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Metis objects
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A number of metis objects can be found among Evenk today, such as Russian-style fur hats, reindeer-skin boots (from the legs of the reindeer) with felt soles (unty in Russian), Evenk-made reindeer leather gloves with a European cut, Russian-made coats bearing Evenk motifs, etc.
In the second half of the 19th century, such objects already existed, as attested by the collections brought back from the Evenk population of the Stanovoi Mountains by J. Martin. These collections include Russo-Evenk objects and Tungus-Evenk objects from the Amur region.
The Bordeaux museum thus has a pair of gloves sewn from reindeer skin (MEB 538.1). The skin is quite fine grained (taken no doubt from a domestic reindeer) and worked in the Evenk manner. But the cut is European in the sense that the glove is close fitting, and the wrist, which is very short, is closed by a small western-style button. This is a cut that is ill adapted to the cold nomadic life, which requires loose-fitting gloves for the hand and a sleeve that comes a third of the way up the forearm. While the cut of these gloves makes them look like the Russian gloves of the time, the decorative motifs are widespread among the Evenk, a vegetal pattern embroidered in colored threads on the back of the hand. The same embroidery technique and a similar pattern are found on another pair of gloves in the Martin collection, entirely Evenk made and adapted to the harsh cold. It can thus be supposed that this metis object made by the Evenk was meant for sale to the Russians or for a trip to town.
It is the presence of the two styles that identifies an object as a mixture of Evenk and Amur Tungus. For instance several objects in the Bordeaux museum bear two kinds of ornamentation side-by-side. Evenk decorative style uses a color scheme of red/black/white. This pattern is found in the form of legging bands dyed with ochre and on the typically Evenk reindeer-leather tassels attached to their sacs and bags ñ pack sacks (inmek) or small bags (avsa). The Amur Tungus decorative style is characterized by countless spirals and a much broader range of colors, as shown by the dress brought back by Leroi-Gourhan. The fish skin bag MEB 900.28.10 is particularly original. It combines Evenk-style tassels in black/red/white with numerous spirals but dyed according to the Evenk color scheme of black (or dark blue)/red/white. It also mixes fish skin ñ a specialty of the Amur Tungus ñ with domestic reindeer leather ñ worked especially by the Evenk, as only the Neghidal and the Orok raise reindeer in the Amur basin. These metis objects probably belonged to an Evenk group living near the Amur Tungus or to a mixed clan, which is often the case in this river basin.
The Martin collections also hold a Yakut sack made of cow hide. The Evenk bought hide leather from their Yakut neighbors, which they valued for its solidity, and horsehair to adorn their clothing. From the peoples on the coast they bought sealskin because it is waterproof.

Author(s): A. Lavrillier
Date created: 2004-03-02 - Date modified: 2004-04-14

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A metis dress

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