Orochi - Economy

The Orochi engaged in fishing and in forest and marine hunting in the Tatar Strait. Every man was a fisher, a hunter, and a constructor of wooden and bark dwellings and other buildings, boats, skis, and sleds. The Orochi forged metallic objects and fashioned nets and snares, etc. They caught fish year-round, partitioning off the rivers with nets and seines and fished with spears; for marine mammals they used harpoons. In the taiga, they hunted large animals year-round with spears, bows, and guns (since the nineteenth century), luring them with fifes. During the winter they used a wide variety of snares and nets to catch smaller animals. Dogs pulled transport sleds of various types.

Women's labor was not less significant than the men's. Women preserved the fish and meat caught by the men; created stocks of wild-growing edible, medicinal, and fibrous plants; prepared vital equipment from birch; worked the skins and furs of forest and marine mammals and fish; and sewed clothing and footwear from them for all members of the family, as well as making other household articles. They also fed and raised the children.

Fish constituted the basic nourishment. To a considerable degree, dried salmon (Russian: yukola ) provided the subsistence for the family. They caught the fish during the summer and fall, stocking up yukola for the entire year. The leftovers from the preparation of the yukola were fed to the pack dogs. The fat of fish and mammals, as well as their flesh, was also an important food source.

Traditionally, specialized seasonal hunting attire was an important part of Orochi clothing. Overcoats were fashioned from reindeer and nerpa (freshwater seal) skins, whereas summer clothing was made of suede, the pelts of wild goats, or cloth. The men's nerpa-skin frocks, overcoats, short fur breastplates under the clothing, and aprons over the clothes were characteristic apparel. Both men and women wore robes of cloth or fish skin, the women's being distinguished not by their cut but by the large quantity of adornments; the long woven breastplates (similar to those of the Evenki) were another characteristic element of the female costume. They had a large variety of footwear, depending on the undertaking and season. Specific hunting caps and helmets were also worn.

The Orochi had close ties with their neighbors—the Nanai, Ul'cha, and the Udegei—which are witnessed in their culture. They sold furs to these peoples' traders. In the eighteenth century La Perouse reported seeing Orochi men and women wearing robes not only of fish skin but also of Chinese fabric.

In the middle of the nineteenth century Russians settled among the Orochi on the Tumnin River (Imperial Harbor). The Orochi were Christianized. They acquired various equipment for the hunt, as well as everyday items, from Russian traders. Among the Orochi themselves there was little material inequality. At the turn of the century, the Russian administration designated the most well-to-do people as the leaders.

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