Itelmen - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The traditional Itelmen productive activities, fishing and hunting for furbearing animals, have retained their importance. Until the 1960s sea-animal hunting had material significance, but it has now ceased because of a catastrophic decrease in the total number of ringed seals ( nerpy ) in the Sea of Okhotsk. Dairy farming and gardening are relatively new economic activities. The Itelmen used sledge dogs for transport, later also packhorses, and now tractors and Land Rovers. Water transport included boats that were hollowed from whole trunks of poplar trees ( txtum ) . The Itelmen used oars to go down river, punt-poles to go upstream. There are as yet no modern roads on the west coast. There is air transport between the settlements (airplanes and helicopters).

Industrial Arts. Today the majority of Itelmen are collective farmers engaged in fishing and laying in of hay in the summer, harvesting of vegetables in the autumn, and hunting for furbearing animals in winter. There are no industrial workers or, for example, pilots among the Itelmen. Those who have received higher and secondary special education have become teachers, political functionaries at the lowest level, workers in kindergartens, mechanics, and tractor drivers. There is one scholar among the Itelmen, ethnographer Nadezhda Starkova; she is employed in Vladivostok.

Trade. Except for primitive exchange, Itelmen were not traditionally engaged in trade.

Division of Labor. Formerly as well as now, men's tasks were fishing and hunting. "Women's" work was traditionally gathering, laying in of berries and edible plants, and housekeeping. Itelmen knew edible tundra roots and grasses well and used them widely. Today the practice of gathering is almost completely obliterated, replaced in some ways by the growing of vegetables.

Land Tenure. The concept of "owning land" has always been alien to the Itelmen. Places for hunting and fishing also have never been considered the property of anyone.

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