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Nenets: A Culture Of Ice And Snow

889 words - 4 pages

The Nenets, a unique peoples from northern Russia, are a culture deeply rooted in the cold temperatures and the migrations of reindeer. Currently there are two different groups, the Tundra and the Forest Nenets. There are currently 41,000 living in the tundra. The Nenets are known for their close relationship with reindeer and the ways in which they use them. They herd, breed, slaughter, and follow reindeer through specific migration patterns. The Nenets are the last of their kind in their unique ways and are being threatened by not only modernization but also globalization in the aspect that Russia’s government is forcing them to assimilate into the modern culture.
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The houses are constructed in the tepee fashion, with long sticks of wood stuck in the ground and tied together where they meet at the top. The wood is then covered with reindeer, and sometimes seal hide if there is access to the ocean. These tents themselves are called “mya” but the specific living place inside is known as the “chum.” This living space is separated into male and female sections and each gender carries out its own responsibilities. Outside the mya and chum, the sledges are organized in a half-circle around the living space. The supplies are protected behind the sleds. During the migration, the tents are moved every other day to a different “chum” depending on the relief, pasture, and ground quality. Having a water source nearby is important not only for the humans but also the reindeer.
In regard to the stratification of the group, the Nenets are stratified, but not highly. There is a clear division of labor between men and women and it is carried out accordingly. The men are in charge of the reindeer in the aspect of grazing and slaughtering, and they also choose the pastures on which the group will construct its temporary village. The women tend to the domestic side of things such as preparing and cooking the fish and reindeer meat, repairing clothing, packing and unpacking of households, and caring for children. Marriage in the Nenet culture was traditionally decided by the clan leaders but modern times have changed the ritual. Sometimes there was polygyny. Women were not considered equal to men and were restricted in what they...

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