Chukchee men mainly brought the herds to pasture, which meant that they constantly had to search for new pasture. They herded and protected the reindeer without the help of herder dogs, under extremely difficult conditions. They would spend days with their herds in the harshest weather, without rest, shelter, or fire, and with almost no food. The life of the women was no easier. Their duties included the daily maintenance of the tent and sleeping area, preparing food, tanning hides, and sewing clothes and footwear.
Much of the time and effort of all inhabitants of the tundra is spent extracting roots from stunted willows. This is the only source of firewood on the open tundra. Only during the darkest and coldest winter months, December and January, would the Chukchee go to "the edge of the forest," as this area provided an abundance of firewood and cover from the wind. With the appearance of the sun they migrated more frequently and grazed the herds in the open tundra. But far from all reindeer Chukchee allowed themselves the luxury of moving into the "warm" forest tundra. Part of the herd spent the winter in the tundra.
Coastal Chukchee mainly hunted sea mammals. During the winter and spring they hunted seals and nerpas (freshwater seals). In the summer and spring they hunted walrus and whales. During a seal hunt maritime Chukchee crept up to the seals with surprising skill, imitating their movements. Walrus and whale hunting was done collectively, usually in several canoes. The diet of the maritime Chukchee was based on sea-mammal meat, whereas the reindeer Chukchee ate venison. Fishing and the fur trade played a secondary role. The gathering of sea cabbage and wild edible roots and leaves was also widely practiced. Reindeer and draft dogs served the maritime Chukchee as a means of transportation.
In the 1940s the transition from simple production units to agricultural cooperatives gained momentum, productivity increased in herding, fishing, and the trade in furbearing and marine animals.
Clothing. Chukchee women traditionally wore a kerker, a fur outfit made from the hides of young reindeer. Currently, the Chukchee generally prefer to wear manufactured clothing.