IV group of interns
Summer - Fall, 1997

Urgent Telegram to the Federal Authorities of Russian Federation from Chukchi Council of Elders and Association of Indigenous peoples of Chukchi District, Chukchi Region, Russian Federation:

“We inform you that situation with food, medications, coal and gas in our district is highly dangerous. The sea routs are already closed due partially to the Fall storms and partially to the ice. The electricity, heating and food in our villages are rationed. The Federal and Regional authorities have failed to provide the above mentioned supplies to our area. Please take the most urgent measures to give the people a chance to live through the upcoming winter. Head of the Council of Elders - Valentina V. Baum, Chair of the District Association of Indigenous peoples - Vladimir Rinteymit, Lavrentia, Chukchi District, Chukchi Autonomous Region. “.


Selkoop village of Ivankino Asks for Help
The Forefathers of "The White Deer"
My "Small" People
Magadan's Environmental Situation
We Are Not Alone
The Saami of Russia (The New Realities)
The Rights That are Guaranteed but Not Working
Teleut Wedding Ceremonies
Shamanism of the Tungus Evenk

Selkoop village of Ivankino Asks for HelpIndigenous communities of Russia can not live without problems. In July, 1998 the local authorities liquidated the postal services in Selkoop village of Ivankino in Tomsk region. The people were thunderstruck. Only one year prior authorities and scientists were telling the Selkoop how unique and important is their village and that all kinds of resources will be pulled in to make their life better. And they moved, and they built a school, a medical office and laid down the foundation for the new post office. And what now?

The Ivankino Selkoop are not being unreasonable. The village is far away from the district center and has no roads that lead to it. The only way to get to the village is during summer by the river. But the official river transportation is way too expensive. There only one telephone in the village and even it works only when there is electricity, which is not very often and just for a few hours. That means that even sending a telegram from Ivankino is never a sure thing.

The head of the district’s postal services, Mr. D. Ia. Gorlach, officially stated that Ivankino post office is too heavy of a burden for his structure, plus brings no profit. Yes. That probably true. But people of Ivankino have not been paid their salaries, even those who are the State employed, for several years. They all survive only by fishing, hunting and forest gathering. While doing everything to survive, they are still hoping that those passionate promises of authorities and scientists are not forgotten and one day this ancient village of my people, who are on the verge of disappearance, will get the promised help from the State. After all, where are all those Federal program and projects that get the funds from the Federal budget to revive indigenous peoples of Russia? I am hoping together with my relations.

I hope that those people all over Russia and in the West who read this bulletin might have some ideas how to help the only indigenous village in the entire Tomsk region. I appeal to everybody : Please help!.

Daria Kudriashova,
On behalf of the people of Ivankino

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The Forefathers of "The White Deer"


In the mountain Taiga forests, behind lake Baikal, lived ancient Evenk reindeer herding clans. Everything was fine for many centuries, until one day when the “civilization” came. The “civilization” manifested itself mainly in forcible settlements in artificially created villages, forcible education of Evenk children in boarding schools away from their communities, and forcible implantation of alien culture. Good houses, education and any culture is not a bad things. Only to my people they brought nothing but misery and destruction.

Forcing the reindeer-herders into State collectives may be gave a lot, but with many good things came one bad - my people rapidly start loosing its own face and culture. And with it the religion, the traditions, the ability to hunt and fish as our fathers did. My people were swallowed by the flood of immigrants, lost its clan and family ties.

And by the end of 19th century Evenk almost lost their language, traditions and the most important the reindeer-herding culture. And today we have just a fraction of reindeers left. In Tchita region the reindeer herding is in sharp decline. The majority of population and the regional administration are indifferent to the ancient art. Our ancestral Taiga forest is being divided into parcels for hunting for various commercial enterprises. But all those people do not know and understand the most important connection - Evenk-Reindeer-Everything alive in Taiga.

We created the clan organization and called it “The White Deer”. We herd our reindeers and try to live in the new world by the code of honor of our ancestors, to revive again our family and clan roots. But we are forced constantly to fight for our way of life. The authorities say it is illegal for us to have those weapons that we need. But how can we be in Taiga without weapons? How can we protect our reindeers and ourselves from the predators?

We are not against the official rules. We are just against ridiculous and dangerous rules.

Nikolai Aruneev,
Tchita Region

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My "Small" People
(by Russian law, those peoples that number under 50 000 are called "small". Teleut Indigenous People number under 3 000)


Every people has its own history. Originally we were nomadic cattle herders called “Tele”. That was a long time ago. Now all Teleut live in Kemerovo region, in Belovsky and Guriev districts. There a few families in Altai. Our total number is under 3 000 people.

I am from village of Shanda which is on both sides of river Bolshoi Bachat. We have 250 people in the village. The name is from Teleut words Shan-Tu, which means the Bell Mountain. The mountain itself is near by. It stands where it has been standing for endless years.

But recently it stopped being the only mountain in Shanda. Around “grew” tens of other “mountains”, some even higher than Shan-Tu. Those are the products of open strip coal mines. First there were just a couple and they were far away. But gradually they multiplied and moved closer and closer to the village and finally surrounded it.

In 1993 when Teleut were officially accepted by Russian authorities as an indigenous people, when among the appear leaders who began fight for the Teleut rights, the mountains stopped multiplying but began growing higher. Because of the mining people of my village lost almost all their lands to raise cattle and grow grains and vegetables.

The most active “mountain growers” are Batchatski and Shestaki mines. They not only destroy the land they destroy people as well. Almost no Teleut in villages of Shanda and Bekovo lives to see the age of retirement. The cancer related diseases are the main cause of that. The other problem is an access to education. In Shanda almost 20 years as authorities closed down the school. The 80 school age children must travel several kilometers to attend a school in a bigger Russian village. And there unfortunately is no Teleut language.

Those who graduate do not have funds to reach a city to attend a college. At the present only 3 people are studying in college. Nobody has any money. Only 50 people have jobs. But they have not been paid for almost 4 years.

The unemployment and absence of any kind of future lead to drug and alcohol abuse and frequent suicides among teenagers. If it stays the same does my people have a future?

Lena Satina,

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Magadan's Environmental Situation


The main source of the environmental problems in Magadan area is the sea port. The fishing in Okhotsk sea is crucial for life of the city of Magadan. Also 90% of all transport shipping comes through its port. And the last but not the least the port is a base of the nuclear fleet. All those contribute to the ever increasing water pollution and in turn to the depletion of bio-resources and increasing of health hazard.

Two thirds of pollution comes from dumping the ballast and oil discharge from the tankers and one third from various brake downs of the ships. The coastal waters are recipients of ¾ of all oil products dumping. The area of the richest herring fishing has almost as much oil by-products in the water as it has herring, due to the number of fishing boats.

It is well known fact that the oil film on top of the water is acting as almost perfect reflector and allows almost no light to go under the surface. The result is destruction of fitoplancton, law gas exchange between the water and the atmosphere, and consequently law photosynthesis of aquatic vegetation. Oil also acts as an accumulator of various poisonous chemicals. There are quite a few places of unofficial burial of hard and liquid nuclear waste. All that goes to the bottom of the sea and saturates organs and tissues of fish and sea animals.

In Nagaev and Gertner bays even official assessment of concentration of oil pollution is way above the norm. But due to the fact that pollution and oil film are highly movable the entire Okhotsk sea is in extreme situation.

Natalia Tcherbokhova,

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We Are Not Alone


The official statistics on Chukchi district show total decline of all “social and economic characteristics”. To us, the people, it simply means no jobs, no food, no money, no social services and the entire population finds itself below the poverty line. For several years now even those who are state and federal employed have not been paid, let alone everybody else.

What makes matter worse is the ever rising illegal sale of alcohol in indigenous communities. One bottle of pure alcohol goes for entire deer, two bottles of vodka - half a deer. The results everybody knows - accidents, violent deaths, crime, orphaned children.

And all that is while the Chukchi reindeer herders can not buy even the most necessary medications, food and clothes for their children, ammunition and other much needed supplies. Due to the poor diet our children are born with a lot of anomalies, many infants are dying because some mothers do not have milk and there are no children formulas to substitute.

During the last year many reindeers have died because of icing, flooded, raging predators and other natural factors. To save the herds the herders are reluctant to slaughter those reindeers that left for food. They and their families are starving this winter.

All of the above results in massive depression in the herders communities, brings dark doubts about the future of our people. The Governor and his administration (who are all non-natives) consider the reindeer herding non-profitable and unnecessary and refuse any support. But for us it is not a business but the way of life that for thousand years has made us what we are - the inland reindeer Chukchi.

My father Boris Vukvukai is the head herder of our community. A short time ago someone gave him an audio recording of songs from different reindeer herding indigenous peoples of Russia. The name of the tape is “Fly, my deer, fly!”. My father listens to that tape all the time and each time he says : “ You see! We are not alone! There are other reindeer herders in the world!”. And I understand - as long as there are reindeer alive - the traditions are alive, my people is alive!

Natalia Vukvukai,
Chukchi (l’auravetl’an)

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The Saami of Russia (The New Realities)


A short time ago a new significant realities appear in the political life of Russian Saami - the majority of Saami of Revda and Lovosero communities created a new organization of Saami (“Association of Murmansk Region Saami”).

Up to now officially all interests and concerns of all Russian Saami were represented only by the Association of Kola Saami.

The new organization is created by the largest grass-root communities of Russian Saami. Many of the leaders used to work at the Association of Kola and have extensive political experience.

It is unclear at this point what kind of relationship will have the two organizations. The both have similar goals and objectives - the improvement of life of the Saami, revival and protection of language and culture, traditions and the way of life. That is why the ideal would be close cooperation and future merger of both associations into one truly representing the entire community of the Russian Saami. How it can be done? I believe only through a referendum with full participation of all Saami communities.

Jakob Yushkov,

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The Rights are Guaranteed but Not Working


In May of 1998 the Nivkh indigenous communities of Nogliki district of Sakhalin island and Nivkh Congress of Sakhalin island appeal to the Governor of Sakhalin Mr. Fartkhutdinov, to the Speaker of the regional parliament Mr. Tretiak and to the President of RAIPON (Association of Indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russia) Mr. Khariutchi with the following letter :

“ The guaranteed by the Russian Constitution and the internationally accepted legal documents rights of Nivkh the indigenous people of Sakhalin are being violated constantly. According to the international and national laws Nivkh have rights to their traditional life subsisting activity - fishing in all their traditional water grounds and by using all equipment permitted by law.

The traditional water grounds are the inseparable parts of the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples of the Russian North and can not be without their prior consent to be allocated for any and all industrial developments that have nothing to do with traditional way of lives of Indigenous people. That mainly relates to the multinational Sakhalin 1 and Sakhalin 2 projects. Also there is the “priority rights” of Indigenous peoples for the usage of bio-resources.

But the regional and local authorities constantly ignore those rights and are absolutely oblivious to the problems of Nivkh communities. To them Nivkh are just a burden and an unwelcome people on their own ancestral land.

That has to stop. We can not be silent anymore while our people, out of despair, are drinking themselves to death, becoming bums and human refuse, while our ancient nation is rapidly coming to the verge of extinction. If our own regional and local authorities will not do something to improve the situation we will appeal to the Federal authorities, to the President of Russian Federation, to the UN and to all people of good faith who are willing to support our efforts to preserve our people.

Dear brothers and sisters! To day, as never before, we must unite our efforts in using all legal means to secure a livable future for our children and children of their children. Remember that by protecting our rights we, by no means, are violating the rights of other people. Thus is stated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Thus is stated in the Russian Constitution with its first sentence “We, the multiethnic people of the Russian Federation…”. That means that any people in our State has equal rights. And those rights are guaranteed by our Constitution.”.

S. : That letter and support of it by RAIPON was absolutely and totally ignored by the official authorities on all levels. On June 29, 1998 Nivkh blocked the main road on Sakhalin island. The struggle continues.

Alexey Limanzo
Nivkh clans of Nogliki District

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Teleut Wedding Ceremonies


The entire complex of wedding ceremonies is an important reflection of the social structure, spiritual and religious cultures and the view of the world by any people. And maybe that is why Teleut people have been reviving their traditional wedding ceremonies lately. Teleut wedding usually a feast for many people - entire relatives of the bride and the groom and their respective communities.

A special place and meaning for Teleut has the pre-wedding rituals. In old days as soon as a boy and a girl were born, their parents would make an agreement that at age of 12 -15 the children would be married. After the agreement and until the wedding, every year the boy’s parents would give presents to the girl on her birthday. And every year the gifts would become richer and richer. The girl’s mother would in addition give her special dolls “emengeder”. Those dolls are extremely important for Teleut women and usually are being passed by mothers to their daughters from generation to generation. No mother-in-law would take into her family a bride without “emengeder”, for the dolls are being considered as the guardians of the family, its wealth and safety.

The time for a wedding was always set for the period of the “young month” - from the first to the forth months after the groom’s birthday. It is believed that that brings happiness to the new family.

The bride was usually stolen. There were many ways to do that - without consent of the bride and her parents; with the consent of the bride, but against the will of her parents and with full consent of the girl and her parents. If the girl was in agreement she would give the man her ring or an earring. If she was not - sometimes the ring or the earring was taken by force. The stolen girl was taken to another village so she could not escape and her parents could not find her easily. In present days the “stilling of the bride” is rather symbolic.

The next day after the stilling, the groom, his father and their male relatives would travel to the house of the girl to beg forgiveness from her parents. The name of that particular ritual is “iarashtyk” (peace-making). The enraged parents of the girl cursed and insulted the men and often would not let them into the house. Because of that the men usually had to return several times - until they would get forgiveness and blessing of the girl’s parents. Without their blessing the happiness and prosperity of the new family was impossible. If the girl’s parents would refuse to forgive and to bless the agreement was annulled and the wedding “toi” would take place in the house of the groom with only his relatives and relations present.

Most often the reason for the cancellation of the agreement was inability of groom’s family to pay the adequate “kalym” to the bride’s family. “Kalym” is one of the most important elements of the Teleut wedding arrangement. The size of the “kalym” had to be no less than the bride’s dowry and consist not only of money but of sheep and horses as well. In modern days it is usually only money. The bride’s dowry mainly is composed of traditional silk clothes for her and her mother-in-law (“ton”, “syrmal”, “telen”, etc.) and tens of traditional robs and shirts as gifts for the groom’s relatives.

Lena Satina,

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Shamanism of the Tungus Evenk


Shamanism of the Evenk from Tungus river has an extremely complicated structure and ancient traditions. An Evenk shaman is before anything a healer. Searching for the spirit of a sick person in the spirit world and fighting off the evil spirits the shaman cures the person. He also acts as a guide for the spirits of the dead and takes them either to the Upper World or the Lower World (“Orgi”). But his main purpose is to keep the spiritual stability in the community.

A shaman goes to the Low World for the following reasons : 1) to bring the offerings to the ancestral spirits; 2) To search for and to bring back the spirit of a sick person; 3) To take to and leave in the Shadow World those spirits of the dead who do not want to leave the world of living. But the last action is done very seldom, for it is highly dangerous and not many shamans dear to do that. The name for it in Evenk is “orgiski” that literary means “in the direction of orgi”. To do “orgiski” one must only after a special prior ritual - “little orgiski”.

During the “little orgiski” the shaman takes into himself a spirit that tells him why the spirits of Orgi, or the spirits of the dead, or the spirits of the ancestors are braking the spiritual stability. And also what kind of an offering could satisfy them.

Before the “orgiski” the shaman collects the things that he needs on his trip to the Lower World. Among them - a small raft to cross the river of the dead; two small bear figures to hold the raft and make the way through the dense forest of the Lower World; four small fish that will swim before the raft and show the way; a wooden idol that will help to carry the offering and various tools for the cleansing ritual.

In the evening of the “orgiski” the shaman puts on his ritual dress, beat into his drum and sings calling on the spirits of the fire, the Mother Earth and the dead ancestors. He offers gifts to all of them. Then the room is cleansed by smoke and the ritual begins.

With his eyes closed the shaman throws high in the air his drumstick. If it lands with its handle towards the shaman it is considered a very good omen. Than a deer is slaughtered as an offering and the ritual subjects that shaman is taking with him are sprinkled over with the deer blood. Two long poles are brought into the “tchum” (teepee) and their ends are put through the air hole at the center of the roof. The ritual subjects are placed on a wooden platform outside and a long thin cord is attached to them and to the poles. The cord is “the road” for the spirits. The preparations are over and other people can come now into the “tchum”.

The shaman starts playing his drum, sing and dance. All the while he is jumping up higher and higher. His assistants and people at the “tchum” begin to sing along. The shaman takes a short brake, drinks some vodka, smokes a few pipes and starts again. Finally he gets so exhausted that fells down and lays still unconscious. He is trice sprinkled with blood of the deer. He comes about and speaks in a high thin voice, answering questions of two or three people. The questions are asked in the form of a song. During that time the body of the shaman is inhibited by a spirit who is answering the questions. The spirit of the shaman is in the Lower World at that time.

When he is finally back everybody is loudly and happily greeting his return from the World of the Dead. The ritual usually lasts about two hours. After two or three hours of rest, in the early hours of the morning, the shaman begins the final part - he thanks the spirits.

Tatiana Gavrilova,

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