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The products of the hunt are shared, according to the rule of nimat, which the Evenk resume as: ìyou give, you receive, you give, you receiveî. Nimat applies essentially to the meat of wild reindeer, moose and red deer, which is shared equitably among the members of the camp. It is an obligation, even if it is always the same hunter who brings back game, even day after day. The task is not an easy one, and some people are known for their skill at it: each tent in the camp must receive the same amount of every piece, with the exception of the head, the tail and the skin, which go to the hunter.

Bear meat is shared out beyond the encampment to the nuclear family of the hunterís in-laws or to any other family with which he wishes to create a marriage alliance. This is one type of hunting that demands the participation of an ally from outside the hunterís camp.

Smaller game, birds, hare, and fish are not necessarily shared, only in case of need, but to refuse to give to someone who has nothing to eat would mean depriving oneself of ìluck in huntingî in the future.

The changes that have occurred in the 20th century (organization of hunting brigades under Soviet rule), and the appearance of new needs (flour, munitions, schooling for the children, medicine, etc.), have led the Evenk to sell meat or pelts to earn money. A hunter sells a wild reindeer carcass only if the campís needs in meat are already met for the months to come, in which case there is no need to share. Pelts are not shared either: they belong to the hunter. If a hunter has a spell of bad luck, his consanguines will give him a few sables. Today the sale of pelts is the only source of income for Evenk of the taiga.

Nimat is also practiced in the village. The sedentary Evenk who receive meat from the taiga must share it with their close kin and affines. Sometimes they also give some to Russian neighbors, who give them vegetables in summer, for ìgiving is the promise of receiving one day, for oneself or oneís childrenî. The same principle governs peopleís relations with the spirits: ìI honor the fire by giving it fat so that it will give me gameî.

The obligation to share applies to the domestic reindeer only if it is slaughtered for meat to be eaten in the camp, not if it is to be sold. The domestic reindeer is personal property, even within the couple. Nevertheless, one can give a reindeer to someone who has none, or as a sign of friendship or as a thank-you for a service rendered.

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

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Nimat Ritual (0MB)

Butchering and sharing the meat

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