Lifestyle and Subsistence

The Chuvans are traditionally nomadic reindeer breeders, hunters (hunting mainly wild reindeer, but also mountain sheep, wolf, and brown bear) and trappers (trapping squirrel, hare, fox, red fox, and Arctic fox), fishers (mainly salmon), and dog breeders. They also had small stocks of domestic reindeer for transportation. Prior to colonization, they also worked as traders and dog-drivers for the Chukchi, bartering trade with the population at the Sea of Okhotsk. They lived in Siberian chums, tentlike frameworks covered with birch bark. In the 19th century, after the major migrations, the remaining nomadic Chuvans developed a large-scale reindeer husbandry and lived in yarangas (hide-covered framework buildings of Chukotkan type).

When in the 19 th century a group of Chuvans in the Markovo District became sedentary, they generally retained their Yukagiran type of subsistence, fishing, and hunting wild reindeer during reindeer migrations. They lived together with starozhily (Russian "Old Settlers") and Yukagirs in log houses with flat roofs and dirt floors, clay stoves, wooden beds, sometimes with sauna. For the summer months, they moved to summer residences at the riverbanks to catch Siberian salmon and humpback salmon using Russian boats (karbasses). Fish was caught with nets, rods, and salmon traps. In autumn, they hunted wild reindeer from kayaklike boats with spears. At the end of the 19th century, an average hunter would kill 40-50 animals per year. They also hunted or trapped squirrels, wolves, bears, hares, wolverines, foxes, and birds.

The sedentary Chuvans in Markovo today work in fish processing and community services. Stock breeding (since the 1930s) and greenhouse vegetable gardening (since the 1950s) have also been introduced. Dog breeding has vanished as an economic activity. The other segment of the Chuvan population residing in the smaller villages still pursue seminomadic reindeer breeding, partly in common collective farms with Evens, Koryaks, and Chukchi, in the upper reaches of the Anadyr River.

Traditional clothes are today used only occasionally by seminomadic people. The clothes are of Chukotkan type: a cotton shirt, a kukhlianka (double fur jacket) and fur trousers in winter, or a kamleika (cotton jacket) in summer, as well as shoes of sealskin.

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