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