XI group of interns

Table of Contents

The Chukchi District Problems
Evenk of the Amur Oblast
This Is My Land. But Who Am I Here?
Reindeer Farm "Druzhba Narodov"
Reindeer herding, Hunting and General Survival of Evenk in Yakutia and Amur Oblast
Koriak Beliefs
One Day of Nenetz Reindeer Herders

Kamchadal - Is It a People Or Simply a Nickname?






The Chukchi District Problems


The self-name of the Chukchi indigenous people is L’auravetl’an (true people). The maritime Chukchi call themselves Ank’alyn and the inland reindeer herders – Tchautchu.

The official statistics state that the total population of the Chukchi district is 5 190 people. Out of that number almost 4 700 are indigenous. According to the same statistics 95% of all unemployed are indigenous. The district is solely “agricultural” – the only existing large-scale activities are the traditional sea-mammal hunting, reindeer herding and fur-farming.

There are 6 communities in the district – Intchoun, Uelen, Enurmino, Neshkan, Lorino and the district center Lavrentia.

According to the administration of Lorino their reindeer herd lost from 1989 almost 1720 heads. The reasons are rapid increase of the wolf population, poaching, and absence of sufficient ammunition supplies and far from the adequate veterinary services.

The main problems of the sea hunters are not enough weapons, ammunition, fuel, and drastic seawater pollution. Also the administrative structure of the sea mammal quota control and distribution by the regional authorities in Anadyr leaves a lot to be desired, according to Vladimir Rinteimit who is Head of Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Chukchi District.

The fur farming in the district is virtually dying. Only Lorino farm is still dragging on, although the number of polar foxes has dropped from 2000 in 1987 to only 500 in 1999. According to the Lorino administration it is because of the dire food situations in the communities where with no other alternative the sea mammal meat is completely consumed by people and nothing is left for the farm.

The fishing is done mostly on small scale to sustain the families. But lately more often than not the fish smells with oil products.

The healthcare is in desperate situation. There is no money to buy the necessary medications and medicaments. The Regional authorities shipped to the district some bondage packages and baby-food. But far from what is vitally necessary. For the entire district only 466 packages of baby food. And that is when only in Lorino there are 48 newborns this year. As the result in Intchoun a baby died this summer from malnutrition.

There is no soap and toothpaste in the district. As the result the scabies and dysentery are rampant. In the District Hospital, in Lavrentia, there is no milk and no butter. What kind of healthcare the Hospital can provide in these conditions? The doctors are forced to leave the District and move to the Regional Center Anadyr. Meanwhile the District urgently needs a specialist in infectious diseases.

The minimal cost of living in the District officially is 2800 Rubles (about $100 US) per month. A nurse is getting 474 Rubles (about $15 US)!

And the lack of funds is not limited only to food and healthcare. The District schools are short of everything from pencils and pens, the note and textbooks to the teachers’ salaries that have not been paid for half a year. The school buildings are in desperate need of repair.

The stores are empty, save for the alcohol.

Slightly better off are those people that work for the administration in Heating and Energy. They allowed to buy a month: 0.5 kg of, sugar, 0.5 kg of rice, 0.5 kg of cereal and 2kg of flour. Could one feed a family with that?

The Head of Energy, Heating and Construction Services, Mr. G.P. Afanasiev said in his radio interview: “We can not do any construction work because we have no construction materials and heating pipes. Due to the incredibly dilapidated condition of insulating materials the heating system is close to total collapse. We even had to use reindeer skins for the insulation…”

People have not been paid for 5-6 years. Those working for the administration are better of – they have not been paid for 2-3 years. People sometimes for months have nothing to eat but seal and walrus’s meat. Children are suffering from the vitamin deficiency. People live 45-50 years in average. Young people do not want to have children and the nation is aging.

Not long time ago there was an alarm from Neshkan – they had no food, even any bread for 2 days. From Lavrentia several all-terrain vehicles with food from the Humanitarian Aid went to Neshkan.

But for how long can we live relying on the kindness of strangers? Why can’t we utilize commercially some parts of fish and sea mammals? We can use a small part of whale blubber to make soap that we can not buy. We could even barter with other regions of Russia or other countries.

Yelena Aliapaak, 
Chukchi, Chukchi District
and Valentina Baum, 
Head of the Chukchi Council of Elders

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Evenk of the Amur OblastThe Amur Evenk live in 5 communities of the Oblast (Ivankovskoe, Bomnak, Ust-Nukzha, Ust-Urkima and Pervomaiskoe) and number 1420 people. The main traditional activities in the communities are reindeer herding, hunting, fur farming, making traditional clothes and gathering.

In Ivankovskoe the total population is 436 people. 320 are Evenks. As the result of the socio-economic “reforms” the life of the community is desperate: the traditional activities are bringing no profit, unemployment is rampant, health situation is morbid, the death rate is far exceeding the birth rate, the wages are not being paid and high-school graduates have no way to continue education due to the total absence of funds.

The school itself is in desperate need of repair. There are 118 children. 90 are Evenks. The State subsidies are no more. The district administration blames the regional and the regional blames the Federal in not providing any funds. There are no Russian language, Literature, History, Geography, English language and Arts teachers. In 1997 the district administration promised to do the repairs but because of the proverbial absence of funds still has not done it. But because of the bad physical condition the school might has its license revoked.

The kindergarten has 50 children (45 Evenks). The district refuses to allocate funds for meals for the kids.

The only employer in the community is reindeer farm “Ulgen”. It employs 50 people. But the herd is getting smaller and smaller. Today it has only 1000 heads. The most important for reindeer farming is the pastures for the animals and the hunting grounds for people. The former and the latter are getting less and less. There are 2 reasons for that: 1) regardless the regional law, the so-called “territories for traditional use by indigenous peoples” are not demarcated by the district authorities; 2) the gold mining companies while they are working on our territories and destroying the land and polluting the waters are paying no attention to our demands and complains.

There is a single store in the village where you can buy some produce and a medical station, where you can buy some medicine. But people have no money to do so.

Anna Brodz’, Evenk,
Head of Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North
Amur oblast

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This Is My Land. But Who Am I Here?Some called this land the “cold Arctic desert”. There, under the silver light of stars, in the place of short summers, where the birds nest before flying far South, live people. From the times immemorial. And as every star has its own place in Heavens the same every people has its place on Mother Earth. Will be stars keep shining forever or the merciless storms of “progress” will destroy them? Or maybe only for a short while the stars dim their lights and soon each of them will shine again? These were the thoughts dominating the First Congress of Indigenous Youth of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation.

“The modern progress came, took away our ways of life, and gave nothing in return” – those were the themes running through every intervention during the Congress. Granted – nothing new. But the same time there was a special mood among the delegates – “we can help our peoples!”. And as the Congress progressed that note of hope sounded stronger and stronger. Oh, what a joy I felt being a part of it. How proud I felt thinking that so-called “small” peoples are not so small when they are together. And even if we are not SOOO big in numbers, in quality we are not less than the so-called “civilized peoples”.

Somebody can accuse the author of these words in being a predigest towards the “modern progress” and its consequences. I admit it is true. Spiritual culture for me, before anything else, is an inner harmony. Where can you find it among people who are too preoccupied with the latest fads. Spiritually empty people can not produce or invent anything truly beneficial for the society at large. Whatever they create will be just an empty shell imitating the real. A human eye cannot see the real “civilization”. It is in our soul and in our heart. The quality of a soul and a heart affects the quality of civilization.

During the Congress we talked a lot about the self-esteem and self-respect of indigenous peoples – our peoples. We talked a lot about, the almost lost now, cultures of our ancestors. I propose the following steps for the next two years for our new indigenous youth organization “Council of Equals”:

With help of magazine “Severnye Prostory” compile various bulletins, data books, etc on indigenous youth issues;

Every delegate of the First Indigenous Youth Congress must, after coming back home, create a youth club where the language and the traditional culture can be studied;

The third step can be possible only if the previous two are successful. This is a Youth festival of traditional indigenous cultures.

Many can say that while our communities are starving, you guys want to have a festival. Please do not look at it only from a negative point of view. The festival will be possible only if the step 1 and step 2 are implemented successfully. And if they do, then we can sing and dance with joy, because we are not totally lost yet. That is all what I wanted to share with you. The motto of our Congress – “Strength in Unity!” is not only a wish and/or exaggeration. It is a fact!

Vasily Paderin,
Even, Kamtchatka

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Reindeer Farm "Druzhba Narodov"“Druzhba Narodov” is in village of Karataika, Nenetz Autonomous Region. The farm consits of 7 brigades. The authorities allocate to the farm the winter and the summer pasture.

The reindeer herders live in traditional tents “chum”. They work and live in severe conditions and for that receive 800 Rubles (about $35US) every 3 months. This kind of money is not enough to buy the most necessary supplies. Very often instead of cash the reindeer herders get supplies on credit at the village administration store. That system has its own pluses and minuses. Very often the store does not have what is needed at the moment. Very often it simply does not have anything. Like for instance the rubber boots.

The job and life of the reindeer herders is very hard and I think the administration and other state organizations must support them.

Every year in November a part of the herd is slaughtered. Right now there is no single buyer for the meat and no developed distribution system. I think the state has to start to buy the meat again as it used to do during the Soviet times.

The life in Karataika is very much the same as it is in other reindeer herding communities in our and other regions. But people are very friendly, hospitable and hopeful. I am sure that my Karataika has a chance to survive these difficult times.

Valentina Taleeva, Nenetz, 
Nenetz Autonomous Region

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Reindeer herding, Hunting and General Survival of Evenk in Yakutia and Amur OblastThe last five years the life of Evenk reindeer herders in Yakutia and Amur oblast drastically changed to the worse. The process first became apparent in Amur oblast.

In many communities from 1992 there is no helicopter services for the reindeer herders brigades. In 1998 I witnessed a heartbreaking story. A four months old baby became deadly ill in one of the brigades. A helicopter could save it by bringing to the nearest hospital. Only after the herders slaughtered 8 reindeers the helicopter flew in and transported the child. It is a common practice now to ask a sick reindeer herder first about how he is going to pay and second what is the problem. To understand it better one must know that in 1998 a reindeer herder would make for 10 months work 400 Rubles (about $16 US) and 2 sacks of wheat flour.

During the Soviet time individual reindeer owners were forced into the collectives. The State tried to make the collectives profitable by slaughtering too many heads and subsidizing purchase of the meat. That lead to dramatic reduction of the heard.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the State cut off the subsidies to the collectives. They tried to go on and found themselves heavily in debt.

Today the collectives are falling apart but trying to pay off their debts and support their members at the same time. But their financial resources are miniscule. More and more young people are moving away from the villages to live in the Taiga. Today the nature is important to the Evenks as never before. It is the only escape from starvation for many. When a soviet is bankrupt the most of the heard is being slaughtered to pay for, at least, part of the debt. The rest is divided between the members of the defunct enterprise. After many years of hard work people are left with nothing but a handful of reindeers.

In the neighboring Yakutia the situation is slightly better. In 1992 Yakutia passed local law which allows to reindeer herders and hunters to form an extended family cooperative. That gives them right to have a particular territory for their exclusive use. Today the Iengra Evenks are very active. What also helps a lot is the fact that most of the key positions in the local administration, health care and educational system are held by Evenks. That gives a tremendous support network for the hunters and reindeer herders.

In the Amur oblast the situation is not as optimistic. Mostly due to the fact that there is no law on land and indigenous peoples. So when a soviet is bankrupt, the people are left with nothing. Even without the legal right to use the land where they have tended to their reindeers for many generations.

Today there are more and more tiny groups of reindeer herders that move through Taiga with their small herds. They live mostly by barter, exchanging reindeer meat and results of their hunting for necessary products. Sugar, macaroni and sweets became impossible treats to their families.

But these hard times created a new strong young generation of Evenk. They are determined to save and increase their private herds. For that they are ready to keep watch over their herds days and nights without sleep, to brake their backs to buy a better rifle, hunt any time and in any weather in order to feed their family, to get supplies and to survive. But they can survive only if they can use the land they live on. And if they have no legal rights to the land of their forefathers how can they keep hope?

Today it is vitally important for Russia and its indigenous peoples to have one Federal law on land use and ownership. The law, that would guarantee the new generations the right to land and a chance for survival.

Alexandra Lavrilier,
For L’auravetl’an IIC

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Koriak BeliefsMany beliefs influenced lives of Koriak indigenous people for many centuries. From generation to generation people pass the views of the World. In the old times the beliefs were the law. What are some of them.

“A dog can call rain”. In the old days the wild fires were rare. Koriaks were extremely careful not to cause a fire since all their life depended heavily on the nature around them, especially the reindeer grazing grounds. The grazing grounds were sacred.

In the Spring of 1934 a huge wild fire erupted near village of Vyiampolka. The fire was started accidentally by geologists. The people got very worried. The fire was so strong that Koriaks thought that the entire Kamchatka will burn out and all wild life will die.

The elders began catching all the dogs in the village and throwing them into the river. As soon as the dogs would come out the people throw them right back. Koriaks firmly believed that wet dogs would call rain.

The next day a heavy downpour came in force. Maybe it was a coincidence. And maybe it was not.

“When guests come one should take a clamp of fur from one’s “kukhlianka” (a traditional fur coat) and throw it into fire to chase away the evil spirits.”.

“Never throw fish across river”. My grandfather Al’vatch used to say that. “If you throw fish from one shore to the other all fish will go away from the river for long time. It may come back only after your death.” One year there was very little fish in our river. Grandfather cut off some tree branches and impelled on them a couple of fish. Then he started dragging the branches back and forth in the water. All the while he was saying ”Come over here, fish, come a lot”. We call that “ynnygagan”.

Yelena Soldatova,
Koriak, Kamtchatka

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One Day of Nenetz Reindeer HerdersEvery human has a special place. The place where he or she was born. The place where all the little dear memories are coming from, the memories which we cherish throughout our entire life.

Night. Quiet. Everybody is a sleep – people, animals, birds. The only one awake is a reindeer herder. He keeps a watch over the herd and the camp. The next day is going to be a difficult one – the camp will move. The women will have to prepare the load carrying “narty’ (sleds). Even the small children understand how important that is.

The camp wakes up at 7 in the morning. Women are the first. About 9 o’clock they start to get their possessions ready. First, in a very particular order, all the bed things are being placed on “yukhuna” (a special sled). Then the “chum” (tent) is being taken down – first “nyuki” (skin covers) and then polls are being placed in particular order on “utos” (special sled). During all that the men are checking the riding harness.

When sleds are loaded the main herder and his trusty dog bring the heard over. Meanwhile the rest of the men build “va” (a corral). When reindeers are brought over they need time after the run to calm down, to get familiar with the new situation. Some of them are reluctant to go inside the fence. But every good herder knows intimately the character of every reindeer in his herd. The younger herders watch attentively the work of the older ones.

When all reindeers are inside, the herders select the bulls for the sleds. They do it carefully, taking into the account personality of each animal. The reindeers must feel comfortable in every “argish” (sled team).

Finally the main herder gives the signal and the sleds, under the yapping and barking of the dogs, move to the new location. The travel time is about 5 hours. During the move the caravan rests 3-4 times so the reindeers and the women can rest. Since the migrating is done every year in the same area, the women, children and the animals know every rock and every twig around. It is their home.

When the new location is reached the main herder shows where each sled must stand. He does it according to the mental picture in his head of the herd’s position. It is vitally important in case of unexpected weather changes. After the exhausting trip women put together the “chum”, while men select a reindeer for dinner. The meat and the blood are almost sole source of all the necessary nutrients in the tundra. During the meal the men discuss their work and what is needs to be done.

The herders leave the camp to spend the night with the herd. After the men leave, women feed the children, straighten up the camp and only then go to sleep.

Slowly the night covers the tundra. The dogs and the children quiet down. Seems like the Nature itself sees how exhausted the people are and for a short moment goes to sleep as well.

Valentina Taleeva, Nenetz, 
Nenetz Autonomous Region

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Kamchadal - Is It a People Or Simply a Nickname?The “ethnic” tragedy of Itelmen indigenous people did not came about by accident. The multitude of historical events led to a creation of particular situations that led to a split of Itelmen into two separate peoples.

When the Russians first came to the peninsula the name “Kamchatka” came to a being. The Russians called all the indigenous people “Kamchadal”. The Cossacks began to rename the places, replacing the indigenous words with the Russian. Consequently they, against the will of the Itelmen, began to call the latter “Kamchadals”. Maybe at first it was just to simplify the things, maybe as a joke, but with time it became customary. Regardless the reason that was the first stone on the road of calling almost half of the Itelmen - “Kamchadals”.

The more Russians came, the more time passed, the more Itelmen, who lived in close contacts with the newcomers, got used to the new word. And when a famous Russian explorer C. Krashenninikov came to Kamchatka in XVIII century, “Kamchadals” was the word by which most of the Russians called the Itelmen. Krashenninikov made it official by using the word extensively in his book “The Description of the Kamchatka”. Very seldom one can find there the word “Itelmen”. G. Steller in his “From Kamchatka to America” goes even further. He writes - ”The Cossacks call the aborigines the Kamchadals…” But many other authors state that the indigenous people at that time called themselves only Itelmen.

Official census of Kamchatka administration for 1920-1936 years shows that until 1932 people were registered as Kamcadal quite often. From 1932 – less and less. That was the result of the decree by the Kamchatka committee of the Bolshevik Party. The decree stated – “those (aborigines) that live in villages, speak Russian and call themselves Kamchadal should not be considered as one of the small indigenous peoples, and should not receive any preferential treatment that due to the small indigenous peoples.” In the 1970s other indigenous peoples of Kamchatka had their names changed in the official state roasters:

The old names                      The new names

Lamut                                          Even
Kamchadal                                 Itelmen
Lauravetlan                               Chukchi
Nymylan                                     Koriak
Unangan                                    Aleut

The new names are the ones being used by the State at the present. The official institutions give the right to a person to call himself either Kamchadal, or Itelmen. The difference is only in belonging to the small indigenous peoples or not and all the legal consequences (fishing quotas, traditional land use, etc). If a person can provide an official legal prove that at least one of his grandparents was registered as Itelmen his own ethnic register can be changed.

PS. At the present, Kamchadal is not in the State roaster of Small Indigenous Peoples.

But this is not over yet…

Alexander Zhilin,
Itelmen, Kamchatka

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