international obligations and its own Constitution, laws and decrees. Especially when it concerns the indigenous peoples. We do not want to go to an extreme. But we are being forced. Because it is better to die with your head up, than on your knees.

Amur Region

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