The Khanty: Fisherman, Reindeer Herder, And Survivor

I knew nothing about the Khanty before I started this blog, I never even knew that there were groups of indigenous people in Russia. I was also unaware of the severity of the environmental issues in Russia.

The Khanty are one of the larger groups of indigenous people with a population of about 31,000. The vast majority live in the Tyumen Oblast which is found in Western Siberia. The production of oil and gas became a vital part of the Russian economy but has become more and more detrimental to the Khanty’s way of life. The Khanty rely heavily on fish and reindeer, but with oil exploitation in that area is polluting the water and killing off their reindeer.  The Khanty also have issues involving alcoholism, suicide, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. The Khanty live a fairly traditional life herding reindeer, fishing, cooking, and creating colorful and beautiful pieces of clothing. They also pass the time playing games and wrestling. It was amazing to be able to learn in depth about a culture other than my own, I was able to appreciate my own a little more and learn more about my own.

I feel as though with the research I conducted I didn’t see anything really ethnocentric or see anything I would consider extreme cultural relativism. I felt as though the sources were very factual. I felt as though I had issues being ethnocentric, I was more considered with the issues facing the environment and how that affected the people living the in that area. I didn’t understand how a company and government could harm the environment and groups of people in the surrounding area for any amount of money. As I was conducting my research on the Khanty and this issue I was reminded of the issue surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline would go through sacred Indian land and burial grounds and also poses a serious threat to the drinking water in that area. Similarly the Khanty’s sacred Lake is at risk of pollution and their reindeer are dying; I didn’t think things to this degree happened in the US. I had the tendency to think that I was exempt from being exposed to things of this nature, that here in the US we took the best care of everyone who lived here.

The research I conducted could be considered ethnographic because I was concerned with learning how their culture would and could be affected by the issues they faced. I learned about their customs such as their reliance on reindeer and how the current state of their land is affecting their way of life.

It was somewhat difficult to find information on the Khanty that wasn’t at least twenty years old. To find reliable sources I used google scholar or if possible looked at strictly academic search engines. I also used “site:edu” when searching to narrow down the websites/articles that would appear.

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