Ewenki - Settlements and Economy

Most of the Ewenki in the Ewenki Autonomous Banner and Chen Barag Banner are engaged in animal husbandry; the Ewenki in Nahe are agriculturists; in Ergun some are hunters and the rest supplement their agriculture with hunting. Pastoral Ewenki live in felt tents, a shelter that suits their nomadic way of life as they move seasonally from place to place looking for good pastures for their horses, oxen, and goats. They organized themselves into nomadic units called nimal, usually comprised of several nuclear households belonging to the same clan. Nimal became feudalistic economic units characterized by owner-tenant relations. Although pasture belonged to the whole nimal, herds were owned privately.

The hunting Ewenki, before they settled down in the 1950s, roamed the primitive forests, driving their reindeer and following the tracks of game, mainly elk, deer, roe deer, and squirrels. They lived in xianrenzhu, a tent with long wooden poles forming a conical hut covered with animal hides or birch bark. They organized themselves into wulileng, comprised of blood-related households, as basic economic units in which they hunted and shared the game equally on the basis of households. The hunter who fired the fatal shot customarily took the least-desirable share, but care was always taken to provide for the aged, sick, and the disabled. They stored their food and other belongings in a casual manner. Anybody in need could take what they wanted and return later, with no consent from the owner necessary. Normally a wulileng would contain five to six households—at most a dozen—under the leadership of an elected xinmamaleng, who was responsible for organizing collective hunting assignments. Usually hunting was carried out in groups of four to five hunters, called angnaga. Reindeer served as the main transport for their belongings, especially their xianrenzhus. They also rode reindeer when they hunted—except in winter, when they used ski boards. Hunting dogs were indispensable, and they used shotguns extensively. They maintained regular barter with outsiders, exchanging their game, fur, and forest produce for food grain, clothes, and implements. Today, embroidery, carving, and painting are still popular, and Ewenki like to make bird and animal toys with birch bark.

In recent years their economic life has undergone tremendous change, having diversified into substantial small- and medium-scale industries. They organized hunting in collectives and then production brigades. Tasks in animal husbandry such as grass cutting, transportation, water supply, herd bathing, wool processing, etc., are mechanized.

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