IX group of interns


To the L’auravetl’an IIC. We are the population of Lamutskoe. Our village is in Anadyr District, Chukchi Autonomous Region. Our village is on the shore of Peledon River, which is flowing into Anadyr River. Upstream of our village there is a gold mining company. It is our firm opinion that the gold miners are ruining the both rivers. Right now there is time to stop the pollution. Soon it will be too late. Already now the fishermen say that the fish is sick and sometimes they see dead fish floating upstream.

The most important factor is that the gold miners have no right and no license to work here. The community, represented by the local Association of Indigenous peoples and the local administration, proposed and signed an agreement with the company. But the company, represented by its Director Mr. V. V. Krasnopivtzev, up to this point failed to sign the agreement, let alone to honor it.

We inquired at the Regional Environmental Commission whether there was an environmental impact assessment study performed by the Commission. We have received no answer.

We are trying now to stop the gold miner’s operation. We need your help. We hope there is somebody who can help us.

Respectfully, F. S. Uiaganski (Chairman, Local Association of Indigenous Peoples), A. Yu. Dolganski, A. D. Tchain, A. F. Koravie, T. I. Magaramova and S. Tch. Tchain (members of the coordinating council of the Association).

Chukchi Autonomous Region


Reindeer Herders Need Laws
What Does It Take To Revive the Shorsk Language
The Even of Kamchatka
The Traditional Education of Indigenous Peoples of Amur Area and Sakhalin

Reindeer Herders Need Laws

People of the North always have lived in full harmony with the Nature. They never take more than they need. No benefits of technological and scientific progress will give to the Northern people what the tundra already gives us.

Indigenous people of the Kamtchatka’s North – the Koriaks - always were divided into two groups. The first is the semi-nomadic reindeer herders who from the time immemorial migrated after their herds. The second is the coastal Koriaks who live in their permanent villages and are the sea mammal hunters and fishermen.

The entire life of the nomadic Koriaks is based on a reindeer. The animal provides food and from its pelts the clothes and dwellings are made.

In the last few years the Koriak herd drastically became smaller, but the problems for people became bigger. For the reindeer herders communities the problems range from food and supply shortages to the technical insufficiency and almost complete isolation from the outside world.

Even the wages from the collectives are not being paid. The reindeer herders can not buy anything to sustain their families. Without money they cannot travel to the district center to get an adequate health care.

The real scourge now is the ever-increasing wolves’ population. Since there is no money to buy enough ammunition now, later on the packs of hungry wolves will become an enormous problem for the herds.

We can talk endlessly about the reindeer herders problems. Instead we must look for the solutions. I believe that only the federal control, the state subsidies and the law on collective land ownership for the indigenous communities will lead us out of the dead-end. Plus the information mechanism that would inform the reindeer herders on the regular, at least twice a month, basis about important to them issues must be set up.

I know there is the Russia Reindeer Herders Union which is a part of the World organization. I hope they hear about my people’s problems. They and the regional and Federal authorities. I hope soon there will be law to protect our rights.

Polina Lastochkina,
Koriak, Kamtchatka

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What Does It Take To Revive the Shorsk Language


Shorsk community of Orton is one of the biggest. In 1968 a school was built there. All my little brothers and sisters went there. In 1998 the school was thirty years old. During all that time we had only 4 teachers who were of Shorsk people. And only one of them, physical education teacher, was an alumna of our school.

Almost no Shorsk who graduated from our school went to a college. There are many reasons for that. One is that no Shorsk child spoke Russian before coming to the school. But all subjects were only in Russian. That lead to difficulties in studying. As a consequence the Shorsk children tried as soon as they only could to master the Russian and forget the Shorsk. As the result, now we have the new generations of children that barely know the traditions, customs and language of their forefathers. As a teacher I am terribly worried. Because I believe that only while the language is alive – the people is alive. And Shorsk people must have its own educated people without sacrificing its own culture and the way of life.

To my opinion, one of the necessary steps is to have in every school in our area Shorsk language, literature and traditional culture classes. At the Intensive Foreign Language Teaching Center of the Moscow State University some of indigenous teachers from other peoples already successfully learned teaching of their own languages.

I propose to create a similar Center at the Novokuznetzk Pedagogical Institute in our Region. Those who shall teach there can learn the technique at the Moscow State University Center.

Alexander Kirsanov,
Shorsk, Kemerovskaia Oblast

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Who were Tungusy? Where they came from? Where did they originate? All these questions are being discussed by science from the beginning of the XIX century. Finish linguist M. Kastren thought that Tungusy originated in Saiano-Altai area. Professor Shrenk was sure they came from the Central Asia. But N. Bitchurin and I. Zakharov placed their point of origination at Manchuria, while one of the most notable experts S. Shirokogorov thought the motherland of Tungusy to be the Yellow River basin.

In 1930-40 A.P. Okladnikov took an entirely new approach. He connected the Neolithic and bronze artifacts from the Baikal area to Tungusy and, thus, placed their origin to the Northern, Taiga, area. Such famous scientists as G. Vasiliev, Ia. Roginsky and G. Debetz supported that point of view.

In 1960th Okladnikov again returned to the Tungusy question. Based upon all the findings he came up with the new “working hypothesis”. He declares that the turn of the century theory of the Tungusy expansion from the South to the North was wrong. In the contrary, during the Neolithic period Tungusy moved from the North to Manchuria and Amur areas where climate was softer. There Tungusy begun to work the land and breed horses, cows and pigs instead of reindeers. Thus, during a long and complicated historical process, the known areas of Tungusy were formed. Part of them was forced to move further North to the present day Yakutia, others moved to the Amur and Manchuria areas.

Consequently the development of those tribes went differently in different lands.

The Northern Tungusy found themselves in far more severe climate than in their Baikal homeland. They were forced to work harder. Very soon their society developed a class structure and quickly various states were formed. First it was the Bokhai state and then the Tchurgen state. Those were the states with highly developed culture and political and economic ties with peoples of Japan, Korea, China, Mongolia and the Central Asia.

The Bokhai state (698-926 AD) was the first state in the Far East area. It included a part of Manchuria. The rulers were called the Emperors and had a very well developed and sophisticated administrative structures.

The Tchurgen (the Golden Empire) existed in XI-XIII centuries. It covered the vast areas of Amur, Manchuria and the North China. Its capital for a long time was Peking. The Emperor of that feudal state considered being a holly person. The Tchurgen had many cities, splendid palaces and temples, created great works of art and culture. Emperor Oldo Ulu (1160-1189 AD) wrote “ One who does not know his own tongue and writing forgets his motherland.”

I.V. Konstantinov has slightly different opinion about the Tungusy role in history of the North Eastern Asia. He believes that the Tungusy tribes moved on the Yakut territory from the Angara River in the first centuries AD. The Yukagir tribes occupied the territory at the time. However, there was no ethnic catastrophe and the Yukagir was not assimilated or pushed further North. Both peoples were parts in two-way assimilating processes. Those Yukagir that found themselves in the thic of the Tungusy tribes were the only ones that became “Tungusised”. The same way the Tungusy who settled in the areas of the largest Yukagir population became “Yukagirised”. The indicators of parallel assimilating processes are the Lamut people – the result of a mix between Tungusy and Yukagir.

Y. Mochanov and S. Fedoseeva also believe the Tungusy to be the “immigrants”.

But history prepared a new test for Tungusy. The new tribes came from the South – the Turk speaking peoples. They pushed some Tungusy further North and East, some assimilated and the Tungusy land became Tutkic-Yakut. That was the last and the most significant ethno-political change in the North East Asia.

Fenia Lekhanova,
Evenk, Yakut-Sakha

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The Even of Kamchatka

Photo by A. Slugin, Kamchatka


Who are the Even and when did they come to Kamchatka? The first records by Cossack Vladimir Atlasov and by the Krasheninnikov-Steler expedition (XVIII century) nothing is mentioned about the Even people. There is nothing about them in the official taxation roster of the indigenous peoples of Kamchatka from that century.

We must note that by the XVIIIth century the Russian Siberian officials had enough knowledge on the indigenous peoples of Siberia to differentiate the Lamut (Even) people from their neighbors Koriak, Yukagir and Yakut. Thus, if there is no record of Even in Kamchatka that means there were none in XVIII century.

The first mention of Even in Kamchatka is dated to the middle of XIX century. Kamchatka explorer K. Ditmar writes in his diary: ”On March 2, 1852 the most unusual guests came to Petropavlovsk. For the first time ever here came Lamut. Four men came to the office of Kamchatka Governor Vasily Zvoiko to ask where they could sell their hunting trophies for a better price. The Lamut is an indigenous people that lives a nomadic life on the Western shore of Okhotsk sea between Aian and Izhigin. Forced to enlarge their territory many of their clans fought their way through the Pengin Koriaks to the unpopulated parts of Kamchatka. There they found huge grazing grounds for their reindeers, rivers rich with fish and plenty of prey to hunt. Many other followed. In the beginning Lamut tried to minimize contacts with local people and settlements. They feared they will be forced to leave as intruders. Gradually they realized that neither other indigenous peoples nor the official administration of Kamchatka is having any intention to persecute them. They stopped to fear and start coming to various settlements and finally began to pay taxes by the request of the local authorities.”

The author speculates that the main reason for the Lamut to move could be the famine that raged in 1830-40 around Kolyma and Indigirka rivers.

Most of Kamchatka Even belong to Dolgan and Uiagan clans and only a very small part to Delian clan. Most of the Even on the North West shore of Okhotsk sea belong to Dolgan and Uiagan clans and those on Kolyma – to Uiagan and Delian clans.

Up to very recently the Kamchatka Even strictly obeyed the exogamy law – men from one clan married only women from other clans. At the present the Kamchatka Even live mainly in Pengin and Bystrinsky districts of Kamchatka.

Lilia Banakanova,
Even, Kamchatka

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The Traditional Education of Indigenous People of Amur Area and Sakhalin


Every people’s culture is saturated with all aspects of spiritual heritage. It is, before anything else, the language, the rituals, the customs and the traditional arts. That is what makes every people unique. The spiritual reflects the view of the people’s place within the World and its attitude to everything around. Legends and fairytales talk about the Creation and structure of the universe. Decorative art shows the view of Nature. Rituals and customs express the attitude to the world around.

Indigenous children used to be immersed into their people’s culture from the very first moments of their lives. The family was the first and the most important instrument of learning the culture of the people. The mother sung lullabies in her own language, the father carved toys with rich traditional ornament. While growing up, children mimicked the adults and learned the customs and rituals.

First by watching and later by helping, girls mastered the important trades and skills. Girls learned to make clothes by dressing their dolls. The toys’ clothes had exactly the same ornaments as the people’s clothes. The indigenous peoples of Amur area traditionally made dolls out of fish skin, fabric, and paper and dried autumn leaves.

Alongside with mastering the trades, girls learned the songs, legends and fairytales. Because older women while working always sang songs and told myths. When a guest would arrive it was customary for him in an evening to sing a song or tell a fairytale. The host was obliged to answer in like.

The songs and stories had important educational values. They praised the virtues and condemned the faults. The melodies and the myths were expressed in traditional ornaments, expressing not only the emotions but also the philosophy and morals, the important things about the universe.

The decoration for any tool or part of clothing had its own particular meaning. In a sense they were pictographic letters. By the ornament on a Nivkh plate one could tell whether it was used for pleasing the Master of the Sea or for a feast during the Bear Celebration.

Although the ornaments of all indigenous peoples of the area look very similar due to the interaction of cultures, they do have very distinct differences. The Nanai and Ulchi robes have much more ornaments than Nivkh. Nanai use brighter colors. Nivkh prefer the more subdued. The ornaments are different in drawing as well. Ulchi prefer many intertwined wavy lines, Nanai the intricate, almost overworked, designs and Nivkh the simpler more severe ornaments.

But the ornament also had an important practical function. It protected from the Evil spirits. Thus, Nivkh, Nanai and Ainu always decorated the backs of their clothes – the least protected part of the body. Ainu believed the black to be the strongest protecting color.

The boys learned about the men trades by participating in fishing and hunting. They were taught to treat the nature with respect and outmost care. Those were the first lessons in “sustainable development” and “environmental protection”. From the very first days of their lives the boys also learned about carving by playing with carved toys. Later they watched their fathers and older brothers and at age of 12 or 13 already began to carve simple household utensils, tools and toys for the younger siblings.

Most often the toys were carved wooden animals. On the back of a toy always left a small patch of the tree bark upon which an ornament was carved. Through the ornament the movement, the dynamics was expressed.

The toys were important learning tools. A toy sled dog team had 6 dogs and a leader. Mimicking the adults, children treat the toy dogs as the live ones, fed them and harnessed to the sled. The Bear Cult was introduced through the wooden toy bear. The “bear” was offered “the ritual food” and all the necessary part of the Bear ritual were “performed” copying the adults.

Every boy also played with bow and arrows before he even could walk. Small bows, arrows, knives and spears were hanged over a boy’s crib to ward off the Evil spirits. Also boys had small boats. They were encouraged to use them but forbidden to go far away from a shore.

Thus, children education was closely tied with nature and its practical use. The education was not enforced, children wanted to do all the things. That precisely is the heart and the spirit of the traditional education.

Today the family is not the only source of traditional education. Important elements in the process are schools, traditional culture clubs, museums, etc. They provide knowledge in language, culture, history and traditional arts of indigenous peoples. Their role is difficult to overestimate since many indigenous communities lost to some degree many elements of their ethnic and cultural heritage.

One of the most effective forms of children education through a museum are exhibitions and workshops.

E. S. Nitkuk,
Senior Fellow
Sakhalin Ethnological Museum
Specially for L’auravetl’an IIC

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