English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов - живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World - Living Arctic) No. 14, 2004
Hallo, dear editors of the journal “Mir korennykh narodov – Zhivaya Arktika”. This letter is coming to you from a teacher of the Evenk language, Russian language and Russian literature, Nina Glebovna Veisalova, resident of the village of Yerbogachen, Katangskiy district, Irkutskaya Oblast.
I happened to come across the 13th issue (2003) of your journal. It was quite by chance but I read it with great interest. I showed it around to my Evenk acquaintances and to the children staying at the boarding school here. We are very happy and pleased, though surprised that there is such a wonderful journal for us, the Northerners. It is an excellent opportunity to learn more about indigenous, numerically small peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East.
Regretfully, there is not much literature on the Northern peoples. Even the textbooks we use to study our native language were published back in the 1980s.
There is a four-volume “Schoolboy’s Northern Library” at our library, and we use it a lot with pleasure during our classes.
We also have two volumes of the “Schoolboy’s Popular Encyclopedia. The Arctic is my home” – “The nature of the Earth’s North” and “The history of the North’s opening up”. Unfortunately, the book of the same series, “Peoples of the Earth’s North” is lacking. We need it badly. That is about all the literature we have on the North. I asked our library to subscribe to the journal “Northern vastnesses” (“Severnye prostory”) but due to financial problems our request has been turned down. There is not a single issue of this journal in the district or school libraries. We have to get out of the scrape independently, though this year I have failed to subscribe (teachers’ salaries are paid irregularly, with delays).
Together with Evenk children we have formed an Evenk dancing and singing group “Urikit”, which has performed for the last two years. We are keen on folklore; we do some sewing, sing, dance, and appear on the stage taking part in various shows. As a social organization we do not have any official state registration. We cannot pay for the premises required by our team, nor can we do many other things. We are not experienced in such matters. We are facing lots of organizational, financial problems, but they do not scare us. We get together, socialize with each other, and study the Evenk language.
I teach the kids folk traditions, culture. So much has been lost during so many years of oblivion. There are hardly any Evenks of the older generation, carriers of the Evenk culture, left in our Evenk villages. Children do not know the past of their people. Many of them are ashamed of their lineage and feel as if they are people “of the third rate”.
It is a pity that in a few years our children will keep themselves completely aloof from their culture and their people. It means that there will be no future for the Katanga Evenks – we will be dissolved in other peoples.
There are many economic, social, ethno-cultural problems facing the Evenks in our district. At times, we feel hopeless watching how the remnants of my people turn into nobodies on their own land. The time has come to establish the association of the Katanga Evenks, but there are so few active, public-spirited people interested in it.
I have read your journal, readers’ letters. Many things have a lot in common. The same problems are facing other peoples of the North. Though something has been done in this direction in other regions while in our case there has been practically nothing to speak about. The International Decade of Indigenous Peoples is nearing its end, but in my eyes there have not been any changes for the better in Katanga. The Evenks find it harder and harder to live around here. There are not any reindeer left either.
But this is already another subject one can write a lot about.
I am now writing to you to express my gratitude for your work, for your interest in the life of numerically small peoples of the North.
The information reaching our district about the situation of the North’s peoples is too scarce. Little we know about the activities of RAIPON. Too much fails to find its way to the people; the information gets stuck in the local administration. What we do find out comes by word of mouth from our acquaintances, relatives from “the Mainland”.
We would love to know more about other peoples of the North, about international affairs concerning our peoples and about how to protect our rights competently.
Dear editors, we approach you with a request, if possible, to mail RAIPON publications to our address.
We do need your publications badly. If it is only possible, I give the most reliable address below.
A few lines about myself:
I am Evenk. Born in 1972. Graduated from the Russian state Herzen Teachers Training University in 1996. Employed as a teacher of the Russian language, literature and the Evenk language. Act as a leader of a folklore dancing and singing group at the center for additional education of children.
Once again, thank you very much for your work!
Wishing you every success in your noble creative work.
I beg your pardon for such a long and confused letter.