Photo Essay – Siberia
Paul and Cassie have made their home among the indigenous people groups of Siberia since 2006. They long to see many churches planted through their work in discipleship and translation.
Legacy of the Reindeer Herders
The Evenki of Northern China, although having left their reindeer culture behind 270 years ago, still feel a deep connection with their reindeer-herding relatives. The Evenki stage a spectacular dance and musical performance every summer to bring attention to the plight of the reindeer herders, both in China and in Siberia.
This Evenki woman recounts that 270 years ago her people left the mountains and their reindeer behind. Yet she can’t stop talking about them, to the point of writing a musical that highlights the plight of her reindeer herding relatives. Such love for her people is equaled by an intense fascination that the Creator loves them too.
This Evenki grandmother works hard all August to collect berries and mushrooms in the forest that will sustain her and her family throughout the deep winter.
The Aoluguya Evenki of Northern China were resettled in a modern village in 2003. Their reindeer were placed on a farm. Reindeer however are nomadic and don’t like to be tied to one place. These reindeer are depressed in their tourist prison. Eight hundred of their reindeer relatives escaped back to the forest in 2005 along with their nomadic herders.
This reindeer herder lives in the taiga with his brother and their reindeer herd. While in the village stopping for supplies, a rudimentary conversation struck up in Evenki resulted in telling the story of creation and prayer.
The Evenki reindeer herders in the Amur region of Siberia have maintained their culture very well. The government gave them back their reindeer in the 1990s. They now have a strong motivation that has seen them leave alcoholism behind in the last ten years, and now present an openness to the gospel. This woman is sewing canvas bags for reindeer to carry during migration from one camp to the next.
Festivals and Fun in Siberia
The Sakha “Ihiakh” festival involves many sporting events. These Sakha university students are wrestling with their necks and ears to pull the other over the line. They are hoping to impress the girls!
The Sakha people are the largest indigenous people group in Siberia at 480,000 people. Every summer at the solstice they celebrate their “new year.” The festival is full of dance, story, sporting events and food, as well as spirit worship. These university students are far from their homeland in the big city. They stage an “Ihiakh” festival in May, as they are busy sitting exams in June.
While preparing for a beauty contest God broke into Varya’s life by answering her prayer for a beautiful costume. The costume won the prize for best costume in the “Miss Asia Siberia” contest.
Every ancient culture interacts with the modern world. The Sakha youth of Yakutsk city (pop. 300,000) in far northern Siberia are no different. Their language and worldview are strong, but they enjoy popular culture as much as their western counterparts. And they are talented too.
“What a beautiful day God has made,” said the Australian to the Shor men gathered around the motorbike. “Don’t talk to me about God!” came back the aggressive reply from one of those gathered. Minutes later, an invitation to get drunk with them was declined, and the two intrepid visitors moved on to the next village, “no person of peace to be found here.”
Vast and Remote
The taiga forest is so vast and dense that it is impractical to fight fires unless they come too close to a settlement. The locals watch nervously as they hope the fire will not come closer to their isolated village.
The River Mana is getting ready to go to sleep. The first snow of October has fallen. It will be another month before the river freezes in southern Siberia.
“The first time that bananas came to my Evenki village when I was a boy, I thought they looked like soap.” This Evenki man has plenty of other funny stories about the first time he encountered an apple, a kiwi and other fruits.
While traveling on a “person of peace” trip we stumbled upon Gera, a prolific painter living in a tiny shack on the edge of the Siberian taiga. We were treated to a simple meal of “grechka” (buckwheat) while telling Bible stories and praying for the residents.
Do you enjoy colder climates? Perhaps you should talk to us about work in Northern Europe, Central Asia or Siberia itself. Start the conversation.
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