«True people» (Nenei nenecha) – self-name of Nenets, the indigenous people of the Yamal peninsula, and the name of the complex 2015–2016 ethnographic expedition. Project participants and the visitors of the resource will be the part of the reindeer herders's family during the whole year just to «dive» in the casual life of the modern XXI century nomads.


We continue publishing our daily notes. 

Nov.20-24th: After Kostya, Albina and Alexander came back, the weather turned bad. They call here windy weather with a snowfall with the word "haad" (Nenets хад – snowstorm). This time Kostya and Albina said, "neney haad came" (Nenets ненэй (real) хад): wind really knocked us down, snow was falling as a dence curtain, minimal visibility and air temperature about minus 20 degrees Celcius. It's impossible to do anything outside.   

While our hosts were away to collect their reindeers, we've got our of firewood, and haven't succeed to collect more before the snowstorm. We only had a small pile of cut osier-bed bushes and some birch logs. That days all the other families who collected reindeers, also had to survive without firewood. To save firewood we burned the stove only three times a day while preparing tea. During 4 days of snowstorm we also have burned some of Kostya'd wooden details for new nartas and temporary used huners (Nenets хунер''– floor mat made of thin birch trees, used under the bed) of osier bed which we underlay on the floor in the places there there are no real huners. We could not cook meat, so we ate frozen fish sent by Kostya's relatives from Yuribey, and drunk a lot of tea. It was very cold in the chum - everybody just sat there fully covered himself in fur yagushkas. Seldom heroes walked outside the chum, and after coming back they had to carefully remove a lot of snow from the clothes. 

But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining - during the haad we discussed a lot of things with Kostya and Albina. For instance they told us about a house spirit in chum - hartso. From time to time one can hear a special sound - scrape of the chum's wooden strips. This sound "forecasts" bed weather is made by hartso, the chum spirit. The legend says once a man heard hartso scrapes. He took an axe and cut the strip into small pieces. Then hartso  went to another strip - the man cut it also. This way he cut all the chum strips - and hartso entered then his body -and started to make sound from within and the man killed himself. 

Aftes 4 days, on November 24th, snowstorm quited down, we picked out riding bulls, and Kostya with Albina went to collect firewood. This evening we burned a lot of wood, finallly cooked soup and were just happy. 

On November 25-27th Albina and Kostya went again to pick our the reindeers, this time in Albina's uncle herd (Georgy Aybaevitch Hudi) and spend a night there. Kostya caught animals with his lasso, Albina helped him to lead them to them chum. This time they collected 13 reindeers. So totally after herd mixed together in the summer, our hosts collected 73 their reindeers, led them back - and the herd look much bigger now. 

In addition to all our misadvantages with the weather we've got out of our dry bread supply (Nenets "talbey nian" (талбэй нянь (dry bread). The situation is usual for autumn months in tundra families. If it is imporrible to purchase bread at selling factories or in an industrial town, one can "borrow" this important in tundra food from neighbors. As Nenets say, people could survive in tundra without meat, fish, butter and sugar, but "there was no life without bread". So Albina took a 10 kilometers long ride to Alexey Podovitch Hudi (our summer neighbor) and brought back a sack full of freshly backed bread. The most people in tundra understand that they can be in similar situation without bread and gazoline, so they likely help to other in need. On the same day, November 27th, Kostya and Alexander went to one of our spring encampment places and brought back our big "snowstorm pulk" (a case wooden case on heavy runners covered with plastic). In tundra one use this pulk to carry heavy loadings. 

November 28th - December 1st: 

Alexander and Kostya prepared the snowbike, changed oil and oil filter and too a ride to Yuribey to purchase there some gazoline, bread and other food - and also to look who's chum is ahead of us. They rode 60 kilometers until the chum at Yuribey river, where was a summer camp of Kostya's parents and his brother Radik with the family. 

Next morning Kostya and Alexander visited neighbors' chums and help their inhabitants to collect reindeers from mixd herd. It was another time when we realized how important is to take camera to such long distance ride. Without it Alexander could not film a spectacular view of 15 men picking reindeer from 1500 heads herd. Kostya and Alexander had to came back next day, on Novermer 30th, but because of snowstorm they had to wait in the chum. Next day they collected reindeers in Yury Hudi's herd, and his son, 13 years old Anton (who also same as Rako left the school) helped to them. Only in the evening Kostya and Alexander could start their way back to the chum at Yasawei. 

Reindeer herders picking out the animals from the mixed herd:  


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On the first winter day our men came back with fuel, food, fish (from Kostya's parent and brother). They traded gazoline in the shop near Yuribey slaughtery for reindeer horns. The shop owner changes 26 kgs og horns to 200 Liters gazoline barrel. In tundra this year's price for horn is about 700 Rubles/kilogramm.  в 

We  turned on generator and while drinkin tea with long awaited candies and sweet condensed milk, heard the big world news from Kostya and Alexander. 

Firewood on the "snowstorm pulk". One fix two nartas on both sides - otherwise reindeers would try to take our the wood: IMG 4292

On December 3rd we sawed reindeers' horns (only front parts), next day men felt again to buy some gazoline. 

Sawing off the horns:

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After two weeks of bad weather our chum became smaller and its covers (nyuk) slied away from the normal positions. It was not cosy inside, and everybody waited to better wheather conditions to buit our home anew. Then Albina and Alexandra did it without men who went away, and to their big surprize succeded without men's help. 

Two women first removed snowpiles near the chum, then carefully shaked snow off the chum covers and took them off and dismantled the chum strips. Then they built chum on other place without collecting and changing the order of inner stuff. Albina says that people who live in tundra alone, have no other choice than do the whole building and removing chum pricedures alone. In the bigger space of the newly biult chum it become more comfortable for everybody. 

During the snowstorm Kostya is making new harness. Pedava nearby also is busy with something.  

IMG 4410

After getting more gazoline we can turn on the generator every day. Pedava and Semyon are happy to watch animation films. IMG 4433

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