Even - Kinship and Sociopolitical Organization



The traditional social organization of the Even was almost totally destroyed by socioeconomic changes dating to czarist times. The czarist administration introduced among the Even and other native populations the so-called administrative clans, to which were attached definite territories of convenience to the government for the gathering of tribute (Russian: iasak ) . An elder from among the Even—a protégé of the local bureaucratic official responsible for collecting iasak and fulfilling legal and other functions assigned to him in this role—was placed at the head of each such clan. In traditional Even society the decisions of the court were based on the opinions of the majority of the members of the clan, with elected individuals acting as accusers and as judges. Formerly, the most serious crimes were considered to be breaches of exogamy and of nimat —the customary reciprocal aid, repeated violation of which could be punished by death. Despite the breakup of the traditional social organization of the Even, some patterns continue to be preserved locally to this day, above all the rather strict observance of exogamy. According to the data of the Bystrinsk village council of Kamchatka, in the 1960s exogamy was observed in fifty-five of seventy Even families. Earlier the clan name was the basic symbol of clan membership, and although Even remain conscious of their ties to their traditional clans, family names are more important today. Even relatives are called noge, whereas outsiders are kharak.

Another equally important social institution was the collective use by clan members of the yield of the hunt and of fishing and obligatory mutual aid between clan members. Many Even observe the nimat to this day. Hunters and reindeer herdsmen, for example, divide up the catch with their relatives not only at temporary nomadic camps but also in the settlements.

Inheritance. Traditionally there were two basic kinds of property: collective or family property and personal property. The former consisted of the clan fire (the fire of the family hearth), the sheds for products, and the reindeer. Personal property consisted of weapons, hunting and fishing equipment, implements for working hides, and reindeer used as mounts. Inheritance is usually through the male line; the family reindeer herd, after the death of the head of the family, is divided equally between the grown sons. If a widow cannot maintain her family, then the relatives of the deceased husband may take over the guardianship of the children and part of the property, but the property is not divided up if the widow is capable of acting as family head.

Kinship Terminology. One of the determinants of social relations in the past was the system of kinship terms of consanguinity and affinity, which is still used by the older and middle generations, and not uncommonly, by the younger as well. The system of consanguinity of the Even is one of the typical variants of the classificatory systems. One term, aka, for example, denotes the father, the brother (older or younger) of either parent, the older son of the brother of either parent, and so forth. The clearest idea of how kinship terms represent familial and marriage relations can be obtained from the term inema, formed from the general Tungus root in, which denotes a person from another clan—more specifically, an affine (spouse's sibling) who has been brought into the house together with the husband (or wife).

Marriage. The traditional forms of marriage were the exchange of young women between two families or the acquisition of the wife for a bride-price ( kalym ) with reciprocation by the wife's family of gifts equal in value to the husband's or a dowry.


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