III group of interns

Ms. Kara-Kys Arakchaa had left the Center to run for President of Tyva Republic. The IIC is wishing her success.
The new Director of the Center is Ms. Galina M. Volkova of Ultchi Indigenous people.



The World Of The North
Chukchi Traditional Council Of Elders On The ILO Convention 169
Reindeers Are Dying Silently
Open Letter From The Teachers And Children From Village Farkovsky
Yukagir Indigenous People
Ultchi Indigenous People
Polution Of Amur River
The Urgent Meassures Are Needed
Life In R'yrk'aipiy

The World Of The NorthThe North is an unique world. It is wrapped into a romantic mystery. This world does not forgive a negligent attitude, it demands love and respect. The North is a special world, a special conscience, a special character.

Nature and humans are one in the North. We are born and spend our lives on the land that to others is beyond real comprehension and is cold and mysterious. But to us it is motherland. It is our only true passion. When we live to some other warm seas we always feel that no southern sun can melt our love for the cold waves of our shores.

This world is special, this world is ours.

Yelena Montada,

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Chukchi Traditional Council Of Elders On The ILO Convention 169


The Elders carefully read the text of the convention and came to the unanimous decision. If Russia is not indifferent to the fate of its Indigenous Peoples who are on the verge of ethnic and physical disappearance, it must ratify the ILO Convention 169. It is our opinion that the main mechanisms of realization of the convention must be the following:

Creation of Information Centers of Indigenous peoples not only in Moscow, but in the regions and districts as well. These Centers will provide truthful and direct information on realization of the convention’s articles by the local authorities;

The Constitution of the R.F. must reflect in a better way the situations of Indigenous peoples of Russia;

The federal laws must be passed on land and on local self-governing. Regional laws on extended families and their relationship with the traditional lands must be passed by the regional parliaments;

On October 8 we had regional conference on Education and child care. I spoke on behalf of the Elders about the Convention. The educators supported our opinions.

Valentina V. Baum
Head of the Chukchi Council of Elders
Chukchi District

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Reindeers Are Dying Silently


In Chukchi region there is a natural disaster. After heavy rains and mild weather temperature dropped down to -47C. The reindeer pastures have frozen solid and reindeers can not break the ice and to get to the liken.

Hungry, with broken hooves reindeers are dying by hundreds, some days by thousands. These are some numbers - by December 15- 7465 reindeers had died, on December 16 the number was 9500. It is expected that no less than 30 000 reindeers will be dead by the time the icing is over.

Beltzov/ “Komsomolskaia Pravda”

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Keto or Kety is one of the smallest of all Indigenous peoples of the Siberian North. Approximate number of Keto left is 900 people total. They live on their traditional lands in Krasnoyarsk region. Mostly in Turukhansk district. Their villages are situated by the rivers Yeloguy (village of Kellog), Surgutikha (Surgutikha), Pakulikha and Kureyka (Baklanikha). A few Keto families live among Russians in bigger villages in Yenisey district.

Self-name “Keto” is from “Ket” which means “a human”. Russians called them “Ostiaki” and “Yeniseytzy”.

Traditional activities are fishing, moos and deer hunting. With coming of Russians and imperial taxation the sable hunting became more and more developed. Keto communities migrated in the Spring to the summer fishing grounds, and in the Fall to the winter hunting grounds.

Traditional dwellings are a conic structure covered with tree bark (“Tchoom”) and a semi-underground log houses. Only in the beginning of the 20 century there appeared first true houses in Keto villages.

Keto religion is Shamanism. The Highest god is Yes’ (translated like a combination of “Sky” and “God”). He is embodiment of the sky and everything good. His counterpart and a mortal enemy is goddess Khosedem - the Mistress of the North. She sends to people evil, diseases, death etc. The third major figure is goddess Tomem - the Mistress of the South and the beautiful birds. A multitude of minor spirits, such as spirits of fire, of families etc., complemented the three main spirits.

A bear hunt was always preceded by a long ceremony - “Bear Celebration”. Shamans predicted the future through songs and charades. These songs always were improvised.

During the Soviet rule the traditional way of life for Keto was always totally destroyed. Forcible distraction of the migrating way of life and settlement of Keto into stationary large villages led to diminishment of hunting and fishing in Keto lives. At present 17.8% of all Keto live in towns.

The disappearance of the traditional economic activities, distraction of the traditional family structure, assimilation to the Russian culture - led to the lose of a view of themselves as a nation by many Keto.

It is changing in last few years. More and more people are looking for their roots. There is a teaching Keto language in schools. Books in Keto are published. More and more people are looking into the past of their nation to find the road to the future.

Oksana Sinnikova,
Keto, IIC

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Open Letter From Teachers And Children From Village Farkovsky


Dear Sirs!

We are writing to you with those problems that are deadly pressing, but apparently can not be solved by our local and district authorities.

Three years ago we had 12 students in our boarding school. The boarding school did not have its own building for a dormitory and had to rent three rooms at the local post office.

Then, that space was taken from us and instead we had to make the schools’ workshop into dormitory. By that time we had already 27 students. We have to say that at that time the local administration laid foundation for the new dormitory building.

The last year we had already 34 students and we housed them in three rooms which we rented from the local kindergarten. The new dormitory already had walls upon the foundation. We were full of hope, since we have been promised the building “any time now”. Don’t hold your breath, the building is still not there, but we are receiving orphans and children from poor families from nearby villages. By now we have 53 children in need of a sleeping space.

District department of education allocated a bit of money for the teachers and they moved to a small one bedroom apartment in order to free their three room apartment to house the older students. Thanks to this each of the students has 2 sq. m. of space. In the school’s canteen during breakfast, lunch and dinner the combined number of eating people is 200. But the canteen is designed for 12. There is no running water and we are bringing it by horse from the nearby river. The result is regular cases of dysentery.

But that is not all:

Two years ago the village bakery was closed down. Our cooks are making bread on the heating electric stove. They can make no more than 4 loaves at once. But the school needs about 35 per day. How many times a day the cooks must bake bread? It is inconceivable!

There is no electricity in school dormitory after dark. We are forced to use kerosene lamps. Our children must breath the kerosene gasses all night.

The toilet is an outhouse 80 m. from the dormitory. How would you feel if your children had to go out at night through the village where people sometimes drink and in those times anything can happened?

Dormitory has only one bed, two tables and four chairs.

There is the Siberian winter outside, but we have a dire shortage of warm hats, coats and boots.

In Moscow the budget for one boarding school child is 2 Million Rubles (about $400 USD) a month. And what about our children?

Each of them is having a life that not many adults in other places experienced. Maybe because of that, during the sleeping hours, our dormitory is more alike a military hospital. Cries, moans, whimpers and screams fill the night. Some children have nervous brake downs during the day also. Our children need psycho care desperately. For all our requests we receive only one answer - “There is no money.”.

95% of our children are children from Indigenous peoples (Selcoop, Evenk and Keto). Their parents live and work in taiga. These children need the boarding school for their education and their development.

Teachers - I.V. Peretiatko, L. K. Ryseva, N. V. Bikhert, A. N. Bikhert, V. V. Averin, S. G. Tchernaia, D. A. Iarkov, P. V. Lukianov, N. Yu. Averina.

Village of Farkovo, Turukhansk District, Krasnoiarsk Region, Russian Federation

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Yukagir Indigenous People


Yukagir Indigenous people is one of the oldest peoples in the North-Eastern Asia. Long time ago they lived on a huge territory from lake Baikal to the Arctic ocean. By the time of the first encounter with Russians Yukagir had twelve tribes with the combined number of people up to 9 000. The selfname of Yukagir is “Odul” or “Vadul” - which means “mighty”.

In present days Yukagir live in Yakut-Sakha republic and Chukchi Autonomous region of the Russian Federation. The total number of Yukagir is 1113 people.

Most of the Yukagirs speak mainly Yakut and Russian language.

Alongside the Russian orthodox believes Yukagir still practice shamanism. The dominant cults are the cults of the ancestral spirits, the spirits of Fire, Sun, Hunt, Earth, Water and other deities. The spirits can act as protectors and as enemies of people. The highest is the cult of Sun. The Sun is the highest judge in all disputes. The spirits of the dead go to “Aibidzi” where they are continually watching people and help them. Every clan had a shaman “Alma”. After death every shaman was treated as a deity. The body of the dead shaman was cut to small pieces and kept by the clan members as holly objects.

The main traditional activity is nomadic and semi-nomadic hunting of wild deer, moose, ram, sable as well as fishing. Reindeer is bred mostly for transportation, as well as dogs.

The head of every clan was an elder - “Ligey Shomorokh”. His word was the last in all aspects of life. The actual leaders in hunt were the best hunters - “Khangitche”, in war - the war chief “Tonbaia Shomorokh” (the mighty man). Women and teenagers had equal voices with men. The internal life of the community was under the control of the older women mothers. Their decisions in those matters were indisputable.

In the beginning of every summer all clans gather together for the common celebration “Sakhadzibe”, where all the common for Yukagir questions were discussed.

In Yakut-Sakha republic there are three nomadic extended family communities. They are “Tchaila” in Nizhnekolymsk district, “Teki Odulok” in Verkhnekolymsk district and “Ianugail” in Ust’-Iansk district.

The head of “Ianugail” is I.I. Tomsky. The community’s main activities are deer hunting and fishing.

“Tchaila” is the biggest of the three. Its head is S. I. Kurilov. They have 4000 domesticated reindeers, 200 horses, 20 cows. The community is also hunting the wild deers and polar foxes. There is also a shop where traditional skin and fur garments are made.

The head of “Teki Odulok” is N. I. Shalugin. Their base is the village of Nelemnoe. This community is in the most difficult situation. Due to the “creative interpretation” of various perestroika and privatization laws by the local and district administration and so-called businessmen the community has lost all reindeers, cows and even part of its land. All they have left are about 50 horses. They have no money to by supplies for hunting and fishing. 80% of all adult population is de-facto unemployed.

Decline of the traditional economic activities, horrible environmental situation of Yukagir’s traditional lands and waters, absence of local and federal laws and executive mechanisms protecting Indigenous peoples - all resulted in dreadful situation of Yukagir communities. Average life span for men is 45 years, for women - 54 years. The child mortality is the highest in Yakut-Sakha republic.

The highest forum for Yukagir is the all-people gathering “Suktuul”.

Oleg Gorokhov,
Yukagir, IIC

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Ultchi Indigenous People


Ultchi (self-name is N’ian’ee) is an Indigenous people of the Amur basin. The total number of Ultchi is 3200. Most of them live in Ultchi district of Khabarovsk region of the Russian Federation.

The traditional form of self-governing was Council of elders of a community. Each community was comprised of one or more clans. The council dealt with all the questions and matters of the community life, except marriages. The marriages were regulated by the heads of clans. The outmost efforts were made not to allow marriages inside of one clan.

Ultchi live in permanent villages. Traditionally they are hunters and fishermen. Each clan had its own fishing grounds and no fisherman would violate the boundaries. Within a clan people rotated their fishing places daily so no one would have a better place than others. However, if a clan was in need and requested permission to fish on the grounds of another clan - the permission was always granted. Each family would take only as much fish as it needed. The fishing laws of a community almost never were violated. Especially sacred was prohibition to fish on the spawning grounds.

The same laws applied to the hunting grounds. The meat hunted was always divided among the entire community according to the needs.

Women took care of the life in a community. They also made clothes and other goods out of fish skin, animal pelts and furs.

Men not only hunted and fished they also carved wood and bone. Everything always had very rich and beautiful ornaments. But in the recent times this tradition is in decline since there not enough skin fish and pelts due to the limits on fishing and hunting, imposed on Ultchi by the law. The Department of Fishing of the Khabarovsk regional administration allows only 50 kg. fish per year per person. But fish is almost 75% of Ultchi traditional diet.

Ultchi are extremely hospitable. It can be an insult not to try food which is offered.

Ultchi believe that Sky, Taiga (forest) and waters have spirits that talk to hunters and fishermen directly. Shamans never participated in the ceremonies for these spirits. Only actual fishermen and hunters participated, requesting a successful hunting or fishing.

One of the most ancient cults is the cult of Twins. Twins were considered holly, one representing a Taiga spirit, another a Water spirit. A birth of twins was an important occasion for an entire community.

Each shaman had his own helping spirits and protecting spirits. The most powerful were “Kasata Shamans”. They not only healed people but also guided the spirits of the dead to the “Upper people”. Kasata shamans were guardians of spirits of the children in a community.

At present days the center of all traditional arts, customs and spiritual heritage of Ultchi is village of Bulava in Ultchi district.

Galina Volkova,
Ultchi, IIC

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Polution Of Amur River


During winter and spring of 1996 a lot of signals about pollution of Amur river came to the administration of Khabarovsk region.

Environmental committee of the region and other relevant organization ran tests of the river and came to the conclusion that amount of “Phenol” in the water is up to 130 times higher than normal.

Regional Commission on Extreme situations and Research Institute on Water and Environment as well as the office of the Environmental Prosecutor issued an official report that blames the pollution on “increased growth of weed and reduction of the water level in 1996”.

This amount of pollution is all time high. Is the growth of weed is really a culprit?

Galina Volkova,
Ultchi, IIC

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The Urgent Meassures Are Needed


A conference “Children at the North. Protection, live and development in extreme environment” took place in Moscow, October 19-21, 1996.

The conference noted the critical rise of the social degradation and break down of entire socio-economic infrastructure of the Northern regions. The unemployment, diseases and death rate have reached dramatic proportions. This situation has direct adverse affect on children.

The conference appealed to the President of the Russian Federation, to the Federal and regional executive and legislative powers to take the most urgent measures to solve the problems of motherhood and the childhood at the North.


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Life In R'yrk'aipiy


Let’s look at the village of R’yrk’aipiy, Shmidt District, Chukchi Autonomous Region, as at a sample of what is the life of an ethnic Chukchi village.

One of the most terrifying facts is that non-indigenous people who came to the village to work for huge wages are not only leaving now, but taking with them machinery, building materials, fuel (all legally property of the community) and even food supplies from the local store. Local administration looks away. And this is when the reindeer-herders in the tundra, many with many children, do not get any food from the authorities.

Furthermore. The administration did not pay the bills and the village has no fuel. As the result there is no electricity.

From Spring through October 1996 there was no water in the houses. When temperature dropped way below freezing all heating pipe-lines in the houses broke. The common waste system of the village broke down as well. For the last six years there is no radio. The last salary to the municipal workers was paid in December of 1995. From June of 1996 there are no subsidies to the families with many children.

For more than 2 years there is no deliveries of spare parts for the village machinery. The only help is coming from nearby military base. They do all they can to help but their own resources are limited. The villagers are extremely grateful.

The situation can lead to a social unrest. The villagers appeal to the local, regional and Federal authorities to no avail. The Federal State Committee for the North wrote a letter to the Governor of the Chukchi Autonomous Region Mr. Alexander V. Nazarov. The letter is expressing grave concern with the situation in Shmidt District.

But desperate people see little hope in letter exchange between the Federal and Regional authorities.

Marina Nutytegryne,
Chukchi, IIC

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