Lifestyle and Subsistence

The main traditional occupations of the Even were and still are reindeer breeding and hunting: fishing has a subsidiary importance. Even reindeer differ from those in Chukotka and Buryatia by their height, strength, and endurance, and are kept in small herds. Reindeer are saddled for transport, and are also used to pull sleds during nomadic movements. Evens hunt deer, elk, and mountain sheep. Fur trade with the Russians was an important economic activity (they mainly hunted squirrels).

Evens on the Okhotsk coast led a semisettled life: they fished in the mouths of rivers and hunted marine mammals. Russians gave the name Lamut to these coastal Evens; the word means "living by the sea." The Even caught humpback and chum salmon with harpoons and nets. In autumn they hunted marine mammals in small groups of four to five persons, using sticks or harpoons (later guns) to beat seals at the edge of the ice. In spring they hunted by boat (usually gouged boats), which they bought from neighboring peoples. Before the 18th century, a floating harpoon of 30 m length was popular. A tandem dog-team, in which dogs were tied from both sides along a central strap, was the main transport among the settled Evens. Since the 19th century an east Siberian type of tandem team, adopted from the Russians, became common. There was a natural trade between settled and nomadic Evens: they exchanged reindeer meat and ringed sealskin.

There were two types of Even portable dwellings: conical rawhide and cylindrical conical frame tents. The hunter's summer dwelling was a conical tent made of poles. Settled Evens lived in rectangular log houses. Before the 18th century, semi-subterranean dugouts with a flat roof and an entrance through the smoke hole were used.

Traditional clothes were similar to those of the Evenki—fur trousers and knee-length coats or caftans made of intact skin with sewn-in gussets on the back. Unlike the Evenk caftan, the chest and skirt were trimmed with fur. Seams were covered with a strip, decorated with beads. A breastplate sewn to an apron covered the chest opening down to the knees. Girdles of men's breastplates were decorated with a fur fringe; the women's breastplates were decorated with beads, reindeer hair, and fringes with metal pendants (small bells, badges, rings, and coins).

Caps were made of fur, with leather strips colored white, black, yellow, and ochre and decorated with beads and reindeer hair. Winter footwear (torbasa) was made from reindeer leg skin and decorated with strips of beads or light-colored fur. In woodland areas, traditional men's clothes were superseded by Yakut clothes, and in the tundra zone they were superseded by Chukchi clothes. Women's clothes remained more traditional.

The staple food was boiled and dried reindeer meat or game; the coastal Evens also ate boiled or fried fish with seal fat. They also used raw, frozen, and dried fish, making a floury powder from dried fish. Reindeer stomach with berries was a favorite food. They also picked berries, nuts, bark, and cedar needles, and drank imported tea together with teas made of extracts of flowers, leaves, hips, and the dried leaves of willow herbs.

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