The Red Book of Peoples of the Russian Empire: the Aliutors

October 7, 2008 at 6:48 am | Posted in Language, Naming, Siberia | Leave a comment
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More information from the Red Book of peoples of the Russian Empire:

Self-designation

Like the Chavchu group of the Chukchi and the Koryak, the Aliutor people were mostly nomadic reindeer-breeders which is exactly what their self-designation, ramkyken, means. The earliest reports of settled off-shore Aliutors date from the end of the 17th century. They called themselves elutel’u. S. Krasheninnikov, who explored Kamchatka in 1755, considered the Aliutors to be a separate ethnic group. Various documents from the 18th century also give separate mention to the Koryaks, Aliutors and Chukchis. In the 1930s the Aliutors were confused with the Koryaks, and both were called nymylan. The name Aliutors, reinstated later, obviously comes from the previous designation of the settled tribes. Hence also, the name of the Oliutor district.

Habitat

The Aliutors live on the Kamchatka Isthmus in northeast Siberia. Their territory encompasses nearly 15,000 sq. km. stretching from the Karaga Bay of the Bering Sea to Oliutorka (formerly Alutorskoye), and from Rekinniki to Podkagernaya on the coast of the Okhotsk Sea. Administratively, they belong to the Koryak Autonomous District, Kamchatka Region, Russian Federation. From 1930 to 1977 the territory had the status of a National District. Beside the Oliutor District, Aliutors live in the southern part of the Karaga district and the northern part of the Tigil district. The administrative centre is Tilichik (Tyliran) in the Oliutor district. Most of the territory belongs to the zone of woodland tundra. The climate is influenced by both the Bering and the Okhotsk Seas.

Population

No official data on the Aliutor population is available. A report of 1934 mentions them as a sizable ethnic group after the Chavchus. Nowadays, the Oliutor district, like the Koryak Autonomous District displays enormous ethnic variety. In all probability official statistics still do not distinguish the Aliutors from the Koryaks. Their actual number is possibly 2,000 to 3,000.

Anthropologically the Aliutor people, like the Chukchi and the Koryak belong to the mongoloid Northern-Asiatic race. They are characterized by a swarthy complexion, dark eyes and straight hair, a short and stocky figure, a very broad flat face and a conspicuous Mongolian fold. There is little facial hair.

Language

The Aliutor language is a member of the Chukchi-Kamchatka group of the Paleo-Asiatic or Paleo-Siberian languages. Genetically, it is connected to the Chukchi, Koryak, Kerek and Itelmen languages. In the 1930s Aliutor was still unanimously considered one of the four southern dialects of the Koryak language, but since the 1950s, it has been regarded as a separate language. Morphologically, the language most resembles Chukchi. In terms of structure Aliutor is an incorporating or polysynthetic language.

There are three dialects: Ukin, Karaga and Palana, but neither the dialectal division nor the individual dialects have been sufficiently studied. According to P. Skorik, the Karaga and Palana dialects could be classified as cognate languages of Aliutor.

As with the Chukchi language, there are regular pronunciation differences in men’s and women’s usages. Women say ts where men have l or s (e.g. plaku versus ptsaku ‘footwear’). Men’s usage is considered improper for women and vice versa.

Through close contacts with their kindred peoples the Aliutors are able to use their mother tongue to communicate with the Koryak and the Chukchi. The role of Russian has grown since the 1930s and since the 1960s the Aliutors have voluntarily started to change over to the Russian language as this schooling helps them gain work in a Russian environment.

Writing

There is no written language. Instead, the Aliutors, who were then considered just a dialect group of the Koryak, used the Koryak written language introduced in 1923. A few articles in the so-called Aliutor dialect were published in a local newspaper. Since 1958, Aliutor has been considered a separate language (P. Skorik), but this has not meant a higher prestige, more attention or more active research. Communication with neighbouring peoples is still in either Koryak or Russian. Russian is also the sole language of education and cultural activities.

All research on the Aliutor people dates from recent times. The first notes on their language were made by S. Stebnitski in 1927. He was also the author of the first survey of the phonetics, morphology and syntax of the language (1934, 1938), but, as everybody else he considered it a Koryak dialect. Any attention hitherto paid to the Aliutor language and its dialectal divisions can hardly be considered sufficient. A survey by I. Vdovin (1956) and a study of the Karaga dialect from the point of view of experimental phonetics made by G. Melnikov (1940) are unpublished. The longest publication available is a chapter dedicated to the Aliutor language by A. Zhukova, published in Vol. 5 of The Languages of the Peoples of the USSR (1968).

History

The Aliutors have long been considered as part of the Koryak people. Yet the Aliutor reindeer-breeders ramkyken could be distinguished from Chavchus as the Chavchus’ main activities were fishing, and seal hunting, and their herds were not large. So the language and life-style of the ramkyken were more resemblant of those of the settled Aliutors for whom fishing and the hunting of sea animals was the main livelihood.

By the end of the 18th century the resistance of the Kamchatka peoples was broken by Russians. The territories of the Aliutors were also conquered. In the 19th century Russian Orthodox missionaries were followed by Russian merchants. As well as being swindle by the merchants — often pulled off with the help of vodka and promissory lists — the Aliutor people were subjected to the whims and compulsions of Russian bureaucracy.

Major changes were brought about by the establishment of Soviet power in 1923. In 1930, the Koryak National District was formed. Along with the introduction of collectivization the reindeer-breeders were forced to settle down. This had a far-reaching effect on a large part of the Aliutors as well. Their whole life-style changed. New economic relations were woven accompanied by ideological reorientation and the abolishing of illiteracy. Initially, the Aliutors learned the Koryak script, but the use of written Russian gradually came to dominate. A ‘militant atheism’ was propagated to counter shamanism and religion. Russian homes and machines, their education system and traditions in clothing and diet were held up as examples of progress. Nowadays all of these things are constituents of the normal way of life. The use of the Aliutor language and the observance of local customs are derided by Russians who consider such conduct primitive.

The fate of the Aliutors is a sad example of the accumulation of negative phenomena in accompaniment with the advance of civilization. The political and industrial innovations have become a danger not only to the survival of the Aliutors’ own culture but also to their whole physical existence.

Alaska Native Collections

September 28, 2008 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Alaska, Education, Maps, Naming, Siberia | 4 Comments
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Today I want to share a very good general resource I found las week: the Alaska Native Collections site, by the Smithsonian institute. Despite its name, the site includes information about Alaska but also about Russia or other polar contruies. The site is not only beautifully designed but also packed with a lot of maps, photographies and information, allowing the visitor to learn about the arctic cultures easily. If you just want to learn a few basics, you can do a quick reading, if you want to deep more, you just need to open the “Read more” sections.

Through the Sharing Knowledge project, members of Indigenous communities from across Alaska and northeast Siberia are working with the Smithsonian Institution and the Anchorage Museum to interpret the materials, techniques, cultural meanings, history, and artistry represented by objects in the western arctic and subarctic collections of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C. The Arctic Studies Center, which organized and implemented the project, is a special research program within the Department of Anthropology, NMNH, with offices in Washington and at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska.

The goals of Sharing Knowledge are to make the Smithsonian collections accessible to all and to support cross-cultural learning among Indigenous home communities, in schools, and around the world. Interest in the extraordinary arts and cultural heritage of the North is truly global in scope. Participants in this project are Elders, scholars, artists, and teachers who invite all to explore, learn, and appreciate.

The combined holdings of NMNH and NMAI are vast—more than 30,000 items from Alaska and northeast Siberia, most collected between the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century. The great majority has never been published, exhibited, or seen by contemporary residents of source communities in the North. Collaborative study of these collections for Sharing Knowledge began in 2001-2005, with a series of trips to the museums in Washington by more than forty Elders and regional representatives. This documentation process will continue as many more objects are brought from Washington to new Smithsonian exhibition galleries and Arctic Studies Center facilities at the Anchorage Museum, starting in 2010. Through its alliance with the Arctic Studies Center (since 1993) and its planned physical expansion to house these programs and collections, the Anchorage Museum has become an important Smithsonian partner in fostering the collaborative work of museums and Native communities.

Object records on this site include edited transcripts of museum discussions as well as summaries drawn from history, anthropology, and recorded oral tradition. The Cultures section includes regional introductions and information about contributors. The Resources section offers reading materials, web links, and a curriculum guide with lesson plans designed for middle and high school students.

The Sharing Knowledge site reflects the current state of an on-going project, with inevitable gaps and uneven representation of the different cultural regions. It will grow over time as more information is recorded and new contributors can be brought into the discussion. Please watch the site for continually updated materials and features.

Photography (C) Larry McNeil

As I mentioned this place has tones and tones of info about the cultures and the people, so it seems an unforgetable place to ask for help whenever I can manage to do the big trip!

The Red Book of Russian People: the Aleuts

September 17, 2008 at 8:26 am | Posted in Naming, Siberia | 6 Comments
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As promised, I am digging in the Red Book of Russian People website. Today it is the turn of the first group of tribes, the Paleo-Asiatic ones. And we start with the Aleutians. I wrote about them in this other post, and today we will read more about them:

The Aleuts

The present self-designation aleut was first suggested by the Russians who reached the Aleutian Islands in 1741 during an expedition led by V. Bering. Written sources have used the name since 1747 and gradually it has been adopted by the Aleuts. Final consolidation of the name took place in the first decades of this century. According to G. Menovshchikov the name is derived from an Aleut word allíthuh meaning ‘community; host’. The old self-designation unangan evidently applied to the eastern Aleuts only, meaning probably ‘coastal people’ (K. Bergsland). Local groupings and inhabitants of different islands are known to have also used other names for themselves.

Habitat

The Aleut people are the native inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands, the southwestern part of the Alaskan peninsula and the off-shore islands of Shumagin. Since the beginning of the 19th century there have been resettled Aleuts living on Commander Islands (Bering and Mednyi) which are under Soviet jurisdiction. The Aleut District in the Kamchatka Region was established in 1932. In 1969 the Aleuts of those two islands were gathered to live in Nikolskoye, Bering Island.

Population

In the middle of the 18th century, when Russians first explored the place, the islands were nearly all inhabited. The number of the Aleuts was estimated at approximately 25,000. Mass murder and enslavement of the natives reduced their numbers drastically. According to the data supplied by the missionary I. Veniaminov in 1834 there were less than 2,500 Aleuts left. The 1918 epidemics of smallpox and grippe took a further toll. In 1945 the anthropologist A. Hrolicka estimated the number of Aleuts at about 1,400. Nowadays the world number of the Aleuts is believed to be about 6,000. Part of the Eskimos of southeastern and southern Alaska also consider themselves Aleut. In the 1970s there were about 500 Aleuts living on the Commander Islands, but by 1984 their number had dropped to 300. On the US part of the Aleutian Islands a census was carried out in 1960 according to whose data there were 2,100 Aleut (mostly half-bred) who made up 35 % of the local population.

Anthropologically Aleuts are close to the Eskimo people belonging to the mongoloid Arctic race. Their mingling with other types often emphasized in academic literature is evidently not well grounded. Newer results prove that despite the historical heterogeneity of the Commander Aleuts their genetic structure is Aleut.

Origin

The Aleut people were believed to have first arrived on the Aleutian Islands from the coast of northeastern Asia or from Alaska, not earlier than 3,000 years ago. Latest research suggests that the aleuts arrival must have happened considerably earlier. Now the settlement of the Aleutians is associated with the time when there was still a land connection between America and Asia, that is, no later than 10–12 thousand years ago.

Language

The Aleut language, belonging to the Eskimo-Aleut languages, is considered as a member of the Paleo-Asiatic group. According to incomplete data the Aleut language can be divided into three dialects: Attu (Western), Atka and Unalaska (Eastern). The differences are small and do not impede mutual intelligibility. The present-day Aleuts are bilingual. The American Aleuts speak English, while the Asiatic Aleuts had already been russified by the beginning of the 19th century.

According to G. Menovshchikov the Aleuts of Bering Island speak the Atka dialect with a well-preserved basic vocabulary and grammatical structure. The version previously used on the Mednyi (Copper) Island was of the Attu dialect. In addition the strong Russian influence has produced a strange pidgin where verbs are conjugated by means of Russian suffixes, etc. Menovshchikov has suggested that the pidgin which is still spoken to a certain extent on Mednyi Island was at one time a lingua franca for Russians and the Aleut people.

Although the Aleut language has relatively much in common with Eskimo languages, the grammatical and lexical differences are considerable. The glotto-chronological method dates the linguistic divergence of the Aleut and the Eskimo peoples as at least 1000–2000 years back. Common developments can be traced in the phonology and word structure, but there are very few common roots in the lexis of the two languages. It is believed that the phonology of Aleut is more ancient than the Eskimo language.

The linguistic and cultural influence of Russian started to make itself felt by the 18th century. By the beginning of the 19th century practically all Aleuts living on Russian territories had been converted to Russian Orthodoxy. This was an efficient means of checking the local culture and language. On Bering Island the Russian influence has not penetrated to grammar yet, but some of it has been noticed in the vocabulary. The inhabitants of Mednyi Island are very much isolated from the remaining Aleut area. Nowadays their ordinary means of communication is Russian. Aleut has been preserved fragmentarily by the older members of but a few families but in general Aleut has receded before Russian.

Another strong wave of Russian swept over the islands during the Soviet period. Many Aleuts have left their native islands in search of better education. Ethnically pure marriages are rare, in most cases the spouse is found among another nation. According to R. Lyapunova the number of Aleuts living at Nikolskoye, Bering Island is about 300. About 200 live elsewhere, mostly on the Kamchatka peninsula. The same author points out that outside their own native islands the half-bred Aleuts refrain from calling themselves Aleut, but returning home they resume their ethnic identity.

History

[…]

Ethnic culture

The Aleut people have always derived their livelihood from the hunting of sea mammals (seals, fur-seals, etc.) and fishing. In the severe polar conditions the gathering of everything edible was also of great importance. Hunting and fishing gear was made of stone, bone and wood. Family relations were characterized by polygamy (both ways), giving away children to uncles to foster, and the mutual exchange of children.

According to traditional practice the catch and game belonged to the whole community, not to the hunter and his family only. The dwellings were half-earthen and large. Male as well as female clothing was made of animal and bird skins. Mats and baskets woven of grass were popular in every household. Traditional food consisted of the meat of sea mammals and seabirds, fish (eaten raw) and molluscs.

The sources of Russian cultural influence were the Russian administration, the Russian Orthodox Church and the parochial school. Folk art (pantomime dances, for example) still survived, but were practised in jealously guarded secrecy for fear of Russian disparagement.

Nowadays mink-farming and cattle-breeding as well as horticulture have developed in addition to the traditional branches of economy.

Those Aleuts who were forcefully resettled to the Commander Islands had to accommodate their life-style to the local natural conditions. There the winters are colder and there is more snow than on the Aleutian Islands. The inhabited northern part of Bering is just flat tundra, and Mednyi is rocky. New means of transport — the dog harness (also in summer) were introduced.

Nowadays folk culture survives to a certain extent thanks to the Museum of Local Lore, Children’s Art School and a folklore ensemble.

Writing

The Aleut people became an object of research following the Russian occupation. The initiative belonged to the missionary I. Veniaminov. Nowadays extensive research projects are under way in the USA. An Aleut writing system with its base the Cyrillic alphabet, was devised in the 19th century by I. Veniaminov and V. Metsvetov. As on Bering Island there was a parochial school (belonging to the Russian-American company), and nearly all adult men could read and write in Russian. In addition there was always a native Aleut around teaching children the same skills in the Aleut language. In 1867 when the Aleutian Islands were ceded to the USA the writing system fell into disuse. The teaching of the Aleut language to the US Aleuts was resumed in the middle of the 1970s only.

It seems that the situation it is very bad for them after the Russian occupation. It may be difficult to reach them during the travel, as they are perhaps hard to locate and contact. By the way, I should start thinking on updating my route map!

… and a bit more about Kamchatka

August 1, 2008 at 9:43 pm | Posted in History, Siberia | Leave a comment
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I am having a very bad week, but I just wanted to post some info I found the other day,  when I was searching stuff from Kamchatka. This comes from Social Geography of Kamchatka:


The Koryak Autonomous Okrug is supposedly the homeland for Koryaks, who are traditionally from the Kamchatka Peninsula and the surrounding mainland. Actually Itelmens, Chukchi, and Evens have also been indigenous to the area for centuries as well.

Before the Soviets closed the region after World War II, Kamchatka was a regular stop for trading ships from the United States, Japan, Canada, and many European countries. When I visit the smaller villages, where most of the population is native, elders love to tell me about all the great stuff their parents bought from Americans. Men tell me about Winchesters, knives, and animal traps. Women sometimes show me tea kettles which have become family heirlooms.

Yeltsin opened the closed region in 1991, and it is quickly integrating into the Pacific Rim social and economic region. Local authorities prefer to keep a tight leash on foreigners, however, and travel around Kamchatka and the surrounding mainland (Magadan Oblast and Chukotka Okrug) is complicated, or worse, when you don’t have all your documents in order. No matter what the local consulate or embassy tells you, you will need the names of the major towns that you plan to visit on your visa. If you want a year-long, uninterrupted stay in Kamchatka, you need a multi-entry visa. Standard, three-month visas will be renewed only for three additional months in Kamchatka, no matter what. I recommend contacting my favorite Kamchatkan travel agent, KamchatIntour, for the latest information on travel in Kamchatka.

The Koryak Autonomous Region (Okrug) is located in the northern part of the peninsula and includes part of the surrounding mainland. It is about the size of Arizona with a population of about 35,000 people. Only one-fifth of those are Koryaks. Chukchi, Itel’mens, and Evens constitute the other native groups in the Regions, but Russians and Ukrainians make up over 75% of the total population. A steady emigration of non-natives back to their homes in the European part of the former Soviet Union has changed these number since the 1989 census, but reliable current statistics are not available.

The Region is divided into four districts or counties (rayoni): Tigil, Karaga, Oliutor, and Penzhina. The Regional capital, Palana, is the largest town with about 4000 people. Karaginskii District, capital Ossora, is the most populous and developed area. The northern districts of Penzhinskii and Oliutorskii have the most indigenous people who still use their traditional language in everyday life.

Well, a bit more of information. It says that they still use their traditional language in everyday life, this is crucial! So good news from Kamchatka!

Native people of Kamchatka

July 29, 2008 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Maps, Naming, Siberia | Leave a comment
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Some times you find out information in a weird way, as it happened to me last week. I was finding material fot the blog, and I ended up in a website with information of the native people of Kamchatka, a big big island in Russia. The surpising thing for me was that the site was owned by a travel agency! Anyway, it was a good starting, this is what they say:

Koryaks

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 Kryaks don’t call themselves with this word. The coastal residents call themselves as “nimilany” – “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 thansportable 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. Going out to sea on skin covered baydarkas was common. Harbor seal and whales became the target of harpoons, which were tied to the bow, and were killed with stone tip spears. Marine animals, skin was used for boat, ski covering, footwear, bags, sacks and belts. Domestic activities were highly developed – wood and bone carving, metal works, national clothes and carpets making, embroiling with beads, braiding. A lot of such works are displayed at the Museum of Local Lore. Tourists can admire the skillfulness of the masters. The Nimilans lived in groups: in winter – in half-dug-houses, in summer – in booths with their families, they used to catch fish, to hunt, and to pick berries. The Chavchuvens lived in temporary settlements consisting of some skin-covered yarangs. They used to herd reindeer and to dress skin. Hunting and fishing were of the secondary value for them. They migrated on dog- and reindeer-sledges.

Itelmens

The name of the nationality means “living here”. The south bound of settling is the Lopatka Cape. Northern one – the Tigil River on the west coast, the Uka River is on the east coast. Ancient Itlmen settlements were located on the banks of the Kamchatka (Uykoal), Yelovka (Kooch), Bolshaya, Bistraya, Avacha rivers and on the Avacha Harbor coast.

At the end of the 17 – beginning of the 18 centuries, when Russian explorers crossed the central part of Kamchatka, the Itelmens were at the level of disintegration primitive communal system development.
At the settlement consisting of a few half-dug-houses the folk Toyony lived. Some names of Toytony are written on the of Kamchatka. Itelmens life in summer was spent near some water resources and on them. They moved along the rivers in whole-carved boats made mainly of poplar. They caught fish with threshed nettle nets, built trapping dams. Some fish was cooked as yukola, some was burried for some time under the ground. But lack of salt didn’t allow to store much fish.

Hunting was of the same value for this folk – fox, sable, bear, snow sheep; at the coast area – marine animals: sea lion, seal, sea otter. Also gathering was very popular (edible roots, edible and officinal plants, berries). Means of conveyance were made of birch (sledge and cargo sledge with soft belts). The ancient sledges were richly decorated.

The Itelmens ate a lot of fish, preferred baked one (chuprikh) and fish cakes “telno”, they ate young sprouts and runners of Filepinolium Maxim, Heracleum Dulse Fish (processed and ate them only after they acquired stinging power); as a medicine against scurvy they used cedar cones with dry salmon caviar chasing this mixture with tea. Food was seasoned with fat – favorite spice of all northern peoples. Women-Itelmens had a custom to wear wigs. Those who had the most luxurious and the thickest one was highly honored. Those fashionable women never wore hats. Young women did up their heavy black raven-wing-like hair in lot of thin plaits decorating them with small hair wigs in the shape of hats. Perhaps, that’s why the Chukchis and Koryaks might have called the Itelmens kamchadals, because in both languages the word “kamcha” means “curly”, “disheveled”, and “levit” or “lyavit” means “head”.

Itelmens clothes were extraordinary, they were made of sable, fox, snow sheep, dog’s skin with numerous ermine tassels and fluffy edged sleeves, hood, collar and hem. Steller wrote: “:the most beautiful reindeer skin coveralls (kukhlyankas) were decorated on the collars, sleeves and hems with dog’s fur, and on the kaftan (short reindeer skin coverall) was hanged with hundreds of seal’s tassels coloured red, they dangled to and fro at every movement”. Such Itelmens’ clothing made an impression of hairiness.

Evens and Evenky (tunguses)

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.

The Evens did not wear blind clothes like the Koryaks, Itelmens and Chukcis did, but unlacing ones. Complete set of a man’s wear consisted of a short knee-reaching reindeer parka with running down lapels, trousers, a chest apron put on the parka, knee protectors, furstockings and boots made of reindeer led skin with soles of bearded seal skin. Wearing especially women’s one was decorated with beads. In contrast to other natives of Kamchatka the Evens didn’t use dogsleds and didn’t wear blind clothes.

Chukchis

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. Unfortunately, history of these two peoples’ neighbourhood knows a lot of examples of wars for herds. 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. In catching all water-fowl and game the Chukchis used bola (an instrument for catching birds on the wing) and pratsha (a military weapon either). The protection armour was made of antlers, walrus’ skin and tusks. Main Chukchis‘ means of conveyance was reindeer, but like the Koryaks and Itelmens they also used dogsledges. On the sea the Chukchis moved in kayaks accommodating 20-30 men. With favorable wind they used square sails made of reindeer suede (rovdugas) like the KoryaksNimilans, and for a better balance they tied to board sides stocking-like sealskin, which was filled with air.

Aleuts

The Aleuts – ancient Aleutian Islands natives. They called themselves “unangan”, it means “seaside residents”. Main traditional Aleuts‘ occupations were hunting for marine animals and fishing. For winter the Aleuts stored eggs from birds colonies on the seashore.

The dwellings of the Aleuts were similar to the traditional half-dughouses but slightly different. Among the household articles there were baskets, bags plaited from grass; for storing of fat, yukola, crowberries with fat and so on dry seal stomach was used. On the Bering Island dogsleds became a very popular means of conveyance. For wandering in the mountains the Aleuts of the Medny Island used broad skis covered with seal skin for the nap would help while climbing not to slide down from the mountain.

Did you read that? Aleut people in Kamchatka! I find this connection amazing. I am reading a book about genetics, if I finish it some day – I will, I will… – I will summarize the main information related to this blog. Anyway, I also searched a bit about Kamchatka, as, to be honest, I did not now almost anything about it! So thanks to the Wiki, here you have some facts:

Illustration from Stepan Krasheninnikov’s Account of the Land of Kamchatka (1755).

The Kamchatka Peninsula (Russian: полуо́стров Камча́тка) is a 1,250-kilometer long peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of 472,300 km². It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west.[1] Immediately offshore along the Pacific coast of the peninsula runs the 10,500 meter deep Kuril-Kamchatka Trench.

[…] Muscovite Russia claimed the Kamchatka Peninsula in the 17th century. Ivan Kamchaty, Simon Dezhnev, the Cossack Ivan Rubets and other Russian explorers made exploratory trips to the area during the reign of Tsar Alexis, and returned with tales of a land of fire, rich with fish and fur.

In 1697, Vladimir Atlasov, founder of the Anadyr settlement, led a group of 65 Cossacks and 60 Yukaghir natives to investigate the peninsula. He built two forts along the Kamchatka River which became trading posts for Russian fur trappers. From 1704 to 1706, they settled the Cossack colonies of Verkhne- (upper) and Nizhne- (lower) Kamchatsky. Far away from the eye of their masters, the Cossacks mercilessly ruled the indigenous Kamchadal.

Excesses were such that the North West Administration in Yakutsk sent Atlasov with the authority (and the cannons) to restore government order, but it was too late. The local Cossacks had too much power in their own hands and in 1711 Atlasov was killed. From this time on, Kamchatka became a self-regulating region, with minimal interference from Yakutsk.

By 1713, there were approximately five hundred Cossacks living in the area. Uprisings were common, the largest being in 1731 when the settlement of Nizhnekamchatsky was razed and its inhabitants massacred. The remaining Cossacks regrouped and, reinforced with firearms and cannons, were able to put down the rebellion.

The Second Kamchatka Expedition by the Danish explorer Vitus Bering, in the employ of the Russian Navy, began the “opening” of Kamchatka in earnest, helped by the fact that the government began to use the area as a place of exile. In 1755, Stepan Krasheninnikov published the first detailed description of the peninsula, An Account of the Land of Kamchatka. The Russian government encouraged the commercial activities of the Russian-American Company by granting land to newcomers on the peninsula. By 1812, the indigenous population had fallen to fewer than 3,200, while the Russian population had risen to 2,500.

In 1854, the French and British, who were battling Russian forces on the Crimean Peninsula, attacked Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. During the Siege of Petropavlovsk, 988 men with a mere 68 guns managed successfully to defend the outpost against 6 ships with 206 guns and 2,540 French and British soldiers. Despite the heroic defense, Petropavlovsk was abandoned as a strategic liability after the Anglo-French forces withdrew. The next year when a second enemy force came to attack the port, they found it deserted. Frustrated, the ships bombarded the city and withdrew.

The next fifty years were lean ones for Kamchatka. The military naval port was moved to Ust-Amur and in 1867 Alaska was sold to the United States, making Petropavlovsk obsolete as a transit point for traders and explorers on their way to the American territories. In 1860, Primorsky (Maritime) Region was established and Kamchatka was placed under its jurisdiction. In 1875, the Kuril Islands were ceded to Japan in return for Russian sovereignty over Sakhalin. The Russian population of Kamchatka stayed around 2,500 until the turn of the century, while the native population increased to 5,000.

World War II hardly affected Kamchatka except for its service as a launch site for the invasion of the Kurils in late 1945. After the war, Kamchatka was declared a military zone. Kamchatka remained closed to Russians until 1989 and to foreigners until 1990.

Well, it seems that this project is getting bigger and bigger, and the more I learn the less I know! A lot of job for the summer I guess 😉

Meeting the Aleutians

July 13, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Alaska, Naming | Leave a comment
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After another long break – not my choice, for sure – I’ll try to continue with this huge and quite impossible project. I was reading I don’t know what on the Internet and I ended up in the Wikipedia page for the entry “aleut”. Their lands remind my a “tail” of an exotic animal, just where Alaska finishes. You can see that in the map of this older entry. It would be amazing to travel there! This is what I found out:

The Aleuts

The Aleuts (self-denomination: Unangax̂, Unangan or Unanga) are the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, United States and Kamchatka Krai, Russia. The homeland of the Aleuts includes the Aleutian Islands, the Pribilof Islands, the Shumagin Islands, and the far western part of the Alaska Peninsula. During the 19th century, the Aleuts were deported from the Aleutian Islands to the Commander Islands (now part of Kamchatka Krai) by the Russian-American Company.

History

After the arrival of missionaries in the late 18th century, many Aleuts became Christian by joining the Russian Orthodox Church. One of the earliest Christian martyrs in North America was Saint Peter the Aleut.

In 18th century, Russian furriers established settlements on the islands and exploited the people. (See Early history)

There was a recorded revolt against Russian workers in Amchitka in 1784. It started from the exhaustion of necessities that the Russians provided to local people in return for furs they had made. (See: Aleuts’ revolt)

In 1811, Aleuts went to San Nicholas to hunt. There was argument over paying the Nicoleño for being allowed to hunt on their island, a battle began almost all of the native men were killed. By 1853, only one native was left. (See Island of the Blue Dolphins)

Prior to major influence from outside, there were approximately 25,000 Aleuts on the archipelago. Barbarities by outside corporations and foreign diseases eventually reduced the population to one-tenth this number. Further declines led to a 1910 Census count of 1,491 Aleuts.

In 1942, during World War 2, Japanese forces occupied Attu and Kiska Islands in the western Aleutians, and later transported captive Attu Islanders to Hokkaidō, where they were held as prisoners of war. Hundreds more Aleuts from the western chain and the Pribilofs were evacuated by the United States government during WW2 and placed in internment camps in southeast Alaska, where many died. The Aleut Restitution Act of 1988 was an attempt by Congress to compensate the survivors.

The World War II campaign to retake Attu and Kiska was a significant component of the operations of the Asian theater.

Culture

Aleuts constructed partially underground houses called barabaras. According to Lillie McGarvey, a 20th-century Aleut leader, barabaras keep “occupants dry from the frequent rains, warm at all times, and snugly sheltered from the high winds common to the area”.

Traditional arts of the Aleuts include hunting, weapon-making, building of baidarkas (special hunting boats), and weaving. 19th century craftsmen were famed for their ornate wooden hunting hats, which feature elaborate and colorful designs and may be trimmed with sea lion whiskers, feathers, and ivory. Aleut seamstresses created finely stitched waterproof parkas from seal gut, and some women still master the skill of weaving fine baskets from rye and beach grass.

Aleut basketry is some of the finest in the world, and the tradition began in prehistoric times. Early Aleut women created baskets and woven mats of exceptional technical quality using only an elongated and sharpened thumbnail as a tool. Today, Aleut weavers continue to produce woven pieces of a remarkable cloth-like texture, works of modern art with roots in ancient tradition. The Aleut term for grass basket is qiigam aygaaxsii.

Language

While English and Russian are the dominant languages used by Aleuts living in the US and Russia respectively, the Aleut language is still spoken by several hundred people. The language belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut language family and includes three dialect groupings: Eastern Aleut, spoken on the Eastern Aleutian, Shumagin, Fox and Pribilof islands; Atkan, spoken on Atka and Bering islands; and the now extinct Attuan dialect. The Pribilof Islands boast the highest number of active speakers of Aleutian.

In popular culture

In Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, the character Raven is an Aleut harpooner seeking revenge for the US’s nuclear testing on Amchitka. The Aleut tribes are also the subject of the Sue Harrison’s Ivory Carver Trilogy that includes Mother Earth Father Sky, My Sister the Moon, and Brother Wind, in addition to being the subject of Irving Warner’s 2007 historical novel about the Attuans held as prisoners of war in Japan, “The War Journal of Lila Ann Smith”.

The entry on Wikipedia is quite short, but the books listed on the bottom look like interesting summer readings. Maybe it would be a good idea to start gathering the titles of books and novels related with the subject of the blog, as I already do with the links. What do you thing?

Locating Newfoundland and Labrador

March 21, 2008 at 9:39 pm | Posted in Language, Maps | Leave a comment
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I will continue with the people in Canada. Today, talking with some workmates, this topic has come out, and they have been telling me some things. The situation it is still not clear, but now I have more clues to keep searching. They told me that it had hit the headlines that ten years ago Canada gave some authonomy to one of its provinces, traditionally indigenous. Since I have no idea about it, I started looking for it at the Wiki:

Concerning Innu’s land, in 1869, Newfoundland decided in an election to remain a British territory, over concerns that central Canada would dominate taxation and economic policy. In 1907, Newfoundland and Labrador acquired dominion status. However, in 1933, the government of Newfoundland fell and during World War II, Canada took charge of Newfoundland’s defence. Following World War II, Newfoundland’s status was in question. In a narrow majority, the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador voted for confederation in a 1948 referendum. On March 31, 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador became Canada’s tenth and final province.

Geographically, the province consists of the island of Newfoundland and the mainland Labrador, on Canada’s Atlantic coast. While the name “Newfoundland” is derived from English as “New Found Land” (a translation from the Latin Terra Nova), Labrador comes from the Portuguese lavrador, a title meaning “landholder” held by Portuguese explorer of the region, João Fernandes Lavrador.

As of October, 2007, the province’s population is estimated to be 507,475. Newfoundland has its own dialects of the English, French, and Irish languages. The English dialect in Labrador shares much with that of Newfoundland. Furthermore, Labrador has its own dialects of Innu-aimun and Inuktitut.

The 2006 census returns showed a population of 505,469. Of the 499,830 singular responses to the census question concerning ‘mother tongue’ the languages most commonly reported were:

1. English 488,405 97.7%
2. French 1,885 0.4%
3. Montagnais-Naskapi 1,585 0.3%
4. Chinese 1,080 0.2%
5. Spanish 670 0.1%
6. German 655 0.1%
7. Inuktitut 595 0.1%
8. Urdu 550 0.1%
9. Arabian 540 0.1%
10. Dutch 300 0.1%
11. Russian 225 ~
12. Italian 195 ~

The website of the Newfoundland and Labrador Government offers some information, as well as an interesting section that focuses on Labrador’s aboriginals. But you will have to wait for the next chapters for that 🙂

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