KAMCHATKA INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ CULTURE: HARMONY OF MANAUD NATURE
The culture of Kamchatka natives is very peculiar. It is referred to the cultures based on the assuming type of economy: hunting, fishing, gathering of wild-growing plants. According to International Convention N 169 adopted in Geneva in June, 1989, the bearers of this culture are the people of a nomadic and tribal ways of life.
Koryaks, alyutorts, chuckchi and Itelmeny belong to the Chukchi-Kamchatskaya group of palae-Asian nationalities. Representatives of these nationalities form a special Arctic race distinguished by anthropologists. Its formation went in the condition of the isolation and long stay in territory of Chukotka and Kamchatka. Scientists consider that representatives of the Arctic race appeared in this territory about 25-27 thousand years ago.
Apparently, chukchi-Kamchatkaya community, in proper, has appeared on the area of the northern coast of the Sea of Okhotsk and southern Chukotka. The appearance of northeastern palae-Asian people ancestors in the north-eastern externity of Asia happened about 8 thousand years ago. According to the majority of researchers, the appearance of direct ancestors of koryaks, alyutorts and chuckchi on Kamchatka and Chukotka is dated by the first half of 1st century AD. Separation of Chuckchi from Koryaks took place in the XIII century. According to archeological data ancient, old Itelmeny's habitation in the eastern and south-eastern coasts of Kamchatka are 11-10 thousand years of age.
Evens, belonging to the Tungus-Manchzcurian language family, came to Kamchatka in the XIXth century. About 2 thousand years ago, Evens and Evenks presented common ethnos, and then they separated from each other approximately in the Vth-VIth centuries. The northern part of Khabarovsk Region is ancient motherland of Evens.
Nowadays indigenous nationalities of the North live in common national place of settlements of Koryak Autonomous Region: Chuckchi - in Achaivayam,
Ayanka, Khailino; Itelmens - in Kovran, Sedanka, Verkhneye Khairyuzovo, Tigil,
Palana; Alyutorts - in Vyvenka, Ilpyir, Lesnaya, Ossora, Karaga; Evens - in Achaivayam, Ayanka, Khailino, Oklan; Koryaks - in all settlements.
Traditional cultures of natives of the Region were specific means of adaptation to the environment consequently; they are characterized by the following basic features:
1. Religion in the pre-christian forms as the means of implementation of various customs.
2. Fixation of relations "man -nature" by means of customs.
3. Life-Hood support by hunting, fishing, gathering.
4. Maximal use of natural materials.
5. Minimization of the ecological balance turbances (balance in reproduction of culture and nature).
6. Altruistic principle in the basis of interrelations "human being - society": each member of human society lives for sake of all society, and the society - for sake of everyone.
7. Long-termed existence of cultures because of the developed mechanism of removal of various contradictions: territorial, social, national, biological, religious, etc.
8. Specific Art: ornamental sewing, folklore in the form of dances, epos, various drama performances, inseparably linked with economic activities, - one of methods of existence and reproduction of culture.
Traditional system of religious beliefs at Koryaks, Alyutorts, Chuckchi, Itelmeny, Evens is animism. Surrounding world seemed for them inhabited by spirits: each subject of a nature, even lifeless has its spirit. Spirits of fire, water, ground had to be cajoled, bringing them victims and making gifts. Spirits of nature were especially esteemed. For example, in case of appearance of some geographical sites having an unusual view or connected with some natural phenomena - eruption, a stone fall, snow landslide - the deer were usually sacrificed with the request to spirits of nature to protect the people and the deer's herds from dangers, illnesses.
Not far from the village "Sredniye
Pakhachi" there is the valley in the middle of which one can see a lonely tree - a willow; ribbons, strings of beads are still hung up, and on it mixture of hare's down and deer's fat is put under it. Wandering through the mountain pass where rock fall or snow landslide can happen, reindeer breeders traditionally kill the deer. Evens, for example, hung up the deer on the poles till the evening, then cooked it and ate meat. Bones were arranged according to the special ceremony as if they prosecuted the whole deer to the spirit. To the spirit, the Master of Elements, Evens addressed with spells, good wishes, containing requests to accept the victim and be mercy to the people. In one of the stories after Khailino story-teller there was placed the legend is about how careless reindeer-breeders who were too lazy to make a sacrifice to Shaman -mountain after heavy transition and postponed this ritual until morning awoken in the morning they did not find that mountain. The offended hill left for the North to Verkhniye Pakhachi where it stands now. And reindeer breeders didn’t have any success after it.
Folklore of indigenous peoples abounds in legends, fairy tales and true stories about transformations of the human into an animal and vice verse. The main character Raven Kujkynnjaku acts both as a human, and as a Raven in the myths. True stories about the lost hunter who spent the night in the den of a bear were spread hitherto by word of mouth, and the owner of animal dwelling spoke to the person, fed him as though he was a human itself. Or, for instance, old men still remember the true stories about lost woman who became the wife of a bear. In 2000 Erick Kasten, Doctor of ethnology wrote the story of the Koryak woman Bystrinskiy Area Kechgichajvina A.H.: «... It was told long time ago ... only women were left at fishing, everybody went away, and one girl was lost, went for berries. Got tired to look for. And then in the next year spring came, summer began. And, at fishing fish flour, ... fish, yukola began to disappear at night ... It happened that the bear had taken that girl as a wife. And ... she looked after a den, fed a bear. And since that
time as she had begun to live with the bear, yukola began to disappear. And once on the next year ... they were cutting fish and saw the woman coming from the opposite bank of the river. And she also began to tell. She told that it was she who had been stealing yukola and ... hanging meat... and dried meat.
«Now I have got used to the husband feeds me. We even have a child, the bear cub, he looks like his father» ... And her husband and her child, were waiting for her on the other bank of the river. ... Then she says: «In future there will be a great war in the world. People will live poorly. And then, then will be so: all animals, the ground will become beautiful, ...all animals will start to live together with people, people will not kill animals, they will go together, they will not be afraid of each other. And now I'm leaving, I shall not come any more because I began to be covered with hair... Understand, that it will be so...»
Koryaks considered that to kill and eat meat of animals and birds from which they came from is an impossible thing. It is impossible to explain some cases from their life. One day the man from Sredniye Pakhachi Kuuchan V.K., being on a visit, could not eat any slice of the loon meat though he was hungry. As he told it seemed to him that his throat was squeezed by some invisible power. He remembered that he had never been able to taste meat of this bird. Then he learned from the old people that his family came from the loon. The family of Uyagan at Evens does not kill swans and does not use in food their meat for the same reason: their family came from the swan.
Nowadays young generation of indigenous peoples of the North does not join to the national culture, folklore. Living in the age of the youth treats the legends and fairy tales as a result of imagination of their illiterate ancestors. The language is destroyed, elder generation which is able to give their knowledge of national beliefs, customs, national folklore, does not communicate, as it was before, with younger generation.
For the first time human intruded
into nature thank to hunting and hunting gear, and thank to the traditions kept by all bearers of culture, human being didn’t lose nature as far as each aborigines culture gave a chance for nature to be reproduced. Culture could be the only tool of preservation of the balance “man - nature”, the balance between reproduction of nature on the one hand and society on the other hand.
The natives of Kamchatka kept the commandment "do not kill more than you need". Here is the example from the story of the inhabitant of Khailino A.P. Ninani -"Two Neyuyu" who is already 45 years. Being a boy, hardly had he grown up to a rifle when he received it in a gift from his father and being at a spring reindeer-breeding stand, started practice to shoot in match boxes, then tried to hunt on yevrashka. He had shot several yevrashkas before his father returned from the herd. He joyfully showed him his bag. The father having examined the animals marked the accuracy of hit and ordered the son to skin them. When he saw that his son learned this skill too, he ordered to cook the meat of yevrashkas and eat it. The son implicitly obeyed the father. Crying he was sitting and swallowing the meat. After some time his father joined the son saying:
"Son, it is impossible to beat without account all the living-beings of the Land. You will grow up and you will be able to tell your children only: "I was growing on the rich Land.”
Native peoples strictly followed the principle «if I help the nature today, it will feed my children, grandsons and me in future ". The principle of full utilization of all obtained things and careful wearing of the subjects made of bag and catch, clothes, footwear excluded injurious destruction of fauna and flora. Reindeer breeding at Koryaks is without scrap: meat, internal organs went for food, skin - for making clothes, footwear, covers for yourta, belts, lassos, pluck partly in food, partly for manufacturing of subjects of life, contents of pluck - partly for manufacturing of painting substance for skins, the rest for wild animals, hoofs, horns - on manufacturing of
utensils, tools. And, covers of yourtas (rovduga), served certain time, went on manufacturing of waterproof and long-wearing clothes.
Seaside koryaks also used all they obtained for their needs. G.V. Steller in the book «Description of Kamchatka land» noted: «... From the leather of whales natives make soles, leather things and belts; their fat goes in food and on illumination; meat - in food, and whale with the bone (bonnit) ... natives fasten their canoes, make fishing networks of it, traps for catching foxes, and buckets for water. From two bones of the lower jaw of a whale they make runners for sledge, frames for knives, various rings and fasteners for dog harness.
Natives have various sorts of bubbles and vessels for storage of liquid made of whale guts; they make flexible springs for fox traps from tendons; they use the same tendons instead of cords, which must be especially durable for tying up various subjects. Vertebras of back ridge serve them for manufacture of mortars; cheek-bones or maxillary bones of whale consist of gristly, jelly like substance and are very tasty; tongue is rather tasty too. The next precious thing is flippers; the foes flowing out of them when cutting, is being eaten with the great appetite ".
The great value for nomadic koryaks had poles, sticks used as a stem for the house - jaranga - made of tree. Two and even three generations of the family used such kind of set, even changing some parts of a decrepit stem of the house. It was forbidden to cut trees down for a fire or thrift buildings at the camps of nomads. Only fallen trees, burnt wood, dry trees were mainly used for fire, and they rose upwards on the river for 1 or 2 km from the camp to alloy it downstream up to the place. Grass, purple, osier grew on the coast of the river were served as a litter for cutting fish. Such litter was used for many days, after that it was washed and dried, and then it was put under layers of fish. So the natural material was economically used.
The question about the attitude to nature and its objects is closely connected with traditional outlook of the so-called
ceremonial cults, the ability of which was in providing the person with obtained things, in removing danger in trade activity. Implementation of such rituals in understanding of hunters was connected with the revival of killed animals. Itelmen holiday of gratitude to nature "Alkhalalay", koryak holiday "Khololo" ("Ololo"), "Holiday of Whale" at Penzhino seaside koryaks and seaside chukchas, "Holiday of First Fish" can be considered to be cult ceremonial holidays. Every native holiday was devoted to the gratitude to the nature, to its revival. For example, S.N. Stebnitsky in his monograph "Sketches of ethnography of koryaks" writes "Whale or seal holiday -kalilya-angyit - is usually celebrated at the end of October or at first half of November when the autumn season of the sea craft comes to end. The ceremonies, made during the holiday, have the aim of seeing animals killed by the hunters off back to the sea ... While doing this ceremony they deliver incantations: "You were our guests, we met you well, we indulged you in every possible way, now we say goodbye to you. Go back to the sea to your comrades and next season come to us again and take your relatives".
It is possible to attribute the system of bans to the cults: the ban to eat the first bag or catch but share it with neighbors by all means, the ban to kill females with brood or the ban of gathering of all bird's eggs which are taking place in a nest and many other things.
The contact with the culture of newly-come people completely changed the attitude of Northern people to customs. Even with cult ceremonies - the burial of the deceased - the deformation took place: at Koryaks the burning of the deceased as the most acceptable kind of the burial in frozen ground was replaced with the funeral, firstly - in national clothes, now - in European clothes. When Evens came to Kamchatka, they already buried their adult relatives in the ground, but the babies which were not able to do a sign of the cross, buried in hollows of trees.
Nomadic way of life of indigenous peoples of Kamchatka promoted the reproduction of nature. For example, even
settled koryaks - nyimyilany and Itelmeny inhabit some places: one of them - summer places, another one - spring-autumn places, the third - winter places. Seaside Koryaks lived in the basic settlement all winter period from October till March or April -zimnik which was settled down usually in 730 km from a mouth of the rivers, then for the spring period they migrated to the sea coast where the craft of sea animals on floating ice began during two months before the beginning of the fish run of salmon. After the end of ice drift summer season of preparation of fish began. All population migrated to the mouth of the river where they put tents, built hangs from the materials kept in warehouses for yukola. They dried yukola, did fish flour for their own needs and prepared the forage for dogs. Up to the middle of August Koryaks - nyimyilany fished but with the ending of the course of fish they migrated to the upper reaches of the rivers again where in the rivers they caught loach using fish into food at once, and they made fish in slightly fermented kind for the Future. At the end of September they moved to zimnik again.
Maintenance of the balance "person -nature" was promoted by various instructions for use of natural gifts as a charm. For example, before going away nomad camp was carefully cleaned, the household rests went too far into the ground for not to wound animals or people. It was also done with the aim to leave without being recognized by harmful spirits which were always around the person.
During last two centuries the cultures of indigenous people of Kamchatka as selfregulating systems have practically ceased to exist. This was promoted by more and more close contacts to more civilized cultures of previous peoples. Completely different type of economy based on agriculture, on cultivating of cattle, on construction of roads and big settlements -demanded the destruction of tundra, its vegetation and the exile of wild animals from habitual places of living. The strongest influence on cultures of native nationalities rendered the conversion to Christianity. The Christian religion went counter with
traditional outlook of indigenous people. It could not adjust the traditional attitude to the nature and the objects of the craft. The family created conditions for transferring the national traditions and customs, for upbringing the youth and educating the diligence, independence and skills to be in charge of housekeeping and to overcome vital difficulties. The institute of education and up-bringing of Northern children, created in the Soviet Union, excluded the family as the basic bringing-up factor. Socialist transformations in economy and culture of native people of the North completely undermined their traditional way of living. Mass transition of nomadic people into a settled way of life, collectivization, creation of collective farms and state farms undermined economic making life-support of Northern people. The change of forms of economic activities, the change of vital reference points of a separately taken member of cultural community influence the attitude of people to the nature and its resources in whole, because any activity of the person is the intrusion into the nature in its any form.