Celebrations of the Reindeer Herders’ Day in Iengra, Yakutia

Reindeer races in Iengra. Photo: Kokovin Y.

Association of World Reindeer Herders together with herders from Scandinavia and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District will participate i events dedicated to the traditional festival “Reindeer Herders Day” in the village of Iengra, Neryungri district of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in Russia. This year the festival is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of the first Honorary Citizen Neryungri, Evenki, Semyon Lekhanov and the Year of Healthy Lifestyle in Neryungri district. The festival will include several events, thus starting from February 27 till March 3 Iengra will host exhibition of local Evenki handicraft, photo exhibition with title “Im Evenki and this is my Reindeer”, exhibiion of toys etc. On February 27 guests will have an opportunity to see a play for reindeer herders “Sigikta the Great Handywoman”. 

A very important part of the events will include an international seminar for young reindeer herders “Traditional Knowledge, Biodiversity and Food Culture” organized by the Association of World Reindeer Herders, International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry and the administration of Iengra. Local reindeer herders of all generations, as well as herders and students from 


Local reindeer herders of different generations, as well as reindeer herders and students from Scandinavia, the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, the Taimyr Dolgano-Nenets District of the Krasnoyarsk Krai, different regions of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), representatives of educational insitutions, adminstration and others will take part in the seminar. Participants  of the seminar will discuss issues related to maintanance and development of reindeer husbandry, preservation and documentation of traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples of the North, exchange experience and vision of the future of reindeer herding. It is important to note that reindeer herding in the village of Iengra represents taiga reindeer herding, which has its own peculiarities and complexities, and runs the risk of disappearing in some regions. Special attention will be paid to young reindeer herders and their voices during the seminar. The seminar will be followed by the Night of honoring reindeer herders, where guests could witness video contributes to reindeer herders.  

On March 1st local indigenous families and herders from Scandinavia will prepare food for the contest “Food Cultureis the Basis of Life for Indigenous Peoples of the North”. Participants will make traditional dishes from reindeer meat and products, fish, wild birds, berries etc., will share their traditional knowldge about food preparations, preservations and the nutrition. 

Reindeer races for children will take place on March 2nd on the ice of the Iengra river, starting with official openig of the Reindeer Herders’ Day. Senior reindeer herders will compete the next day, which oalso will be filled with Northern games, sports competitions, contests for best reindeer tools and national costumes, concerts etc.  

In the framework of the festival the Association of World Reindeer Herders and other participants of the delegation will have meetings with the head of the Iengra village Olga Ignateno and the head of the Neryungri district Viktor Stanilovsky, where they will disscuss project aimed at maintaining and developing reindeer herding and cooperation. The delegation will also visit the Arctic boarding school in Neryungri, which was included in the network of UNESCO Associated Schools in 2012. The school is unique because of its pupils – representatives of five indigenous nations of Sakha republic – Evenki, Even, Yukagir, Dolgan and Chukchi, besides there are also indigenous pupils from other regions of Russia, such as Republic of Buryatia, Irkutsk, Chita, Amur and Khabarovsk Regions.   

The program will be concluded  by the trip to taiga and  visiting reindeer herders of the Nyurmagan nomadic family cooperative. Here guests will have a chance to get acquanted with the lifystyle of Evenki reindeer herders. 

Iengra – is a village in the south of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) in the Neryungri district, is a place of compact settlement of the Evenki indigenous minority. The population of Iengra is about 1200 people, of which three quarters are Evenkis. Residents of the village are engaged in reindeer herding, game hunting and fur farming. Iengra is one of the few places in the world where, even at the beginning of the “globalized” XXI century, the culture and language of the Evenki people, which has the longest history of all the peoples of the northern land, remain. The traditional festival “Reindeer Herder’s Day”, which is in the Evenki language called  Uktivun, takes place annually in the Iengra village for many years and is the main event for the reindeer herders of the Neryungri district.И