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Trails, transport, distances: nomadism
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Evenk nomadism usually includes the whole family. It involves frequent moves, on average every two weeks, with seasonal variations dictated by hunting or husbandry. The coldest part of winter, for instance, is fairly stable. The reindeer are corralled and the families, living separately, take advantage of a relatively large hunting territory; they move approximately 60 km a month. At calving time, which is also when the rivers are in spate, people do not move great distances. On the other hand, as soon as the floods are over and the calves are independent enough and the herds need good pasture, they set off on a long trek lasting ten days or so, riding seven hours a day without dismounting. The purpose is to reach cooler regions either at higher altitudes or 200 km to the north. If some place on the way looks like a good spot for fishing or hunting or resting the reindeer, they stop for a few days. Once the new destination is reached, they will move short distances (one or two hours walk) every four or five days: if the reindeer are left standing in their manure in a corral too long, they get foot rot and can die within a few weeks. All moves are made in two stages: first the men transport the household goods, then they come back for the women and children and anything that is left. To this must be added the distance covered when hunting (20 to 50 km a day) and to round up the reindeer (20 to 40 km a day). In all, Evenk nomads, according to Vasilevich (1969), cover from 600 to 1,000 km a year, and, according to recent observations by A. Lavrillier, nearly 2,000 for the men, since they round up the reindeer and go hunting alone, 1,000 km for the rest of the family, counting all moves, on foot or on reindeer-back (Lavrillier 1995ñ2001, 2004).
In the snowy season, they travel by sled. There are two kinds: one for people, the other for objects. The sled makes it possible to transport more and faster than on reindeer-back or by packsaddle, and it is easier on the reindeer. A caravan transports the tent panels, the kitchenware, and the food. Infants are transported in their cradle ba placed on a sled and wrapped in a thick fur. Older children (under ten) ride alone on a sled equipped with a shelter covered in reindeer-skin where they can play and be warm. In summer, the baby is tied into its cradle (a sort of wooden box), which, hung on the flank of the gentlest riding reindeer, keeps the child well protected. Between the ages of two and six, the child is placed in a circular wooden framework with raised edges and solidly tied to the back of the reindeer that transports the nuclear familyís bedding. When he gets older, the child sits at the foot of the bedding and holds tightly onto the straps. At the age of 9 he rides in a saddle made to size.
Sometimes young reindeer too weak to walk the distance are tied onto sleds or onto the back of adult reindeer.
The order of the caravan reflects that of the nomadic group. The eldest (if he is able) or the leader heads the procession. Behind him come the (5 to 10) sleds or the (6 to 20) pack animals strung together ñ it is therefore important to see a reindeer does not get his antlers caught in a tree. Afterwards, by order of importance, come the family caravans. The husband rides in the lead with his reindeer, then his wife with their caravan and their children. If she has a baby, she puts it on the reindeer immediately behind her.
The tents are pitched at each stage, the day before if it is cold (-50?C). On the most traveled trails, there are tents containing all the necessities open to everyone: each group leaves the spot as they found it, with matches, dry firewood, food (cf. Dersou Ouzala). The predefined itineraries come full circle in a year, which enables people to find their affairs year after year. Each group ìownsî several circular paths, which it alternates. This is a far cry from the ìwanderingî mentioned by the first travelers.

Author(s): A. Lavrillier
Date created: 2003-09-08 - Date modified: 2004-04-14

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Winter nomadization (0MB)

Nomadic technology : Sled

Nomadic technology : Packs

Nomadic technology : Food

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