Evenki people

Apr 10, 2018


Previous Next

The Evenki are the most widely scattered of all the native peoples of Siberia. Today, about 30,000 Evenki inhabit a gigantic area of Siberian taiga that stretches from the River Ob in the west to the Okhotsk Sea in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean in the North, to Manchuria and the Island of Sakhalin in the South. The total area of their territory is over 2.5 million square kilometres.

The original home of the Evenki, formerly known as the Tungus was the area around Lake Baikal in the south of Siberia, where all the ancient Tungusic groups originated. The anthropological features of the Evenki, are evident in the early Neolithic people around the shores of Lake Baikal. Pressure from other neighbouring tribes led to the Tungus began to migrating eastwards to the Amur and the coast of the Okhotsk Sea, and also north, to the Lena River basin northwest, to the Yenisey River. They moved up to the tundra in the north, and the steppes in the south. As they extended through Eastern Siberia they assimilated other tribes. The Evenki split into three different groups, ‘foot’, ‘reindeer’, & ‘horse’ with each developing a different dialect and way of life. Evenki horse and cattle breeders belonged to the ‘horse group’ and were involved in agriculture. Reindeer breeders who settled in the vast area from the Yenisey River to the Sea of Okhotsk and who also hunted and fished belonged to the ‘Reindeer’ group. The main occupation of the ‘foot’ group was hunting and trapping.

The Evenki settled in areas which had a similar environment mostly, mountain taiga and, to a lesser extent, mountain tundra. Their economy was based on reindeer breeding and hunting which allowed them to be extremely mobile and achieve an exceptional rate of expansion. Their whole traditional culture supported this mobile way of living: they had light conical tents, excellent skis, and light clothing. This way of life and its associated tools and equipment, formed the basis of the Tungus Culture.

Language

The Evenki language is the basic language of the Northern group of Tunguso-Manchurian languages which includes Even (Lamut). The basic vocabulary is related to the Mongolic and Turkic languages and is also close to Yakut.

Daily Life

The nomadic way of life of the Evenki in the taiga was based on their hunting and reindeer herding activities. Their yearly migration routes were determined by reindeer calving and mating areas as well as their seasonal hunting and fishing areas. The Evenki hunted a wide variety of game which included wild reindeer, moose, roe deer, mountain goats & Manchurian deer. During the winter they also hunted and trapped animals for fur, squirrels, sable and otter being the most common. In most of the areas they occupied their fishing was seasonal and included species like taimen, sturgeon, beluga and salmon.

Previously, The Evenki only bred reindeer for riding and for use as draught animals. Families did not have large herds, usually somewhere between 15 and 100 animals. Taking care of the reindeer involved changing pastures all the time, building fences during calving, lighting fires to keep away mosquitoes and midges, building sheds for shade, clipping antlers, neutering and treating sick reindeer. Domestic reindeer were only slaughtered if the family faced real hunger from unsuccessful hunting or fishing.

In the 20 th Century most of the nomadic Evenki settled down. On their migration routes, former camps were replaced by Russian settlements with wooden houses, and later concrete apartment blocks. Despite this many Evenki still spend at least part of the year out in the taiga following their traditional pursuits.

In our tour "Expedition to reindeer herders of Northern Baikal" we offer you a unique opportunity to get familiar with their culture and lifestyle.