China

Shanghai Daily Report on China’s Reindeer Herders

October 9, 2014 • Philip Burgess

Evenki Herder in China

There are not many stories out of China that are about the Evenki reindeer herders that are still practising reindeer husbandry in the North East of the country. The Shanghai Daily has just carried a story on the reindeer herders of China, who number in the tens.

HOHHOT, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) — Soon, tribesman Gu Wenqiang will have to bid farewell to his herd of deer, leaving his small shack tucked away in the lush green forests of the Greater Khingan Range.

After more than a month of tending the herd of reindeer, the 36 year old will soon drive from his temporary shelter and return to his hometown of Aoluguya Ewenki located 50 km away. It’s an occurance that’s happening more frequently these days.

 

For Gu and others from the Aoluguya Ewenki tribe, dubbed “the last hunting tribe of China,” such trips have become routine following the tribe’s relocation to a township near Genhe City, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, from the mountain forests eleven years ago. For a decade, nomadic life has been the only choice to keep their ancient culture alive.

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China Daily Posts Extensive Article on Evenki Reindeer Herders of Aoluguya

October 21, 2013 • Philip Burgess

Maria SuoChina Daily, the widest print circulation of any English-language newspaper in the China (over 500,000 copies per issue, of which a third are abroad) has just published an extensive article on the Evenki herders of Aoluguya, near Genhe, in Inner Mongolia. The article features m,any of the same people who were active participants and attendees at this years 5th World Reindeer Herders Congress which was held on their territory for the first time. The article outlines the struggles this reindeer people have faced since their relocation from the forests closer to the city of Genhe and the loss of their rifles. The Congress is mentioned in the article as is the Aoluguya Declaration. With only 20 families remaining to live with their reindeer, the future for the livelihood is painted as being rather bleak in this article.

You can read the article below, or on the China Daily website here.

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Reindeer Husbandry Brochure in Chinese

August 27, 2013 • Philip Burgess

Reindeer Brochure in Chinese ScreenshotThe 5th World Reindeer Herders’ Congress was held in China this summer (see 5 WRHC.org). This was the first time that the event, which is held every four years, was held in China. As part of the materials created specifically for the Congress, the brochure developed by the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry was translated and printed in Chinese, the first time ICR materials have been translated into this language. The brochure was handed out to all the attendees at the Congress.

You can read and download it below.

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ICR Director Oskal Interviewed by Chinese News Agency at Arctic Council Ministerial

May 15, 2013 • Philip Burgess

Arctic Council Ministerial Kiruna 2013

Representatives of the indigenous Saami people told Xinhua on Tuesday that they were actively adapting, with “the best knowledge available”, to challenges posed by the changing environment in the Arctic region.

According to the Saami delegation participating the Arctic Council Working Group presentations here in Kiruna, the northernmost Swedish city within the Arctic circle, they were trying to learn the best knowledge and to cope with the challenges, particularly the changing situations for reindeer herding, typical means of the group’s livelihood.

“There were needs, of course, minerals, copper and perhaps cellphones, but one thing we can say for certain is that, the world that people also need food (reindeer products)”, said Anders Oskal, a Norwegian Saami, also director of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, voicing awareness been raised to the livelihood of his people just before the Eighth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council.

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World Reindeer Herders Congress in July – Revisit the Congress in Yakutsk, 2005

February 26, 2013 • Philip Burgess

The World Reindeer Herders Congress is going to be held in Genhe/Alougoya in July of this year, the first time that it will be held in China, home to a small number of Evenki herders. The Congress is held every four years and in 2009 was in Kautokeino, Norway. The Congress is a unique cultural and political event that brings together reindeer herders, scientists, politicians and more together.  The Congress generally has an academic programme, a political programme and of course multiple cultural events. Details on the 5th Congress will be posted here as they become available. See a clip from the Yakutsk Congress below,

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Traditions fade as China settles nomads in towns – Reindeer Herders in China Featured in AP

October 6, 2009 • Philip Burgess
By HENRY SANDERSON (AP) – 2 days ago
GENHE CITY, China — Herding reindeer and hunting bears and boars in the forests on Siberia’s fringe was Gu Gejun’s life. Now his rifle has been confiscated, and the only reindeer he herds are in an urban tourist park.
China has moved most of the small Ewenki ethnic group from the steppe to the city, giving its members better access to medical services, education and jobs but, inevitably, changing their traditions.
They are among more than 700,000 nomadic herders — mostly Tibetans, Mongols and Kazaks in western China — the government has resettled since 2000.
About 60 Ewenki families live here in a Finnish-designed gated community of spacious sloped-roof wooden homes in orderly rows. They have televisions and washing machines. Across the street a teepee-like tent houses an exhibit on how the Ewenki used to live. Nearby, a dozen reindeer graze in a cleared patch of forest, watched over by Gu, a 37-year-old man with the chiseled looks of a movie star.
“Our lifestyle has been affected, because we Ewenki are born hunters,” he said. “From older generations to younger generations we used to live on hunting. It’s in our blood.”
Gu had to turn over his semiautomatic rifle when he was resettled six years ago. He still remembers the model number engraved on it — 62684 — though he cannot remember the one on his government ID card. “When we go into the mountains and talk about guns we just cry,” he said.
The government says resettlement raises living standards and protects the grasslands from overgrazing and desertification. Many living near international borders have been moved for security, as Beijing worries about sabotage, smuggling and illegal border crossing.
The Ewenki (pronounced ehr-when-key) roamed for centuries around southern Siberia in Russia. About 300 years ago, in search of better hunting grounds, some crossed the Greater Hinggan Mountains into China. Today, about 64,000 remain, half in China.
Reindeer were at the center of Ewenki life, providing milk and transport, and they were revered, said An Tabu, 66, as she looked from her house to a newly paved road where kids practiced skateboarding.
Under the resettlement program, An Tabu and 242 others from the Aoluguya branch of the Ewenki moved 200 miles (300 kilometers) to Genhe, a small city of lumber mills and white-tiled buildings, in 2003. The Aoluguya are the last of three groups of Ewenki to be settled.
They brought 700 reindeer, but the herd could not find enough to eat and some died, residents said. Around 30 Ewenki returned to the birch-and-pine-forested mountains, taking the reindeer.
“It’s not good here,” An Tabu said. “We can’t hunt anymore, like I did when I was younger.”
Moving to Genhe has given them a chance to thrive in the mainstream of China’s booming economy. The price has been the loss of tradition and language, as younger Ewenki learn Chinese to compete.
“After being resettled, their living conditions were improved, but their way of life changed,” said Yu Zhixue, an artist who first visited the Ewenki in the 1950s, living in their mountain camps and drinking reindeer milk instead of water. “The fact that they gave their guns to the government was a symbol for the end of an era. Many of the younger generation of the Ewenki now would rather play with computers than go into the mountains and hunt.”
Suo Ronghua lived in the mountains until she was seven and sent to school in Mangui. She married a man from China’s Han majority whom she met in 1999 at the city’s college.
Now 33 and a mother of two, Suo said city life suits her. Her 10-year-old daughter gets taken to school where classes are in Mandarin. She does regret the girl cannot speak Ewenki.
“We are not many people, so many people have married Han Chinese,” said Suo, lifting her young baby up and down in the bright airy living room. “It is unfortunate because Ewenki people should protect their traditions.”
Their reindeer were collectivized in the early years of communist rule, and their shamanic belief system was outlawed during the radical Cultural Revolution. They have seen their traditional hunting grounds shrink, first as they were moved away from the border during China-Soviet Union tensions and then by logging and poaching by Chinese, who hunted their reindeer for its antlers and penis for Chinese medicine.
By the time resettlement began for the first Ewenki in the 1990s, many were dispirited. Alcoholism rates were high, and assimilation already under way. The government began giving Ewenki welfare payments in the 1980s, and they still get a 400 yuan ($60) subsidy each month. In Genhe, around half have found jobs running small tourism businesses, residents said, and others left to look for work on construction sites.
Dular Osor Chaoke, an Ewenki at the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, favors integrating with the mainstream and adapting traditions to modern life. The linguist is developing a Roman alphabet for the language and a software program for its use on computers and mobile phones.
“We have to use modernized and high-tech methods to preserve our ethnic languages and ethnic cultures,” Dular said, taking out his mobile phone and sending an Ewenki text message to a friend in Inner Mongolia as a demonstration. “This is the only way.”
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

By HENRY SANDERSON (AP) – GENHE CITY, China — Herding reindeer and hunting bears and boars in the forests on Siberia’s fringe was Gu Gejun’s life. Now his rifle has been confiscated, and the only reindeer he herds are in an urban tourist park.

China has moved most of the small Ewenki ethnic group from the steppe to the city, giving its members better access to medical services, education and jobs but, inevitably, changing their traditions.

They are among more than 700,000 nomadic herders — mostly Tibetans, Mongols and Kazaks in western China — the government has resettled since 2000.

About 60 Ewenki families live here in a Finnish-designed gated community of spacious sloped-roof wooden homes in orderly rows. They have televisions and washing machines. Across the street a teepee-like tent houses an exhibit on how the Ewenki used to live. Nearby, a dozen reindeer graze in a cleared patch of forest, watched over by Gu, a 37-year-old man with the chiseled looks of a movie star.

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