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Chapter 11: Reindeer Herders and Hunters of Eastern Siberia: Life of Kalar Evenks
Olga Povoroznyuk Introduction Northern Russia, embracing vast territories, is characterised by extreme geographical and climatic conditions. In spite of these factors, for millennia human bands have been populating northern frontiers and developing unique adaptations to the environment and subsistence base adequate for active exploitation of its resources. Among other economic and cultural types of Northern ethnic groups, taiga reindeer hunters and herders, namely, Evenks, present a vivid example of human adaptation to extreme environment. Large in number but highly dispersed, even compared with other indigenous peoples, Evenks populated vast northern areas: by the seventeenth century the density of the Evenk population equalled 1 person per 200 sq. km. (Dolgikh, 1960: 52–3). Taiga hunters and herders’ economy was diversiﬁed: their traditional subsistence base included hunting wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and other artiodactyls, whereas other industries played a subsidiary role. In ethnographic literature Evenk taiga reindeer herding is described as a tungus (Siberian) type of reindeer herding characterized by use of a domesticated reindeer for riding, for transportation and, partly, for pulling sledges, also by use of hard stirrupless saddles, milking doe deer, and using a ‘bait’ deer in the absence of a pastoral dog (Vainstein, 1972: 6, 10–14). Domestication of reindeer in relatively late periods of indigenous peoples’ history led to drastic changes in the reindeer herders’ life, subsistence base and adaptation (Khruschev and Klokov, 2001: 4), and predetermined a qualitative leap in the use of living space and biological resources of the taiga landscape. New reindeer moss...
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