III group of interns


Do Indigenous Peoples Need the Copper-Nickel Mines?
What Is The Future For The Reindeer Herders?
The Ethnic Enterprises Of Sakhalin Island
Warning, phenol!
A letter From a Keto Fisherman
To Starve or to Break The Law
Itelmen Revival Council
Young People and the New Times
Social and Psychological Analys of Evenk, Yakut and Russians in Yakut-Sakha Republic (July 1995 - February 1996)
Religion of Chukchi
Traditional Clothes of the Indigenous Peoples of the North
The Legends of Shor Indigenopus People
Chukchi and Innuit Traditional Education

Do Indigenous Peoples Need the Copper-Nickel Mines?In the Bulletin #5 was published an article by Ms. Anna Kaniukova (Nenetz) entitled “An open letter to the leaders of Association of Nenetz Indigenous people “Yasavey”.”.

On February 19, 1997 the Center received a letter from Ms. Kaniukova. She writes:”...I was invited for a talk with Mr. Ruzhnikov, Regional Representative of the State Committee for the North (GOSKOMSEVER). He wanted to talk about my previous letter regarding the Copper-Nickel mines near Indiga and Vyuitcheiski. He “enlightened me and made it clear that I must not involved none from the outside into “internal business” of the region...”.

She also attached to her letter a copy of the letter from Mr. Ruzhnikov to Mr. A. I. Volgin, a Deputy Chairman of GOSKOMSEVER. The following are excerpts from that letter with commentaries by Ms. Kaniukova:

“...Regarding your inquiry #3785 of December 27, 1996 we can state the following: It is true that the regional Committee on Geology (SEVERGEOLKOM) and the Administration of Nenetz Autonomous region are working on the conditions for an open Tender to develop the mining of Copper-Nickel ores on the territory of Severny Timan (about 100 sq. Kms.) of the region...This project have been discussed for two years by all interested parties, including the regional office of GOSKOMSEVER, Parliament of the region, leaders of the official land holding entity (reindeer herding State enterprise ( sovkhoz) “Indigsky and others...

K. Why not with the communities affected?)

...Because of the above, there is no question that the decision was made with full consideration of the interests of the communities of Indiga and Vyuitcheiski...

(A. K. But the communities did NOT participate in that decision making. As usual people from the outside think they do know better the interests of Indiga and Vyuitcheisky then the communities themselves.)

...Besides, all the further developments are under control of the District deputies and Association of Nenetz People “Yasavey”...

K. “Yasavey” is an NGO but not the population of Indiga and Vyuitcheisky.)

... This letter is approved by Mr. V. I. Bulatov, Head of the regional Administration. Signed, S. A. Ruzhnikov, Regional Representative, GOSKOMSEVER.”


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What is the Future for the Reindeer Herders?


Life of a reindeer herder is a constant struggle to survive. Either collectives or a single herder businesses are in terrible financial situation. Let’s take for instance collective “Kantiansky” in Anadyr district, Chukchi Autonomous region. It use to have 30 000 heads. It used to be a prosperous venture. Times changed. The collective was split into 13 independent groups. Each group is leaded by a knowledgeable and experienced herder. They know where and how feed their reindeers, how to save them during hardships of Arctic winter. What they do not know is how to deal with so called “market economy”. Never before had they deal with financing, management, supplies, sales, etc. As a result, by the end of 1996, out of 19 groups only 7 had left with the combined number of 8000 heads.

One is absolutely clear - the independent reindeer herders can survive only if there are special conditions and attention from the government. From the times immemorial reindeer herding was a collective activity. Only in that form this traditional activity can truly survive. But there must be legal and other conditions that help reindeer herders to adapt their ancient trade to the realities of the modern Russia.

The state had practically abandoned its agriculture, especially the reindeer herding. Without the state support for us there is no way to survive.

Alexey Vukvukay,
Anadyr District, Chukchi region

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The Ethnic Enterprises of Sakhalin Island


At the end of the eighties there was a sharp economic decline on Sakhalin Island. The hardest hit was the Indigenous population - the Nivkh, the Ult, the Evenk, the others. While the non-indigenous populations began moving back to other parts of Russia, where the situation was a bit better, the Indigenous people stayed on their traditional lands. Abandoned by the authorities, they began looking for ways out of the difficult situation. On an initiative of Mr. Vladimir Sangi, first on the North of the Sakhalin Island and then in other areas, Nivkhs began setting up the ethnic fishing and other small businesses.

By 1993 there was registered over 50 such businesses throughout the Island. It was an auspicious beginning - an unemployment went down, Indigenous people got some money in their pockets and, the most important, they were involved in what they knew and loved the most - fishing. But the end result was not as good as we hoped.

Today only a handful of those enterprises still alive and the number is decreasing almost daily. The reasons for that are plentiful - total lack of proper management, unbearable taxes, improper use by the local authorities of the federal subsidies allocated for sustainable development of Indigenous communities. One of the most crucial reasons is the distribution by the authorities the poorest fishing grounds to the Indigenous fishermen. The state authorities do not want give the rich grounds to the competitors of the state owned fisheries.

For instance the state enterprise “Vostok” in Nogliki district is almost bankrupt. And yet it has exclusive rights to fish in five richest bays on the North of the island and refuses to release those rights. When ethnic Nivkh companies asked permission to fish there, the administration answered that is up to “Vostok”. The problem is that those fishing grounds that are allocated to the Nivkh’s companies can not provide enough fish to get the quota. And if a company does fish less than the given quota, the quota will be reduced for the next year. This is a vicious circle.

Nivks are losing all hope for the future. And it looks like nobody among Sakhalin’s authorities is really cares.

Alexey Limanzo, Nivkh,
Nogliki district, Sakhalin

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Warning, phenol!


The Environmental Committee of Ulchi district, Khabarovsk region is warning that the level of phenol in Amur river is crucial. That is the result of water testing near village of Bogorodskoe on January 14, 97. The amount of phenol is 18,4 times higher than normal.

A. Manko, 
newspaper “Amursky Maiak”

IIC: It is imperative to do a thorough study of water condition in Amur by independent experts. So far nobody can explain where phenol came from. There must be a strict control over the industrial discharge into the river. Indigenous peoples of the area depend solely on the river for their very existence. They have no money to do the study and, let alone, to clean the river. Administration of the Khabarovsk region either can not or does not want to deal with the problem. If there anyone who shares our concerns and can help please contact the Indigenous Information Center.

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A Letter from Keto Fisherman


Association of Indigenous peoples of Turukhansk district sent the following letter to IIC:

My name is Valery B. Lambin. I am a Keto. I make 150 000 Rubles a month (less than $30US). I have three children and wife. To buy enough flour for my family for a month I need 350 000 Rubles. To save my family from starving I was forced to fish. When I asked the authorities for a fishing license - they refused by saying that the licenses are limited. Everybody knows that there enough licenses for the non-indigenous fishermen who can pay more. I had to fish without a permit. What else could I do? My family was starving. I was arrested and had to pay a penalty - 150 000 Rubles. All my monthly income. I am pretty sure that after this letter I will be paying even more penalties. That why everybody is silent. What we, Keto, do not understand is why on the land where our forefathers freely fished for centuries we now have to fish like thieves?

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To Starve or to Break the Law


From the 1st through 30th of October 1996 the police department of Krasnoiarsk region was checking the passport registrations of the people of Turukhansk district.

The result was that many of Indigenous peoples are violating the registration law by living without valid passports. The reason is the absence of photographs on their passports. They all must pay penalties.

But think about it. The average monthly income for those who have jobs is 300 000 Rubles (about $50 US). To get the passport photo is possible only in Turukhansk. An average cost of getting to Turukhansk from Indigenous villages is about 656 000 Rubles per person (round trip). The cost of photo is 51 000 Rubles.

So what there to do? To get the passport photo for a person and starve for an entire family?

Oxana Sinnikova,
, Krasnoiarsk region

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Itelmen Revival Council


Itelmen Revival Council “Tkhsanon” (Dawn) is in existence since February 5, 1989. Its headquarters is in Kovran (Itelmen Indigenous community in Kamchatka). Officially there 490 members of the Council. They are from Itelmen communities of Kovran, Tigil, Khairiuzovo, Palana, Ossora, Razdolny, Milkovo and Petropavlovsk-Kamtchatsky.

For ten years now the Council organizes the traditional Itelmen celebration “Alkhalalay”. It is always in September in Kovran.

The Council is a manifestation of the new attitude of Itelmen Indigenous people - only by ourselves we can revive our traditions and our culture.

Liudmila Smirnova,
Tigil District, Kamtchatka

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Young People and the New Times


All Indigenous peoples share one tradition - the older generations always offer the helping hand and friendship to the young people. The times changed. And in our country very often young people are left by themselves.

We are students from Indigenous peoples. We study in Moscow universities. We decided not to wait until someone will take care of us and organized ourselves into a fraternity of Indigenous students.

For three years now the fraternity organizes the performance festival “Peoples of the North” at the Moscow University of Peoples’ Friendship. It is very successful, but is produced by the skin of our teeth and on sheer enthusiasm of our students. We constantly are looking for modest funds to make costumes and sounds. During the festival we also exhibit traditional art works of Indigenous peoples of the Russian North.

So many times we have asked for help different governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations, but got the same answer “There are no money.”. But there are some who try to do as much as they can even during these difficult times:

We would like to thank Mr. Fedor Iaungad (chief editor of Nenetz newspaper “Krasny Sever” from Yamal-Nenetz region) who personally brought to Moscow from Salekhard the Nenetz traditional costumes for the festival. We also are grateful to magazine “Severnye Prostory” (chief editor Ms. Valentina D. Golubtchikova) and Indigenous Information Center “L’auravetl’an” (Ms. Galina M. Volkova, Director) for their constant support. Many thanks to L’auravetl’an Foundation, Vaduz (Mr. Oleg Egorov, President) for their scholarships to the needy Indigenous students.

We are sure that only by keeping the constant connection to the older generations the young Indigenous people can develop and realize themselves to the fullest.

Oleg Siugney, President,
Fraternity of Indigenous students

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Social and Psychological Analys of Evenk, Yakut and Russians in Yakut-Sakha republic 
(July 1995 - February 1996)


How close you feel to the various groups of people?

Evenk: 1st place - Family, 2nd - Ethnic & Co-workers, 3d - The same profession, 4th - Same generation, 5th - Same way of life, 6th - Country.

Yakut: 1st place - Family, 2nd - Ethnic, 3d - The same profession, 4th - Town, same generation, 5th - Co-workers, 6th - Same way of life, 7th - Country.

Russians: 1st place - Family & Believes, 2nd - Ethnic, 3d - Same town, Country, 4th - Co-workers.

As one can see all three groups had “Family” on the first place and the “Ethnic” factor was on the second. But the Russians had “Country” on the third place. Obviously the sense of geopolitical identity is more developed among the Russians. The Evenk placed “Country on the sixth place, and the Yakut - on the seventh.

How would you feel if your child would marry a person from other ethnic group?

Evenk: Positively - 66,6%, Negatively - 10%.
Yakut: Positively - 40%, Negatively - 24%.
Russians: Positively - 53,8%, Negatively - 7,7%.

The ethnic self-identity is the strongest among the Yakuts.

Is ethnicity important to you?

Evenk 40% “don’t know”;
Yakut 50% “yes”;
Russians 46.1% “no”.

What ethnic group would you like to see a spouse for your child?

Evenk: 18,2% - Our own; 59,1% - Any; 22,7% - Don't know.
35,5% - Our own; 22,6% - Any; 41,9% - Don't know.
13,3% - Our own; 20,0% - Any; 66,7% - Don't know.

Most probably the Evenk, as one of the small Indigenous peoples of Yakut republic, have rather negative self-self-self-immige.

Are there mixed marriages in your family?

Evenk - 77.3%
- 50%
- 50%

What language do you prefer for your children?

Evenk: 20% - Your own; 66,7% - Russian.
Yakut: 84% - Your own; 48% - Russian.
Russians: 100% - Your own; 100% - Russian.

The majority of Evenk are orienting their children to study in Russian language. Most of the Yakuts prefer to study in their own language. All Russians prefer only Russian.

The above allows to make the following conclusions:

The Evenks are rapidly assimilating;

The Evenk are ethnically marginalized;

The factors of ethnic self-identity are declining among the Evenk;

Evenk of Yakut-Sakha republic are on the verge of disappearing as a people. Their problems with the self-identity as a group are increased by the poly-ethnic make up of the Yakut-Sakha republic. There are 116 different ethnic groups living in the republic. Since 1985 the total population of the republic increased by 28.4%. while number of Evenk declined. If Yakut are 33.4% of the total population, then Evenk are 1.3%.

Ezhana Vasilieva

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Religion of Chukchi


In shamanic religion of Chukchis the aspects of the strict care in dealing with nature are the cornerstone. One must take from the nature no more than one needs. Starving Chukchis would never hunt a sea mammal at its layer or on the ice by the shore. Only at the sea was permitted to hunt seals and walruses.

During the Soviet rule, Chukchis stubbornly resisted the walrus hunt at the animals’ layers. They knew that walruses would go away. These huge animals are very timid. Environmental illiteracy of the European civilization soon resulted in walruses mass exodus.

For Chukchis everything in Nature is alive and has soul. And one must treat everything as one treats oneself. The Sun, the Moon, the Earth, the Sky, the animals - all is Life, and all is for Life.

On important dates Chukchis thanked the Mother Earth by giving it drops of animal blood, pieces of meat and fat. Children and women sung to the Earth :”..We are with you. We want you always to be with us. We will protect and treasure you, and you protect and treasure our children and grandchildren..”. Men are with the reindeers near by “yarang’ee’n” (large teepees). The men thank the Friend, the Keeper, the Eternal Companion - Reindeer. Then the reindeers are slaughtered for the feast.

While the reindeers are being slaughtered the most important moment in education of the young is taken place. The Elders are singing the eternal song about Life. The singing is accompanied by the beating of the drum that was made by the Head of the clan. During the song an young woman, a daughter is feeding “tain’ykw’yt” or “milg’yt” - the guardains of the clan. Women and children are singing and dancing around the campfire...

A group of female reindeers are wondering around the campsite throughout the celebration, looking for their calves. In their honor the drums are beating and songs of forgiveness are sung. Because their calves were the noble sacrificed. The pelts of the calves will be used to make beautiful clothes for children. This moment is crucially important for the developing child mentality. The respect, love and reverence of Mother Earth is forever imprinted in their hearts and minds. The key sentiment is “Do not destroy without a need and respect”.

Yelena Montada,

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Traditional Clothes of the Indigenous Peoples of the North


Traditional clothes of the Northern people directly relate to their way of life. But there are clear differences between clothes of different groups of peoples. For instance clothes of Chukchi, Innuit and Koriak are different from clothes of Yukagir and Even.

Underwear of Chukchi and Innuit is two long shirts made out of fur. One has fur on the inside, the other on outside. Over these people wear a long fur shirt with fur on the inside (kukhlianka). Over kukhlianka, if there is a need, people put a long waterproof shirt made out of walrus intestines (kaml’eika).

Inland Chukchi and Koriak have various fur hats. The Coastal Chukchi and Innuit very seldom use hats.

Women of Chukchi, Innuit and Koriak traditionally wore a fur overalls (Chukchi word is “kyerkyer”). Children also wear fur overalls with the sleeves sewn shut.

Even and Yukagir outer clothes traditionally were a some sort of overcoats made out of swayed for the summer and out of reindeer fur. Children clothes are very much alike.

Also Even traditionally wear a sort of an apron made out of swayed or fur and painstakingly decorated with animal skins and colored swayed for men and with beads and metal decorations for women.

Even women richly decorated all their outerwear with colored beads and a mosaic of colored pieces of skin and swayed. The edges of their overcoats are covered with silver coins and beautiful ornaments. Additionally many women wear bided short belts.

But many elements of clothes Indigenous peoples borrowed from their neighbors. For instance: fur pants came to Even from Chukchi and Koriak (in Even it is “konaeete”, in Chukchi - “kona’gty”), waterproof coat in Even is “okontchee”, in Chukchi - “ukentchee”).

Marina Nuttetegryne,

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The Legends of Shor Indigenous People


Vladimir Ye. Tannagashev is a “Kaitchy”- the legend teller. He grew up in village of Moroshki, listening to the old and famous legend-tellers such as N. Napazakova, Akmeta Abakaeva, P. Tokmagasheva and P. Kadyiakova.

When he was 12 years old he made for himself a musical instrument by simply stretching a metal wire over a piece of wood. He taught himself how to play and became so good that one old man said that he will be a great “Kaitchy” some day. The prophecy came true.

Vladimir Tannagashev says :” If anyone, even once, hears Shor Heroic legends told with accompaniment of “komus” (Shor musical instrument) he will understand the legends without even understanding the words. And once he understood them he will always long for them.”.

The Heroic legends for Shor people are an intrinsic part of their life. They teach kindness and compassion, beauty and loyalty. They support in the moment of despair. In the house where someone had died the legends are told without “komus”.

The ancient Shors have created enormous number of the Heroic legends. Unfortunately only 130 legends are noun to us. Mr. Tannagashev knows about 70 of those. He says that this is only a drop in the ocean of legends known to our ancestors.

Every “kaitchy” has his or her own music for the legends. During a legend the melody changes depending on the situation of the legend’s hero. One melody is for travel of a hero, a different one for fights, another one for chase, etc.

To our great dismay our young people are not really interested in the heroic legends of our people. There are only three “kaitchy” at the present. But there is no one whom they can pass on to the ancient Shor epic songs. To save the vanishing art a professor from Novokuznetzk Pedagogical Institute Lubov Arbatchakova recently begun recording the legends.

Lubov Tchulzhanova,

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Chukchi and Innuit Traditional Education


Traditionally all children were in the immediate family or/and extended family care. A birth of a child was an extremely important event. A pregnant woman was under a strict set of rules, some were result of a belief that a contact with a pregnant woman can bring an unsuccessful hunt, some were designed to protect her and the future baby.

Chukchi and Koriak used a stone hanged from a thread to choose the name for a child. Usualy during ones life his or her name could be changed several times. If a person was suffering from a disease the name was changed to trick the evil spirits, if a person displayed strong personal qualities or sides of his or her character the name was changed to illustrate those qualities. People usually had only one name at the time, but some people also had nicknames.

Chukchi and Innuit counted time by Moon. Thus the metrical age of people had no importance in the life of a community. Age of children was counted by a child’s ability to do something - “she began to walk” or “he began shooting toy arrows at birds” or “he began hunting”, etc.

The entire community had equal rights and responsibilities regardless of age. It was highly effective in bringing up people as effective and psychologically stable members of a community. Unfortunately in later times it resulted in smoking and drinking of the entire communities.

Traditional education was based on constant interaction of children and adults and on children mimicking the adults’ behavior and actions. At the age of 4-5 years boys were beginning to learn to hunt and tend to reindeers and girls - to cook, to sew, and to take care of the house. Toys were miniatures of the adults’ tools.

Spiritual education started at the earliest age and was an uninterrupted process throughout one’s life. Children not only listened to the legends and fairy tales but participated in all celebrations and rituals of the community.

Chukchi and Innuit view the physical development as an extremely important. Entire communities participated in competitions in running, lifting weights, shooting, long jumping, wrestling, reindeer and dog sleds riding. Physical maturity meant social maturity.

Although sometimes marriages could be arranged at age 12-14, as a rule the marrying age was from 16 to 20.

Marina Nutetegryne,

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Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends. The Center is starting a new chapter in our bulletins - “A Point of View”. Please let us know your opinions if you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed. The following are the excerpts from conversation about Indigenous Peoples Culture with Oleg Egorov, President of L’auravetl’an Foundation and representative of Chukchi Traditional Council of Elders


... Everything I am saying is only my opinion. As any human being I am reserving right to be wrong...

I understand culture of any group of people as a summary and combination of their traditions, their views, their customs. There are external expressions of any culture and there are the spiritual principles, spiritual foundations. I think the latter are based on how one or another group of people see themselves within the World...

All Indigenous peoples have, among other things, one thing in common - in their songs and dances they all use those sounds and movements that are filling up the world they live in. It is because indigenous people cannot see themselves separately from the world, from the land on which they have been living for many hundreds of years. Every gesture, every movement in Chukchi and Innuit dances is stylized movement of a bird or an animal... Probably it is because Indigenous people and the environment they live in are one. And there is never a need to “conquer” the nature around. Chukchi and Inuit do not “fight” “the great white silent desert”. They simply live as an integral part of the environment that for them is full of sounds, full of music, full of life...

... In mid 70s, in Lorino (an ethnic Chukchi village) the administration of the village created a small museum. In the walls of a small room an artist painted a tundra landscape, at the corner was a stuffed reindeer. Also were staffed lemming, a fox, some birds. On one of the walls was hanging a dusty kamleika (a traditional waterproof overshirt made from walrus intestines). When I saw this for the first time I felt deeply sad. Because immediately behind the walls of that room there was the real tundra were real animals still live, the real ocean full of real life. The World is still full of life that one could never squeeze into a one small stuffy room. I know that people who made the museum did it with the best intentions. Their view on life stems from their culture. To them the tundra, the ocean and the animals who live there are strange and distant. But to Chukchi and Inuit all of this is close and friendly. This stems from their culture. Their “home” does not stops at the door. Their “home” continues for hundreds and hundreds miles and beyond. This is part of their culture. May be because of that it is inconceivable even for the most drunken Chukchi or Innuit to throw garbage into the river or the ocean that feed himself and his children...

Song and dance on a stage is great. Great because if people yet sing and dance they still have hope. But it is not culture. It is just one of the external expressions of it. Those songs and dances are saturated with thousands of years of spiritual memory of a people. One can supremely learn the movements and the words, but one can never be truly a part of the soul of a people if he is not one of it. If that would be not so, then any Russian who learned to play banjo and sing country songs in English could become an American. And any American who learned to play balalaika - would become Russian...

...Culture is the everyday life. If traditions, rituals, customs that used to be the integral part of the everyday life are lost or forgotten we must try to learn them again or even create them anew. They must become the everyday reality. And specially for children.

In Lorino there is a girl, Alexander Innankeuias, who worked at the kindergarten. She constantly was making up stories and fairy tales for the children. But all those stories had to do something with the everyday realities of the kids. One day she was with the children at the sea shore. One little girl found a stone. It was small, yellow and almost transparent. Alexander told them the following story: ” Far far away in the ocean used to live an old woman. One day she went hunting and killed a seal. When she was cutting the seal a small piece of fat fell down into the cold water and froze. And became this little stone.”. All children saw the ocean, saw how a seal is cut, saw that little stone that really looked as a piece of seal fat. Their imagination was running wild. They will never be able to see the ocean simply as a body of water... Now Alexander is completing her study in St-Petersburg. I hope very much that she keeps her heart and her imagination and returns to Lorino after getting her degree, and tells many other stories to the children...

... I believe that without living traditions, customs and knowledge of your people’s past there can not be a true traditional culture... More so - Indigenous peoples traditions, customs and culture are inseparable from the land they live on. Without the land, without the traditional relationship with the environment to save or to revive the traditional culture is impossible...

All peoples are different and their cultures are different and none is better than the other and all are precious. The strength of the World is in its diversity.

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