The following text is courtesy of Agnieszka Gautier from her article A Living Atlas Comes to Life, which outlines the way of life for the Evenki peoples of Siberia, as well as the first online cultural atlas of Indigenous Knowlege from Siberia—an NSIDC project created through a partnership between Snowchange Cooperative and Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA).
In the films below, Tero Mustonen of Snowchange Cooperative, announces the launch of the atlas—sharing greetings and thanks to all those involved—and gives a overview and tutorial of the atlas’ functionality.
Reindeer herding is more than a way of life for the Evenki people of Siberia; it is the root of their culture. About 400 years ago, the Evenki saddled domesticated reindeer, a species well adapted to the rugged mountainous taiga, allowing them to overcome previously impenetrable lands. Taiga, or boreal or snow forests, consist of coniferous trees like pines, spruces, and larches. Today, about 38,000 Evenki live in small villages or nomadic tent camps across 7 million square kilometers (5.7 million square miles) from central Siberia to the Pacific Coast.
Colonizing vast lands isolated the Evenki into subgroups with disparate ethnic and cultural practices. While some Evenki have maintained ancient ways of life, others have transitioned under social and environmental stresses, losing their Evenki identity and language. Under Soviet rule (1917 to 1991), mandatory registration of these nomadic people required boarding school education and enforced Russian learning, which gradually eroded the Evenki language. Currently there are only about 7,000 Evenki speakers. One town, however, held fast to its traditions.
“Iyengra is known as a cultural heritage area, preserving the way of life and language of the Evenki peoples of Sakha-Yakutia,” said Tero Mustonen, a scientist and president of the Finnish non-profit organization SnowChange Cooperative, which works closely with local and Indigenous groups in the Arctic. Iyengra, a small rural community of about 1,000 inhabitants, sits on the Yingera/Yiengra River, north of Mongolia. “While the reindeer herds are out in the taiga, most of the children and elders stay in Iyengra.” That is why Iyengra was chosen to host the Evenki Atlas—the first online cultural atlas of Indigenous Knowledge from Siberia
Tero Mustonen gives a overview and tutorial of the atlas’ functionality.