Taymyr Reindeer Herding as a Branch of the Economy and a Fundamental Social Identification Practice for Indigenous Peoples of the Siberian Arctic
AbstractThere are two factors affecting the way that Nenets and Dolgan people of Taymyr define their regional identity: 1) their traditional trade (reindeer herding); 2) ethnic art-making where the reindeer acts as an image and a symbol of ethnic traditions, touchstones, and values found among the indigenous peoples of Taymyr. Field research was conducted in Taymyr settlements (such as Nosok, Karaul, and Khatanga) from 2010 to 2014. The researchers interviewed Nenets and Dolgan people who belong to non-governmental organizations representing Taymyr indigenous peoples, run businesses or work in government agencies, schools, and other organizations implementing cultural policies. Indigenous peoples have very low economic and social activity. The Dolgans also have a very poor standard of living due to lack of reindeer. The Post-Soviet era has seen an income gap growing between the Dolgans and the Nenets and unequal economic groups being formed. Reviving reindeer herding is essential. Nenets and Dolgan reindeer herding is an economically inefficient subsidized branch of agriculture, but its role is symbolic rather than economic. Nenets and Dolgan reindeer herding is an ethnicity-forming and ethnicity-sustaining factor. Today’s reindustrialization of Taymyr may end up exterminating its indigenous peoples’ unique economic, environmental, and cultural practices. Taymyr’s political establishment must pay due attention to the threat of ruining these unique practices.
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