We must realize ourselves for our future

June 1999

Nadezhda I. Marinenko, oncologist
(The ANSIPRA Secretariat received a request from the editor of the newspaper "Aborigen Kamchatki" to reprint a letter from Nadezhda Marinenko which was published there on 27 June 1999.)

I came to Karaga on the 23rd of April. It had been a harsh winter with much snow and problems with fuel. Food is expensive. Members of the collective"Udarnik" do not receive cash. They receive goods at the company kiosk for the value of their salary, while the workers at MOPKKhA have not received their salaries for four years. I saw them receive 100 rubles. What can one buy for this money, when bread costs around 12 rubles and 1 bottle of seed oil costs 60 rubles?

The people are in a tense mood. In the past, the kolkhoz "Udarnik" was wealthy; now only about 20 cows are left. The only joy is the hope that soon the bay ice will melt and the children and adults will go fishing with their fishing rods. The old men spread out their fishing nets, but the inspectors came and started forbidding fishing. So M.H. Sidorenko, specialist for indigenous peoples, had to call the fishing department.

Unfortunately, not everyone can join fishing. In the past, the kolhoz gave work to everyone, but now the collective "Udarnik" only takes along its own members. And the private companies, even if they take you, do not register you officially. For example, the businessman Dodzhev, who resides in Elizovo and received a permit to fish in the Karaginsk Bay, hires seasonal workers without registration. The same can be said of the businessman Kiselev.

Vodka and its "benefactors"

I am discouraged by the fact that many people started drinking, especially the indigenous population, including women. Late in the evening I met a young mother with a small child. She carried a bag of flour to exchange it for vodka. Another case is the humanitarian help brought by V. Kogelov: sugar. It was distributed in families with children and elderly people. Some mothers exchanged it for vodka. In Karaga there are Russian women (four, I am told), who buy vodka deliberately to exchange it later advantageously for food and other things from the indigenous peoples. Who is better in this case: the alcoholic or he who supports drunkenness and gives alcohol to the indigenous population?

I saw, in Ossor, young workers arrive and put up their tents near the cemetery. Then they gave candy to the children, for them to bring some firewood. The children brought wooden crosses and fences ... this is vandalism. They are hungry, it is cold - still, such a thing is inexcusable. Well, later they had to move further away from the cemetery.

Mighty tuberculosis

Another misery are the illnesses. Approximately 400 people live in Karaga. Of these, 225 are on the list in the tuberculosis department. In 1998 two actively ill persons were registered and on the first of January this year (1999 --The Editor) the number increased to 21. This year another four people had positive results after a fluorographic examination. Our rayon of Karaga is supposedly one of the luckier areas, with respect to tuberculosis. Here I must note that the main doctor of the Rayon tuberculosis department, Zinaida Vasil-evna Chetveryakova - a representative of one of the indigenous peoples - does a good job and is driven by her enthusiasm alone, for there is no money to be had.

A sick person is supposed to receive food worth 100 rubles per day, but receives merely 30. The hospital lacks four doctors and ten nurses. Where are they to come from? Our native girls used to get their medical training in Petropavlovsk. Their stipend is 150 rubles, while having to pay 162 rubles for accommodation. Parents cannot help; the Okrug pays irregularly. The girls quit their studies and the native population suffers from a lack of specialists.

What is to be done?

How to protect the indigenous population? What is to be done in order to safeguard the welfare of our peoples? Maybe we must unite and build our own communities, in order to survive together. During Soviet rule we got used to other people thinking for us and did not have to think of the future. Now other times have come. Now we must control the situation ourselves, make the right decisions, follow the laws of our ancestors.

In the past, the river on the banks of which people lived belonged to one clan. Our ancestors lived in Old Karaga and went upstream in the summer, following the fishes almost to the source of the river Karaga. They fished, depending on the season. In the spring they fished in the sea, in Kostroma, in autumn - following the fishes - upstream. They never hindered the migration of fishes. In 1937, the communal centre was moved to Ossora and the lands automatically went over to the new centre. Not everyone owns fishing gear. The indigenous people are restricted in fishing for salmon, though the workers at the department of fishery them-selves often break fishing rules.

Insulted bear of the sky

Another problem is the conservation of the bear. Eyewitnesses saw dead bears near Drankin springs with cut bellies. The poachers take the gall and leave the bears to rot ... The Koryaks had a ritual - the Bear of the Sky dance. The Creator gave the bear a duty - to look after the proper timing of the changes in the seasons of the year. This year spring came very late. When I left for town, the bay was not completely free of ice, the snow had not melted and it was very cold, not only in Karaganda Rayon - in the town also. When we destroy the ecological balance and neglect ethical norms, we punish ourselves. For example, in the past, when people used to return in boats to their homes downstream, they talked in the evening quietly, did not shout, did not swear.They respected nature and life, including themselves. They never killed anything they did not need, and they asked for forgiveness of the bear they killed for want of food. Unfortunately, many old rituals are forgotten. This happened because people started to forget their own language. The elderly know the Koryak tongue, but there is hardly anyone younger than 40 years who masters his own language. Knowledge of one’s own language is the key to history, the key to understanding ongoing processes. There are Nymylan (a Koryak group --The Editor) people in Karaga, but in school the Nymylan children learn Chavchuven, which is a different dialect. At home, no one speaks Chavchuven.

From a doctor's point of view

By violating the laws of nature, we doom our own lives and the lives of forthcoming generations. One example. Experts from a French clinic are debating with those nutrition specialists who recommend avoiding food rich in oil.

Besides that, according to new biochemical analyses, brain cells need unsaturated fatty acids to function normally. A lack of these causes problems with chemical exchange processes in the neurons. The brain sort of falls asleep without this "oil lubrication". This has been proven by experiments on rats and monkeys, which received only proteins and lost some capabilities as a result. Our Russian scientists proved that semisaturated fatty acids are necessary for the formation of human connective tissue, which means that they are needed for a normal state of the skin, a good functioning of the cardiac muscle, the kidneys, etc. These semisaturated fats are found in significant amounts in our salmons and other fishes.

This is why it is recommended for all people - thinkers, inventors, readers and simply ponderers, to eat fish, fish oil, seal oil, as much as they like. This is why we need to take good care of nature, to conserve our richness in fishes.

Unfortunately, some of my own people, living in Karaga and Ossora, catch fish in spawning grounds. Today, rich for a moment, they can buy an expensive fur coat or a second-hand car - but what of tomorrow?

Tomorrow only illnesses will remain - heart attacks, kidney cysts, limping, blindness. And the fish will not last for our heirs.

About the future of the planet

In this context I would like to say something about the prospects of the building of petroleum rigs on Kamchatka. In November 1998, during the conference on ecological problems of Kamchatka, it was reported that the amount of petroleum in the Sea of Okhotsk, in the Olzutorsk-Penzhinsk Basin, is being calculated. In December 1998 in the Bay of Mexico, the largest petroleum accident of the 20th century occurred - the pipeline burst at the sea floor and a 40 km long patch of petroleum appeared on the sea surface and started to spread towards the Mississippi Delta. It posed a catastrophic danger to fishes, mollusks, birds and other life, including humans. And what about the sad story in Sakhalin?

While our ancestors were heirs to a sense for ecological morality, our contemporaries must learn it.

Salvation in creativeness

I liked the industrial arts exhibit, which was shown in Karaga on the first of May. Famous artists took part in it: Natalya Ivanova Evgur, Mariya Alekseevna Che-chu-lina, Ulyana Gutorova. The works of Aleksandra Vasilevna Popova were exhibited. The works of the kindergarten teachers Valentina Nasyankova and Tatyana Brilyakova are interesting. I am glad to see that events showing the culture of the indigenous peoples are organised and that in the Karaga Rayon ethnic groups are at work. This means that the spirit of our peoples is alive.

Before condemning Shamanism

The following also disturbs me. Some time in the past, there was a small chapel in Old Karaga. With the arrival of the Russians, many indigenous peoples were baptized and became Christian. And now there are faithful people, but the youth, together with some old women have joined the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses. This, of course, concerns private matters. But lately I heard Sergey Tavynin on the radio. He was saying that faith helps to live. People quit drinking. And faith in a living Jesus is better than Shamanism. He said that Shamanism is a primitive trait.

I think that before condemning something from the past, one needs to study the spiritual life of one's people, including Shamanism. I, for example, do not think that the shamans were only negative. Many think that the indigenous northern peoples are primitive. Not at all! These are such wise people. Scientists from many countries abroad are currently studying our ancestors and contemporary indigenous peoples. Special attention is given to cult rituals and Shamanism. I think that we should continue the conversation about the spiritual life of the indigenous northerners in the following editions of the newspaper. The third millennium is approaching and we must understand what the indigenous people of Kamchatka represent now and what awaits them in the future.