The obschina (indigenous clan community) “Nevte”

In August 2002, the ANSIPRA Secretariat received the following letter from the Chairman of “Nevte”, village of Ola, Magadan Oblast. We tried to follow up on their request to find indigenous representatives in Canada and Alaska who would like to share their experiences with their brothers in Russia. We were surprised that we got almost no responses, other than a proposal that representatives from “Nevte” participate in a workshop on the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in May 2003. We hope that publishing the material below will yield more results. If you feel that your experiences could be of any help, please contact ”Nevte” at (in Russian), or the ANSIPRA Secretariat if your message or letter needs translating.

Letter from Nevte
Prospectus about Nevte
Prospectus on ethnic tourism in Magadan Oblast
The past and the present of the indigenous peoples of the Sea of Okhotsk

Dear staff members of the ANSIPRA Secretariat:

The Board Council and the Council of Elders of the indigenous clan community “Nevte” address to you with sincere and deep gratitude of your rewarding mission. It is very nice to realise that there is an association of Arctic organisations with the aim to support the indigenous peoples of the Russian North. This gives us confidence in tomorrow, as we understand that we are not alone with our problems, and there is hope that our people will not disappear. We wait with impatience for every issue of your bulletin, which provides new interesting information, and we learn about problems and achievements of the various ethnic groups and their future plans.

Dear staff members, we would like to inform you about the experiences of our community’s activities.

After the acceptance of the Federal Law “On General Principles of Community Organisations of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation” the ancient 2nd Dolgan clan formed the first indigenous clan community in the Magadan Oblast. As the leader of the community, the young, energetic chairman Irina Yashchenko was elected. We believe that the inherent enthusiasm and determination of the youth are indispensable for the achievement of given goals. Therefore our chairman does not go the usual way: she implements measures to provide humanitarian help for the poor, and she has worked out a programme for the formation of a reservation, a plan named “Revival of clan settlements of the community”. This programme has the aim to return the descendants to the traditional living places of their ancestors and to revive ethnic consciousness. Earlier, when living in one territorial association, we had well-developed branches of traditional activities, we preserved traditions, customs, and mainly we had self-determination as an ethnic group. Settlement and stabilisation of livelihoods in clan settlements prepared the way for the realisation of projects directed towards socio-economic problems.

At present we try to realise the preparatory programme and hope at this stage to find potential partners. Therefore we address to you with the request to assist in project coordination and realisation. As one of the main steps on the way to the revival of clan settlements, we envisage close contacts with indigenous people who live on reservations. We have come to the conclusion that – no matter how good the new laws might be – they do not substitute the significance of reservations, which moreover raise the ethnic self-consciousness. We are interested in experiences of establishing indigenous peoples’ reservations in other nations and we wish to study them in order to apply them in Russia.

We ask you for your assistance in establishing contacts with representatives of reservations, which might be willing to share their experiences with us. To provide them a better understanding about us, we are sending you the article “Former and present indigenous peoples of the Okhotsk coastal areas” and a brochure on the clan community.

Dear staff members of the Secretariat, we hope that with your help the first reservation in Russia will come into being.

For the exchange of information about reservations please use the e-mail address of the public organisation “Kadar” which we are kindly permitted to use.


Chairman of the Council of Elders of the indigenous clan community “Nevte”
V.M. Avdonin

Chairman of the tribal community “Nevte”
Irina Mikhaylovna Yaschenko

The tribal community of indigenous peoples (hereafter, tribal community) is a legal entity that acts on the basis of traditional forms of economic production, self-management and independence.

The activities of the tribal community are guided by the following Federal laws: "On Guarantees of Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation" No. 82 of April 30th, 1999; "On General Principles of Organization of Communities of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation" No. 104 of June 20th, 2000; "On Territories of Traditional Means of Exploitation of Nature among Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation" of April 4th, 2001.

The tribal community inhabits the lands which were traditionally inhabited by its ancestors, the nomadic Tungus of the second Dolgan clan, north of the formerly inhabited point Siglan, in the Olskiy District of the province of Magadan, on the northern coast of the Sea of Okhotsk.

In accordance with the Federal laws which guarantee the rights of the indigenous peoples of the North, the lands have been granted to the tribal community free of charge, along with the right of using the mineral resources that can be found on their territories.

The basic activities of the tribal community are:

Fishing, including industrial fishing, processing and production.
The northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk takes up 600,000 square kilometers, and it is one of the most highly fertile regions of the Pacific Ocean. The Sea of Okhotsk is one of the richest and cleanest marine bioresources in the world: it yields more than half of the entire catch in the Russian Federation.
Several kinds of salmon spawn in the 50 rivers across Magadan: dog salmon, pink salmon, silver salmon, red salmon, Dolly Varden trout and char. Unique colonies of up to 7 million birds populate the shores and islands of this province.
Pollack, herring, saffron cod, flounder, salmon and smelt make up the most significant part of the catch in the coastal areas of our region. Additionally, one can also catch crabs, calamari, shrimps etc.
The important biological resources of the coastal region are hardly used today. The following bioresources, all of which are available in the region, are particularly interesting: pollack, Pacific halibut, Greenland halibut, sea perch, sea hedgehog and sea cabbage.

Sea hunting.
Four kinds of economically valuable seals inhabit the Sea of Okhotsk, and namely: harbor seal, ringed seal, bearded seal and ribbon seal. Seal hunting is a tradition for all those living on the coast of this region. Not long ago, however, this blooming enterprise declined and the industrial activity was brought to a halt everywhere in the region. This did not happen because of the decline in the number of seals, but rather as a consequence of the lack of production demand. With the means of industrial meat processing which were available at the time, the production assortment was quite small and specific: it included fur, fat and sometimes minced meat. Due to the low production of minced meat, a considerable and valuable production percentage used to go to waste. This was related to the particularities of the economic system at the time, the change of conditions and the emergence of market relations. Raw material was not in great demand and the industrial activity turned out to be unprofitable. Today, however, the industrial production of animal products is considered very valuable and can be highly profitable. We need to take advantage of the raw material and all the possibilities it has to offer, as well as maximally to adapt the production to the market conditions. The fat of sea mammals contains a low content of harmful substances and has been, therefore, widely used in food preparation. Modern technologies also make it possible to get rid of the specific smell, which this kind of fat has. In comparison to hydrated plant-based fats, hydrated seal fats can be used in the production of high quality margarine, high quality soap, are used in perfume industry and have a high content of vitamins A, D and K. They can be used for technical goals as well: in the production of linoleum, protective surfaces, lubricants for high precision technologies etc.
Another important component in the industrial production of the wild animal catch is its fur and leather. Clothes, shoes, various accessories and upholstery fabrics made out of seal leather are superior to their counterparts for which the skins of land mammals has been used because of their relatively low price, sturdiness, beauty and elegance.
Meat products are also considerably valuable. The amino acid content of the seal meat is comparable to that of beef; in the category of indispensable amino acids, it is even superior to beef and can be fully used for food purposes. In the eighties, the researchers at the TINRO used seal meat to develop production methods and prepare experimental prototypes of sausages, smoked meats and other high quality meat products. Unfortunately, that experiment was not developed any further, and it did not reach a wide production stage. It is equally important to keep in mind that in the current state of Russian economy, any attempt to give up the utilization of meats, which can be used for food, would be extremely anti-productive. Taking into consideration the fact that other kinds of meat and meat products are highly priced, the cheapness and the high quality of the sea mammals’ meat and their meat products can help solve the problem of protein, vitamin and fat supplies for a wide segment of population. Another unrealized potential in the utilization of sea mammals is the production of biologically active organisms from their internal organs.
From the analysis of the above discussion, it can be concluded that the economic profit that could be achieved from utilizing sea mammals is undoubted. In Magadan today nobody is engaged in the enterprise involving sea mammals, since specialized fishing and hunting boats of the Arctic class, equipped with the tools for the processing of raw materials and the production of standardized quality products, are currently not available. The hunting should take place in the spring, off of the ice gathering points of the seals in the open sea, and at that time one such boat would, depending on the industrial setup and qualification of the crew, catch 7-10 and sometimes even 12 thousand seals. The boat hunting of the seals is incomparably more efficient than the hunting that takes place off the shores. Yet in order to reestablish boat hunting, significant capital investments shall be necessary for the acquisition and equipment of hunting boats, considering that not one of the existing types of fishing boats is suitable for this purpose. That is why today it is only possible to speak about hunting on the shores as a first step in the process of reestablishing a full stream hunting industry.

Sea harvesting.
The concept of exploiting algae in this region is still not fully developed, and that precisely is our advantage. Preliminary economic calculations and resource studies of the Okhotsk maritime regions have shown that one of its most important biological resources are brown and red macrophyte algae, whose stock is extremely large in the coastal region.
The reason why macrophytes as a raw material for food, medical and chemical industries are so attractive is the fact that the dry mass of brown algae, for instance, contains 10-15% protein and 70% carbohydrates, as well as high content of vitamins C, A, D, B-group, and E.
Sea plants of the genus laminaria, undaria, porphyra and many others are used for food purposes. All of them can be found in significant quantities near the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk. Sea plants can be used for the preparation of animal food, extraction of agar, carrageenan, alginates and others. According to the McDowell market research group, the supplies in any of the above directions are below 1% of their true potential. In the conditions of economic crisis, the United States of America is developing plans to cultivate brown algae on a large scale for the purpose of extracting fuel. An important supplier of processed sea plants is Japan. The countries of the northern regions of America and Europe are interested in creating Alternative products, and are actively looking for partners.
Material research shows that there are hundreds of thousands of tons of brown algae in the northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk. There are 42 kinds of sea plants in the region. The alginate production should to be based on kelp (laminaria Guryanova and lessonia laminarevidnaya).
In our costal region, one could extract no less than 50,000 tons of laminaria Guryanova, 30,000 tons of lessonia laminarevidnaya, up to 50,000 tons of rockweed, and 300,000 tons of cystoseira.
Currently there are no companies in the region which use sea plants as their raw material.

Collection, processing and production of wild plants (berries, mushrooms, nuts, medical herbs and roots)
There is a great demand in the settlements for wild berries (foxberry, great billberry, honeysuckle, black crowberry), cedar nuts and mushrooms because they very valuable food products, which are rich in vitamins and microelements.
Particularly popular is red billberry, which is now becoming an object of interest for various entrepreneurs.
Taking into consideration that the province of Magadan is an environmentally safe area, one can expect that the medical raw material and the related processed products will be highly demanded on the Russian and foreign markets. There are over 300 kinds of medical plants growing in our region.
As far as their medical properties concerned, the most attractive plants are lichens, of which there are more than 500 kinds in our region. They are widely used in perfume industry and medicine. Because of their valuable qualities, some lichens are cultivated in the United States of America and Japan.

Reindeer-breeding, processing and production (including the collection, preparation and production of horns, endocrine glands, sub-products, deer leather, etc.)
The biological value of deer meat is among the highest of all animals. Our region has a significant number of grazing lands for the reindeer - 8,5 million hectares. The studies that have been conducted over the previous years show that those who engage in reindeer breeding achieve a good level of profitability. Currently, the tribal community has developed a highly profitable project of revitalizing and developing reindeer breeding, which can be realized with the participation of interested investors.

Extraction and processing of ores
A predominant economic branch of our region has always been the extraction of gold, silver and non-ferrous metals, deposits which occur abundantly deep below the ground in the Kolyma area. In accordance with Federal law, the tribal community can use common mineral deposits free of charge.

Commercial hunting, including hunting by foreigners, as well as ethno-tourism

Foreign trade activities

Participation with own products in international auctions and trading

The tribal community has identified the most profitable current economic activities and has shortlisted the most promising projects for investment. Living on this rich land, we have yet not realised all the possibilities for using its natural resources. Therefore, if you have an interest in the community and if you have business proposals, we are prepared for closer cooperation with you.
The development of these commercial initiatives has great prospects, especially to the investors who can make profitable investments in the development of the tribal community.


You will be introduced to the remarkable historical sites, untouched natural landscapes and unforgettable beauties of the Northern region by the natives of these lands, the representatives of the tribal community "Nevte". The uniqueness of this prospect consists in the fact that the tourist activities are organized by the native inhabitants of the region, who are distinguished by their traditional culture, and who have a deep knowledge of their historical heritage, economic production and way of life. The unique ethnicity of the people and their way of life, which incorporates an ancient environmental experience of the relationship between man and nature under the most brutal natural conditions of the Arctic Circle, make up a particular "ethnic value" of this region.

The direct contact with the native inhabitants of this area will give you an opportunity not only to get to know a relatively closed society, united on the basis of preserving tribal traditions and the predominantly traditional natural means of production, but also to see it interact with the industrial society. Currently, there are a few associations of native inhabitants, created with the goal of preserving the purity of their cultural ethnicity. One of such associations is the tribal community "Nevte," situated on the lands which were traditionally inhabited by its ancestors, the nomadic Tungus of the second Dolgan clan, north of the formerly inhabited point Siglan, in the Olskiy District of the Province of Magadan, on the northern coast of the Sea of Okhotsk.

The tribal community is a legal entity, functioning on the basis of the traditional forms of economic production, self-management and independence. In its activities, the tribal community is guided by a series of Federal laws, which guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation. Particularly, in accordance with the federal law "On Territories of Traditional Means of Exploitation of Nature among Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East of the Russian Federation" of April 4th, 2001, the lands have been granted to the tribal community free of charge, along with the right of using the widely spread mineral resources which can be found in the region.

In addition to organizing ethnic tourism, the tribal community has the right to engage in the following kinds of activities: fishing; sea hunting and processing of sea products; gathering, processing and producing wild plants (berries, mushrooms, nuts, medical herbs and roots); reindeer-breeding; extraction and processing of ores; organizing and conducting hunting on an international level as well; international economic activity, participation in international trade, auctions etc.

The natural characteristics of the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk

Magadan Province is situated in the far northeastern part of Russia. It is bordered, on the one hand, by the seas of the Arctic Ocean, namely the East Siberian Sea and the Chukotka Sea, and, on the other hand, by the seas of the Pacific Ocean, namely the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. The Bering Strait in the east separates Asia from America. The northern seas surrounding Magadan are situated on the continental shelf and are not particularly deep.

The large portion of the province of Magadan is mountainous. Plateaus, hills and mountains take up more than 4/5 of its territory, whereas lowlands such as river valleys and narrow seashores take up only small areas. The large part of the territory is characterized by a midrange mountainous relief (1000-1500 meters above the sea level), which is sharply broken up by river valleys.

The most attractive tourist site in the province is district of Olskiy, which we would be happy to introduce to you along with its most interesting sites.

The most distinguishing characteristic of the district is its extended coast and a large number of small bays and gulfs of the Sea of Okhotsk, which contain an extremely large potential of unutilized biological resources.

The tundra and taiga mountains of the Okhotsk coast in Olskiy District are low mountains. Along with flat watersheds, one encounters high points of up to 1,800 meters with narrow mountain crests and canyon forming valleys, in which one can observe numerous traces of the ancient tradition of reindeer-breeding. A chain of hollows stretches along the coast, the largest of which are Yam-Tauy and Gizhiga. The territory of the region is susceptible to earthquakes. There are cold and hot springs - Motykley and Lapkuchan springs, and wells in Shelting Bay and Dukcha District.

The climate in the district is sharply continental. The average annual precipitation is 500-700 mm. Cold winds are present throughout the year: in the winter the direction of the wind is from the cold continent towards the sea, and in the summer, it is from the cold seas towards the continent. Thick clouds and fog decrease the flow of heat. Average annual temperatures are always below zero degrees Centigrade. The winter is 5,5 to 7,5 months long. The average temperature in January ranges from -17 to -20 degrees Centigrade on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. The summer is short and cool. The average July temperature in our region is 11-12 degrees Centigrade.

The landscape is mostly a somewhat hilly tundra lowland, creating a lake by means of alluvial sediments of the river valleys which cut through it. The diversity of the ground can be described by following terms: taiga permafrost, podsol permafrost, grass flats, alluvial, grass, mountainous-steppe and meadow grounds; tundra and mountainous tundra, marshes and half-marshes.

A rather thick network of rivers characterizes the territory in the region. The most important rivers are: the Ola, the Tauy, the Yana, the Yama and the Takhtoyama. The rivers are fast, have a lot of shallows and sandbank, and often change their direction. The riverbeds are stony and altered by erosion. The rivers are rich in various kinds of fish: Pacific salmon, Dolly Varden trout, Siberian grayling and char.

The most typical for this region are the larch and birch forests, most notably those of the Daursk larch and the stone birch with rich shrubbery, in which one finds the rowan-tree, alder, bird cherry, honeysuckle and several kinds of ivy. Deciduous woods and the Dahurian larch, which is particularly well represented in the region, cover river valleys. The plant form is also determined by massive cedar and alder undergrowth. As far as grasses are concerned, one finds horsetail, sedge, cotton grass, bramble, red billberry, black crowberry, wild rosemary. Significant tundra areas are covered by different kinds of mosses, lichens and low shrubs. The tundra exists alongside marshes. In river valleys there are occasionally valley sedge marshes.

The taiga is inhabited by the chipmunk, squirrel, fox, ermine, white hare, sable. The upper taiga is inhabited by the wolverine, bear, and the valleys are inhabited by the elk. The capercaillie, hazel grouse, white partridge, nutcracker, cuckoo, and woodpecker inhabit the forests. The teal, pintail, widgeon, and other ducks inhabit the marshy valleys, especially around the lakes.

There are more than 300 kinds of fish in the Sea of Okhotsk. The best represented are bullheads (53 kinds), zoarcids (41 kinds), flounders (21 kinds), poachers (15 kinds), lumpsuckers (13 kinds) and salmons (10 kinds).

In the northeast part of the Sea of Okhotsk, one can find 1-2 kinds of dolphins, gray whale, fin whale and white whale. White whale can be encountered most often in Gizhiga, Penzhina and Tauy districts. Overall one finds the ringed seal (akiba), common seal (larga) and bearded seal (laktak).

Northern sea lions can be found In the Koni and Pyagin peninsulas. The seal breeds in the icy areas and the shore hollows from the northwestern part of Kamchatka and the Gulf of Tauy to North Sakhalin.

The marine fauna includes certain kinds of birds which spend their entire life in the sea and need the land only in order to make their nests. More often than not they nest on rocky or mountainous slopes in mixed colonies, the so-called "bird fairs," becoming thus an indispensable part of the far eastern mountainous landscape. Most often, one encounters the tufted puffin, horned puffin, Pacific seagull and Bering cormorant. In some places, such as, for instance, the Gulf of Tauy and Yama Island, guillemots and sea gulls nest in large quantities.

Organization of spinning fishing

Particularly interesting for foreign tourists is the spinning fishing of the following kinds of fish: Manchurian trout, Siberian grayling, pink salmon (gorbusha), Dolly varden trout, red salmon, king salmon, dog salmon and silver salmon.

Pink salmon (gorbusha) is the smallest and most widely spread salmon of the Pacific Ocean. Hobbyists are allowed to fish pink salmon in Magadan only if they possess a valid license: in the sea, by nets; and in certain areas in the lower reaches of the rivers, by spinning. The salmon usually leaves the sea, migrates to the rivers in July and spawns in August. The migration of the salmon is an unforgettable sight. Everywhere on the river one can see the water splashing: like other kinds of salmon, the pink salmon swims against the stream at the bottom of the river, but it often comes up to the surface. More often than not, it shows its head and spine, but it can also jump out of the water. Many fish swim very close to the shore, in the depths of 25-50 centimeters. Often, they move in columns, one after another. Seabirds such as gulls and sea eagles populate the rivers in large quantities at this time. Bears from all surrounding mountains descend into the valleys and roam the shores, trying to catch the fish with their claws. It is not too hard to navigate a rubber boat and approach closely a bear who is completely focused on the fish. The seals themselves can leave the sea and move up the rivers following the salmon for tens, sometimes even hundreds of kilometers. The pink salmon bites very well on large and colorful baits with T-joints No. 8,5-10. One needs a heavy bait (20-40 grams), since the fishing takes place under strong currents. The swinging bait does not need to be rotated, and the T-joint should be decorated with bright threads, feathers or strips of soft synthetic materials, which not only enhances the motion of the bait, but also increases the chances of the fish swallowing the bait. The most attractive colors for the salmon are orange, red and bright blue. The pink salmon can be caught not only with a bait but also with an artificial fly. Similar to other Pacific salmons, the pink salmon is best attracted by large, bright baits (yellow, green, orange or pink) additionally adorned with shiny metallic fiber.

Chum salmon (keta) is the second most widely spread kind of salmon in the province of Magadan. Unlike the pink salmon, the chum, as a rule, has precise homing, that is it returns to spawn in the same river, in which it hatched. Its spawning migration is usually extended: it can take place from the beginning of June to mid-September. Magadan fishermen claim that the chum salmon is caught in the rivers by spinning, but it can also be fished with an artificial fly, only on the bottom of the river. The same spinning rope, which is used for fishing the pink salmon, can be used to catch the chum. Swinging baits are as successful as the rotating ones.

Silver salmon (kizhuch) is one of the most interesting kinds of fish for sport fishing. Bait casting for the silver salmon is very beautiful, and it is not particularly difficult even for novices - of course, if the numbers of pink salmon in the river are high enough. Akin to other Pacific salmons, the silver salmon does not feed in fresh water, so it swallows the bait very eagerly. Pacific salmons ought to be fished with a firm, not too flexible spinning rod of a sufficient length. The 2,2-2,5 meters long two-handed rod with a handle at 60 centimeters is the most universal kind. It allows the possibility of fishing off of the shore as well as off of a boat. The two-handed rod can be used for fishing for a long time without exhaustion.

Dolly Varden trout (malma), like pink salmon, is one of the most numerous fishes in the rivers of the Far East. The Dolly Varden trout is the most common catch for the hobbyists on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. The means and devices used to catch this fish have their particularities depending on the season. In the winter, the Dolly Varden trout practically does not migrate at all, which is why in December the mass fishing areas have hardly any large fish left in them. In April and May, one can fish not only under the ice, but also through ice holes using the summer fishing-tackle. In the spring, the Dolly Varden trout eats the young pink and silver salmon on their return to the sea. At that time, one can catch them using a float with small, light baits. In mid-June, the Dolly Varden trout moves to the sea, and in July begins its migration to the river, along with pink salmon. The first to migrate are the larger fish that will spawn during that season. They spawn in the higher river reaches, close to the river source. Magadan fishermen use long rods with a reel as the universal tackle. Changing the rig, one can fish using artificial flies or a small spinning bait. Different equipment can be placed at different segments of the 2,5-4 meter line. It is enough to have one rod with a reel and to change the rig during fishing. In the summer and in the fall, the Dolly Varden trout is easily caught in the rivers with an artificial fly. It seems that it swallows the fly most actively in mid and higher river ranges, where salmon do not spawn at all or hardly at all.

Siberian grayling (harius) is one of the most widely spread fresh water fish of the northern hemisphere. On the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, the Siberian grayling can be seen only in the deep marshy tundra streams that have a quiet flow and red-brown water. The most interesting and sporty catching of the Siberian grayling is with an artificial fly. Some flies replicate insects or young fish, and some are completely imaginary, which is to say that they do not have a real prototype in nature.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if this short overview of our marvelous region has raised your interest, we -- the native inhabitants -- would be more than glad to introduce you to our customs and traditions, in which you will feel yourself to be a part of nature.