As Christmas approaches, one needs to pay due homage to the various peoples who comprise the aboriginal natives of the Earth’s Far North. I saw this piece in Izvestia, penned by reporters Alexandra Anikeeva and Evgenia Priyemskaya. There are some interesting photographs of people and reindeer. These people represent that portion of humanity which (way back in the mists of history) migrated from warmer climes to the Far North, and there learned to survive in highly inhospitable conditions.
What follows is straight translation of the text. Each paragraph corresponds to one of the photos in the gallery. I can’t copy the photos, so you need to flip back and forth between the linked piece with its slide show; and this text.
Over 40 doctors took up working in these Arctic settlements of Yakutia during the years 2014-2016. We learned about this at the beginning of December 2017. Currently at the Far North dwell the representatives of around 40 aboriginal peoples with small populations. The customs and traditions of these harsh northern lands are laid out in the gallery of the iz.ru portal.
Despite the fact that the population of several of these aboriginal peoles does not even exceed 50,000 persons (for example, in the case of the Nentsy people), each one of these peoples has its own way of life and traditions. This affects, for starters, their choice of the type of home. But the most common type of domicile in the Russian North is the so-called “chum”, a conical-shaped tent which is covered with bark, felt or animal skins.
It is thought that the representatives of these aboriginal peoples are able to adapt to the tough climate conditions due to a particular type of metabolism, which makes their oganisms less susceptible to stress and to the effects of their surroundings.
The small peoples are known for their traditional crafts — many here engage in bone carvings, for which they use reindeer antlers; and also wood carvings. The women engage in sewing/beading.
The organism is assisted by a particular type of diet, which was formulated centuries ago. People living in the Far North react worse than most to unknown foods — frequently the change of diet is enough to make a person fall seriously ill. Among the complications which civilization brings is the increase in carbohydrates since, traditionally in this region, proteins prevailed [in the diet].
The inhabitants of the North wear clothes which are mostly hand-sewn. The most common material is reindeer hide, or the pelts of wild animals, dogs, or even seals. The most popular fabric is a type of suede called “rovduga“, which is made of the hide of a reindeer or elk.
In these parts the dog is both a source of warmth and assistant shepherd; as well as a means of location [yalensis: they mean sled-pulling].
In the North, men and women are practically equals. The duty of wives is to sew clothes out of skins, maintain order and keep the heat going in the tent. However, if the husband-hunter suddenly falls ill, most women can easily switch roles and go out on the hunt.
Children are taught the traditional arts and crafts from an early age, so that they can adapt to adult life as soon as possible.
In the Far North, reindeer are the main source of livelihood. Their meat helps people survive through the long arctic winter; from their skins people make clothing and cover their homes to conserve heat. The locals respond to the animals with gratitude and care. As a rule, many families even have a reindeer “pet” who is allowed inside the tent.
These people have been able to survive in this harsh northern land, not just due to their adaptation to extreme cold. They easily learn and incorporate any [available] practices, and therefore can survive with complete independence for a very long period of time — among them are many good hunters, gatherers, beekeepers [yalensis: I had to look this one up — bortnik, a very old type of beekeeping, in which bees are kept in tree hollows, and the honey collected in buckets], and even blacksmiths.
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That last paragaph, I think, is very interesting. Some people believe that aboriginal peoples always want to go on living as they always have, with no change, and no contact with the outside world. I think, more likely, they only avoid contact when such contact is hostile to them. I believe that they want to be allowed to go on living (i.e., not exterminated), to be included in the larger world (but not as its slaves) and to continue their development as human beings. And, like all people everywhere, I think they also want the chance to teach what they know, to offer something to the world, and to be appreciated and respected.
And with that thought, I wish everybody a Happy Christmas, as the joyous holidays approach!