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Livelihoods

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Artturi Kannisto 1905-1906. © National Board of Antiquities, Finland.

In the Arctic tundra the Khanty and Mansi adopted reindeer herding from the neighbouring Nenets. In the early 1900s 400-head herds of reindeer were becoming a rare sight, but in the mid-1800s many herders had up to 5,000 reindeer. Reindeer nomads would travel from one pasture to another with their herd.

Nikolay Garin 1980-1990. © National Board of Antiquities, Finland.

UT Sirelius 1898-1900. © National Board of Antiquities, Finland.

Hunting and fishing were the main sources of food and income in the forest zone and along big rivers. The winter was the busiest hunting season, with the family staying home and the man and his dogs making hunting trips that would last several weeks. The most important game animal was the squirrel. Squirrel skins were used as currency − as money. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries a male reindeer cost 100 squirrels at the Vakh River.

UT Sirelius 1898-1900. © National Board of Antiquities, Finland.

The hunter is just about to leave for the woods. His dog is still asleep and reluctant to get up. It probably remembers the long journey of the day before and suspects it will have to pull a heavy sled again. But the dog is wrong. There seem to be squirrels left in the area and the man has decided to spend at least one more night here. The saucepan is left hanging on the fire pit and the skis are up in the tree because there is so little snow it is fine to go about on foot. He need not worry about his supplies because there are no thieves around here. Even the bear that likes to sniff around people's food is already deep in hibernation. Only the wolverine may cause some bother, and because of that the food is either hidden underground with a weight on top or hung up in a tree. (UT Sirelius)

UT Sirelius 1898-1900. © National Board of Antiquities, Finland.

The bow was still used for a long time alongside firearms to hunt for squirrels and mallards. The bow was glued together using three types of wood: birch for the back, a special type of pine for the belly and bird cherry for the nocks at the ends. The string was made from nettle. Although the bow was thin, it was made very stiff by coating it with sap and roasting it by the fire. Khanty in the Vakh area say their ancestors' bows were so rigid even Yermak's Cossacks could not pull them by hand and had to use their feet to help. Practice began as a child. The only toy boys would have was a bow, and its rigidity was gradually adjusted to his increasing strength. It is told that a good shot by a skilled Khanty hunter could send the arrow through two deer at a time.
(UT Sirelius)

UT Sirelius 1898-1900. © National Board of Antiquities, Finland.

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