Who are the Chukchi?
Herders and Coastal Dwellers
Settled within the remote and frosty Chukotka district in the extreme northeastern region Siberia, the Chukchi people are the indigenous inhabitants of this challenging territory.
The Chukchi can be divided into two clearly distinct groups: the inland Chukchi, who herd reindeer and refer to themselves as "Chavchu" (rich in reindeer), and the coastal Chukchi, also known as "An'kalyn" (coastal dwellers), who primarily depend on sea animal hunting.
These two groups have a long history of trade and interaction because their symbiotic relationship has connected their economies and survival techniques. While the reindeer herders supply the coastal Chukchi with highly prized reindeer meat and skins, the coastal Chukchi supply the inland herders with products from sea animals.
Some inland Chukchi continue to breed reindeer, albeit on a lesser scale than in the past. Similarly, the coastal Chukchi continue to hunt for sea animals and fish on a daily basis. There are relatively few jobs for native people outside of their traditional occupations. Some Chukchi are able to earn money from native art, mainly carving and engraving ivory.
Profund Canine Connection
The Chukchi Huskies, also known as Chukotka sled dogs, hold a special place in the hearts and history of the Chukchi tribe. These hardy and loyal sled dogs have been indispensable companions to the Chukchi people for centuries, assisting them in the demanding tasks of transportation and survival in the Arctic environment. The relationship between the Chukchi tribe and their huskies is one of mutual dependence and respect. The Chukchi provide their huskies with care, food, and shelter, while the huskies, in return, play a vital role in hunting and transportation, helping the Chukchi navigate the harsh terrain of Chukotka. This enduring partnership between the Chukchi and their huskies exemplifies the deep connection between indigenous peoples and the animals that have been instrumental in their way of life.
Chukchi Lifestyle and Traditions
The traditional Chukchi house is the ‘yaranga’, a cone-shaped or rounded reindeer skin tent. The coastal Chukchi often used walrus skin for covering their yarangas. Some reindeer herding Chukchi still use yarangas today when they are out with their reindeer, but the majority now reside in prefabricated concrete apartment buildings.
Chukchi traditional clothing clearly captures the rich and unique cultural heritage that they possess. These costumes serve as a representation of the tribe's traditional beliefs, as well as a means of protection from the harsh Arctic climate. A glimpse into the unique way of life and identity of the Chukchi people is provided by the elaborate designs, materials, and symbolism woven into their clothing. Men wear loose shirts and trousers, while women dress in knee-length garments cut with various furs. It's common to see leather clothing underneath high boots.
Rich Culture and Shamansistic Beliefs
The traditional Chukchi religion is shamanistic and it is focused on family cults and hunting. The Chukchi believe they go to the realm of the Polar Star when they die. They also believe that whatever is buried with them will accompany them to their version of heaven.
Their culture, which is characterised by spiritualism, environmentally friendly habits, and creative endeavours, is proof of the indigenous peoples' eternal power. Local organisations, international collaborations, and governmental initiatives are working together to safeguard their traditional practices, languages, and stories.
Visit Us and Learn More!
Did you know that our Tribes Amsterdam Adam Smith location is inspired by the Chukchi people? Visit us to learn more about the beautiful culture and traditions of the Chukchi and to see the inspiring workspaces available!