III group of interns


Ultchi District as an Environmental Disastour Zone
Open Strip Mines on Territories of 6 Communities
Congress of Indigenous Peoples of Sakhalin Island
Our Patience is Running Out
Traditional Food of Camtchadal Indigenous People
Evenk Traditional Celebration "Bakaldyn"
Shor Indigenous People

Ultchi District as an Environmental Disastour ZoneOur company “Ukhta” is existing since 1993. It was organized to promote a traditional Ultchi Indigenous people activity - fishing. In 1996, after official reports on chemical pollution of Amur river, we decided discontinue to fish during the Summer months and did only limited fishing later in the season when the pollution level dropped down. Some of the salmon fish we caught according to the official quota. But the market prices went down sharply and so did our profit.

People in our district noticed unpleasant smell in the fish from Amur back in March of 1996. As the smell in fish and fears of people grew, the consumption of the Amur fish declined dramatically. The only fish people are not afraid to eat is from the inland lakes.

1997 did not bring any positive changes. Amur is polluted more than before, chemical waste is continued to flow into the river, fish smells more and more. Our company is looking for other places to fish even if they are unreasonably far away.

Upkeep for a fishing team per day costs to our company 500 000 Rubles (about $80 US). We have to change the team every 15 days. Team delivery to those far away fishing places costs us an average 3 000 000 Rubles (about $600 US) per team. Plus we have to pay for fish transportation, refrigerators and other production costs.

We are writing all that not to portray the difficult situation of our company. We are convinced that someone has to be responsible for the death of Amur, someone has to pay for it. The death of Amur is death to the people depending on it for their very lives. We believe it is imperative to PROCLAIM THE ULTCHI DISTRICT AN OFFICIAL ZONE OF ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTROU, and in the name of people living there demand a fair and adequate compensation to individuals and companies that are endangered by the situation.

Anatoly Karikmasov,
Director of “Ukhta”
Ultchi District, Khabarovsk Region

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Open Strip Mines on territories of 6 Communities


On the traditional territory of Shors Indigenous people (Tchuvashinski area, Kemerovo region) in 6 communities live about 520 Shors. Currently there are 3 coal mines are being developed on their territory - Sibirginski, Mezhduretchinski and Krasnogorski mines. Two of them are paying local taxes to the nearby town of Mezhduretchensk.

But the mines ruined Shors traditional land, poisoned rivers, destroyed forests and wild animals. And indigenous people never have received any compensation of any sort for the ruined environment and their way of life. One village was totally destroyed and the people were forced to move to the town.

From 1994 the Administrative Head of Tchuvshinski area, Mr. Yegor Bekrenev (a Shor) is waging a one man struggle to force the mines to pay compensation taxes to the area administration so the money can be used for social and economic needs of the people of those communities.

Lubov Tchulzhanova,
Shor, IIC

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Congress of Indigenous Peoples of Sakhalin Island


March 18-19, 1997, in Nogliki, Sakhalin Island, was Congress of Indigenous Peoples of Sakhalin Island.

The importance of the Congress is huge not only to the Indigenous peoples (Nivkh, Orok, Evenk and Nanai), not only to all those who live on the Island, but also to those states that are flocking to develop our shelf deposits - Russia, Japan, USA, Netherlands, England etc.

The dominant question at the Congress was: ”Why nowhere in discussions and studies about the Shelf deposits the issues and concerns of Indigenous peoples of the island are even considered, let alone mentioned?”. Not only the development itself is on their traditional territories, but the planned pipeline will go through their hunting and fishing grounds, their lands and reindeer pastures.

Also the Federal State Program of Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Peoples of the North was find a good idea by the Congress, nobody really believed it to be practically effective.

Alexey Limanzo,
Nivkh, IIC

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Our Patience is Running Out


Mr. Eduard P. Klepetchin is Creative Director of “Sed’e” - Folk Group of Indigenous peoples of North of Yakut-Sakha Republic. “Sed’e” exists since 1972 and in its repertoire are Evenk, Chukchi and Yukagir traditional songs. “Sed’e” toured Netherlands, USA and Canada.

Mr. Klepetchin says: “ Market and tundra are incompatible. Evenk traditional communities are destroyed, Chukchi and Yukagir communities are being destroyed. Reindeer herders are not being paid for more than a year. A coherent, thought out and effective State Federal program for revival and protection of traditional economic activities of indigenous peoples is desperately needed. Those few laws that are in existence are not working. Something has to be done today. Tomorrow it will be too late. Mr. Nemtushkin, our Association’s President, says that we must accept our fate. That we are dying out. I can’t accept it. It sounds that the gods are at fault and Yakut and Federal Government are just pure innocent angels. Indigenous people are patient people, but we can’t take it any longer! More of us are dying in my village of Andriushkino than are being born. More and more there are single mothers. Our children are quitting their studies at big towns and cities and are coming back. They can’t take the psychological climate of the city. Everybody knows that cities live by the jungle law. Our children go there too innocent and gullible, they are easily corrupted. Our people have strong characters, but weak will. Not such a long time ago my village was a prosperous one. Now it is dying. And most of the Northern villages are on the verge of a catastrophe. Some of parliamentarians of the republican parliament numerously proposed to proclaim the Northern areas an official disastrous zone. But the Yakut government declined. What do they wait for? For our death? There is no food deliveries. Medications are too expensive. Yakut government is working only for Yakut people. It is a discrimination. I said all that at the plenary of the Republican parliament in presence of the deputies of the Federal parliament and Chairman of the Duma Committee for the North Mr. Vladimir Goman.”.

Ezhana Vasilieva,
Evenk, IIC

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Traditional Food of Camtchadal Indigenous People


The main traditional food of our people is fish. Starting in 1994 the official quota for fishing allocated to the Indigenous people of Kamtchatka that live in towns is getting smaller and smaller. It looks like in the very close future those Indigenous that do not live in rural areas will not be able to get their traditional food.

In 1995 the quota was only 35 kg per year/per person. That is nearly not enough for someone for whom fish is main staple of the diet. The quotas are decided by the local administrations. As the result, at the present, in Petrapavlovsk-Kamtchatsky there are 2600 Indigenous people without fishing permits, in Yelisovo district - 3400 and Viliutchinsk - 300 people. The same time, a plethora of commercial companies have permits and quotas issued by administrations. All Indigenous people get are lengthily rethorics about the depletion of fishing stocks.

Anna Aseeva,
Camtchadal, IIC

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Evenk Traditional Celebration "Bakaldyn"


“Bakaldyn” means “Greeting of the Sun”. The celebration is three days long. The host group is first to arrive. They are putting up tents (Tchums), ritual figures and tie many colored ribbons on the trees around the cite.

In the early morning the first guests arrive. The hosts welcome them with cries “Mendu!”. The guests and the hosts exchange handshakes over the ritual figure of a reindeer.

Then there is a cleansing ritual. The main element is “tchitchipkan” - a tree trunk which is forked at one end and has a “human head” carved at the other. The most respected woman is standing next to tchitchipkan. In one hand she has green branch in the other a smoldering piece of coal. She bathes in smoke people that walk through the tchitchipkan. Those who pass through the ritual are considered clean from illnesses and sins of the past year. Usually there are two tchitchipkans - one for children and one for adults. When everybody had passed through the tchitchipkan two older men tie together the tchitchipkan’s “legs” and hide it away. That symbolizes shutting the door through which all the sins and diseases of the year past has gone.

Then there is the reindeer hunting ritual. The reindeer dummy is being “hunted” by two hunters. They sneak up on it and shoot it with arrows. With everybody’s loud cheers the dummy fells to the ground. Follow the traditional ritual the hunters “part” the “reindeer” and hide its “bones”. This symbolizes the success in the next year hunting.

The next ritual is “feeding” the river. The most respected woman says greetings to the river from all the people and after she finish everybody throw into the water little green branches, grass, flowers and small pieces of food.

The principal ritual is “Sehvehkmo” - the view of the Universe. Evenk believe in three worlds - The upper world (the world of gods), the middle world (the world of people) and the under world (the world of the lowest spirits). Again the most respected woman is “feeding” the three worlds by putting oil over the sacred tree and pleading with the spirits of the three worlds to help the humans.

The next ritual is “giving earrings to a bear”. A bear skin is hung from a tree. Women are tying colored pieces of clothe to the bear’s ears while singing softly and gently and whispering sweetly that the bear does not get angry with people.

After that all people make a large circle holding hands and sing “Dialer-maltchor”. Then everybody is dancing fast dances “Dialenkhintchai” and others. This is the end of the “official” part and the feast begins. It is going on all night. When the first rays of the rising sun light up the sky everybody greets it with loud cheers and most of the people go to sleep.

The second day is the day of competitions - arrow shooting, fishing, “maut” throwing, sprinting, long jumps and etc.

The third day everybody is resting. Many people visit the two sacred trees that are near by. These trees are the symbols of good and evil. The legend says that there used to be two shamans, one was black and the other - white. Once they fought each other at that place and none could overcome the other. Finally they turned into these trees. The white shaman turned into the tall strong tree with nine thick branches that reach towards the sun. The black shaman turned into the old squatted tree. Its nine twisted branches grow down to the ground and the lowest branches pierce the ground and go into it as roots.

The place of the trees is very mysterious. It stands at the river Kenkeme. The river close to the white tree is deep and fast, by the black tree - shallow and slow. Behind each tree there are trees - the warriors of the shamans. The people bring sacrifice to the tree - money, things, food, ask for the good luck, health and happiness.

And that is the last day of “Bakaldyn”. Till the next year.


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Beginning the XVIII century quite a few Russians who settled on Kamtchatka peninsula had mixed marriages with the Itelmen - an Indigenous people of the Southern Kamtchatka. That contributed to the rapid loss of the traditional way of life of the Itelmen, their language and their culture. A totally new ethno-culture was forming. It was based on the mixture of the traditional Itelmen culture and the new way of life brought by the Russian settlers. At the end of the XVIII century there were 3000 mixed blood people who were called the Kamtchadals.

De facto, the Kamtchadals are the Itelmen with part Russian blood. Officially, until the 1926 all Itelmen were called Kamtchadals. In 1927, the Soviet government decided “... those people of Kamtchatka that called themselves “Kamtchadal” and speak only Russian and live in permanent settlements are not to be considered indigenous people..”.

At the end of 1980, the Kamtchadals began their struggle to be accepted legally and politically as an indigenous people of Kamtchatka. They organized themselves into the regional Association of Kamtchadals. In 1991 the regional government officially accepted the Kamtchadals as an Indigenous people. But in 1996 the Federal Parliament of Russian Federation did not include the Kamtchadal in their roster of Indigenous peoples of Russia.

At the present there are about 9000 Kamtchadals in Kamtchatka. We appeal to the legal experts, ethnologists and anthropologists to help us to protect our right to self identification as an indigenous people.

Anna Aseeva,

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The Itelmen is one of the least populous but one of the most ancient peoples of the North. The earliest known archaeological sight of the Itelmen presence on Kamtchatka peninsula is 5200 years old.

“Itelmen” (means “the living”) first came to contact with Russians in XVII century. In 1697 the total known number of Itelmen were 12680 and in the year 1738 - the number dropped down to 8448 people. The causes for that were the disease brought by Russians, forcible assimilation and the colonial Russian policies in general.

The Itelmen language is quite unique and although some scientists believe it to be a part of the North-Eastern group of Pale-Asian languages, it has almost no similarities with the Chukchi or Koriak languages.

Traditionally Itelmen were the river fishermen and gatherers. Hunting and sea fishing played secondary role in their lives.

Until the Soviets, the Itelmen lived in the extended family communities. These communities that were blood related lived alongside the same rivers and shared the fishing grounds.

All close relatives shared the same semi-underground dwelling. Each community was named after a particular part of the river they lived on. At the head of each community was an elder. In his house all the major decisions were made and all the celebrations.

The Itelmen believe that everything in the world, every rock, every animal, every natural event has spirits. Each spirit lives his own life. The reverence towards a spirit is directly proportional to the degree of the spirit’s importance for the well being of a human. The most revered is the spirit of the sea which provided the main food - fish. The celebration of “cleansing” for the Sea Spirit is in November. At the places of worship Itelmen place wooden idols. Itelmen believe the world and the human souls to be eternal. Itelmen believe themselves to be the descendants of the Raven “Kootkha”.

All Itelmen wore amulets. The shamans possessed knowledge, but no special clothes or attributes.

The life was governed by many rules - it was forbidden to dismantle the fishing huts which have “fish moth” in Spring, the fish can get scared and leave the river. Under no circumstances it was allowed to save those who have fallen into water or buried by an avalanche - the spirits of water and mountains should not be deprived what is theirs.

The Itelmen live in the Koriak Autonomous region of Kamtchatka peninsula. In 1950th began the forcible enlargement of Itelmen settlements. Villages of Sopotchny, Moroshetchny and Utkholok were moved to the village of Kovran, villages of Amanino, Napany, Sedanki and Osedloy - to Tigil. Most Itelmen live now in villages of Kovran, Tigil, Palana and Khiriuzovo.

Liudmila Smirnova,
Itelmen, IIC

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Shor Indigenous People


Shor is indigenous people of Kemerovo region in RF. It belongs to the Turk language group. The traditional territory of Shor is so called the Mountain Shoria - land at the basins of rivers Tom, Mrassu and Kondoma. In Russia there are 16 000 Shors. 12000 still live in Kemerovo region.

Traditionally, the Shors were stealers, blacksmiths, hunters and primitive growers. The iron products made by the Shors were in great demand throughout the entire Siberia. Those were valued by the Enisey Kyrgyz and Jungars, whom Shors paid the tax (“alban”). When the first Russian Cossacks first encountered the Shors they gave them a name “The Blacksmith Tartars”. In Russian “blacksmith” is “Kuznetz”. That is why that land is called even now the “Kuznetzk region”.

The Southern Siberia was totally colonized by the Russian Cossacks. Taking over the lands of Shors the Russians at first used to give to the Shor’s village leaders (“pashtyks”) a sort of title to the territory of a village. But when the colonizing process was completed, the entire lands of the Shors were announced to be the property of the Tzar family and all the titles were annulled. The taxes (“yasak”) that the Shors paid to the Russian Tzar were in furs.

All hunting territories were divided between the clans. The Russians strictly forbid the Shors to practice blacksmith and ironsmith in fear that Enisey Kyrgyz and Jungar could use those weapons in wars against the Russians.

Shors were organized in clans. Every clan was headed by a Pashtyk. Pashtyks were selected by the entire clan gathering, which was the supreme ruling power of a clan. All the major decisions were made at those gatherings, such as selection of the Pashtyk, size of an alban or yasak, to be baptized or not for a particular clan. The clan gatherings also was the clan court. For the guilty or not decision and for assessment of a punishment six wisest old men were selected. Those were the judges under the leadership of Pashtyk. When the judges made a decision they would ask the gathering: ”Tcharar bah?” (Do you agree?). If the majority answered: “Tcharar!” (Agree!), then the decision stayed. If not - the judges had to deliberate again. The decision agreed to by the gathering was a must for everyone.

The Shors were a shamanic people. The world according to Shors consisted of 3 parts. The Sky Land, the home of the supreme deity Ul’gen; the middle land were people live and the Under Land - the home of evil spirits and their leader Erlik. The middle land was full of spirits - the masters of taiga-forest, mountains, rivers and lakes. All contacts with the spirits were through shamans. The shamans were called upon in cases of sickness, funerals, before hunts, during a childbirth, before harvests. Only shamans could do the ceremonies for Ul’gen.

In 1926, the soviets created so-called the Shors Ethno-Cultural region. During that period a lot was done for the Shor traditional culture - the Shor “intelligentsia” was developed, books and text-books in Shor language were published.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of the 30ths, the Soviets discover huge deposits of coal, iron and gold in the area. By the late 30ths large numbers of non-indigenous people were arriving to the Mountain Shoria to work in the coal and iron mines and on the steel production plants. In 1939 the Shors Ethno-Cultural region was officially annulled.

From that point on the Shors traditional culture went into a rapid decline. Assimilation, loss of language and traditions became overwhelming. Beginning the Stalin’s times the Kuznetzk region was covered by the intense network of Gulag labor camps. That have had the devastating effect on the Shors morals and spiritual ethics.

At the late 80ths - beginning of 90ths a revival of the Shors culture and tradition have started. The Association of Shor people was created with branches throughout the Mountain Shoria. Due to the work of the Association, in every major administration of the region a position of deputy administrator on ethnic issues was created. In 1993 the Shor became a member of Association of Indigenous Smallnumbered Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russian Federation. At the local regional University a Shor language course is being taught, as well as in some village schools.

But there are many problems lie before the Shor people and the main issue is the issue of land and compensations for the destroyed land and the way of life. Almost 90% of the traditional territory of the Shor is destroyed by the mining industry. The authorities do not want even to consider a discussion on the issue.

Liubov Tchulzhanova,
Shor, IIC

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