Our Beautiful World

The Indigenous People of Kamchatka

10. The Indigenous People of Kamchatka

Man of the Itelmen tribe
© http://www.kamchatka.org.ru
  Archeological evidence shows that people have been living on southern Kamchatka as long as
most indigenous people anywhere else, that is for some thousand years.
In newer times, about the end of the 17th century, Itelmens and Ainu *) lived in the far south.
For an economy based on hunting and gathering, Kamchatka was rather densely inhabited.
Small communities dotted the coasts and river valleys; many of them were not more than a
day's walk from one another.

*) The Ainu, an isolated group of unknown origin, inhabited Southern Sakhalin,
     the Kuril Islands, and probably Southern Kamchatka.

When at the beginning of the 18th century, the inhabitants were forced to pay a fur tribute
(yasak), violent uprisings were the result. Within just two or three decades the indigenous
population decreased significantly and settlements became scattered. In fact, the population decreased so dramatically that the volume of yasak fall so drastically, that the government
had to reajust their tribute policy.

Now the population of the Itelmen stabilized at about 1,500 - 2,000 people.
But as time went by, at the beginning of the 20th century, Itelmens and Ainu had been
assimilated into the Russian population, not only through mixed marriages but also through
mutual exchange in social sphere, particularly in economic activities.

Mobility among all people in Russia led to great ethnic heterogeneity. Kamchatka is home to
many different minorieties, including people identifying themselves as 'indigenous peoples of the
Russian North,' but only Itelmens, Aleuts, Koryaks and Evens are considered indigenous to
what is now Kamchatka Oblast.

Aleuts from the Aleutian Islands were resettled to the previously uninhabited
Commander Islands, to expand the Russian fur trade. Today, about 275 Aleuts people live
in the only settlement on the Commander Islands, Nikolskoe on Bering Island.

In the first half on the nineteenth century, Evens from the Okhotsk region migrated to the
Bystraya River basin, where they now continue to fish, hunt and herd reindeer. Most of them
live in the villages of Anavgai and Esso in the Bystrinsky Raion, but they comprise only 30
percent of the total population.. In 1980 those Evens counted about 800 in this province.

 Above text is excerpts from the book'East of the Sun' by Benson Bobrick,  Aleuts by Robert Moisseev.

Left: Nomads of Kamchatka have beautiful features. The Even people have a Mongolian
origin distinguished by their marvellous almond shaped eyes.
Right: Portrait of a middle aged Even man. Nomad's skin is very damaged
by the severe weather conditions in which these people live.
Pictures by © Daisy Gilardini - Courtesy http://www.travelkamchatka.com

The Evens and Evenky (tunguses*) are similar by culture. The Evens ancestors having come
to Kamchatka changed their traditional occupation hunting for reindeer breeding. Russians
arriving to Kamchatka called the Evens roaming from place to place along the Okhotsk seaside
"lamuts", it means "living by the sea". Herdsmen they called "orochi", it means "reindeer men".
Beside reindeer breeding and hunting the coastal Evens caught fish and hunted marine animals.
For fishing they made different kinds of dams and traps. Blacksmith's work was very popular
with the Evens.

*) Tungus people (Evenki)
     A people of Mongolian origin, now living in great part of Siberia, from Okhotsk Sea in the
     East to river Ob in the west, but probably not more than about 20.000 left.
     Their main-occupation is fur-hunting and reindeer. Some of them in the South are farmers.

The Koryaks are the main population of the northern Kamchatka part. They have their own
autonomy - the Koryaksky Region. The name of this people as Krasheninnikov and Steller
thought originated from "khora" - "deer". But Koryaks don't call themselves with this word.
The coastal residents call themselves as "nimilany" (nymylan) - "residents of a settled village".
Nomads herding deer called themselves "chavchuvens", it means "reindeer people".

For the chavchuvens reindeer breading was the main, even the only way of living. Deer gave
them everything necessary: meat, skin for clothes (reindeer skin for coveralls, footwear) and
for building of transportable dwellings (yarangas), bones were used for making tools and
household articles, fat - for dwelling lightening. Deer were a means of conveyance either.

For the Nimilans the main way to survive was fishing. Fish was generally caught in rivers
with the help of stinging-nettle (it took about two years to make one net and it was used only
for one year). In settled villages marine hunting was the second way of surviving after fishing.

Chukchi people
Picture in center: © Phil Douglis
The Northern Koryaks' neighbours were the Chukchis, "reindeer men" (chauchu), some of
them moved to Kamchatka. As for the household the Chukchi were like the Koryaks -
reindeer breeders. A holder of less than 100 reindeer was considered poor and couldn't
keep a herd. The Chukchis are native Kamchatka people, now a lot of them live here.
Like the Koryaks there were the Chukchis who lived in settled villages and provided their
living by fishing and hunting for marine animals.

The Chukchis are perfect seamen skillfully operating boats on a cold sea. It is well known
that their "fleet" used to trade with the Eskimoes launching towards the American shore.
Main hunting implements were a bow and arrows, a spear and a harpoon. A bow and a spear
were used in hunting for wild reindeer and snow sheep, a harpoon and a lance - in marine
hunting. Arrow-, spear- and harpoon-heads were made of bone and stone.

Above text is excerpts from 'Native people of Kamchatka' by Travel Company 'Kamchatka's Vision'

The people - their children - are just like anyone else on this planet.
However, there are many different tribes.
Courtesy © http://www.travelkamchatka.com

 0. Main menu
 1. Preface
 2. Where on Earth is Kamchatka?
 3. Animals - Wildlife
 4. Birds - Birding
 5. Flora - The Flowers
 6. Sealife
 7. Valley of Geysers
 8. The Volcanoes of Kamchatka
 9. The Forests of Kamchatka
11. Vitus Bering, explorer
12. Georg Steller, naturalist
13. Siberia

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