Mourning the Loss of Two Prominent Elders from Republic of Sakha-Yakutia

Mourning the Loss of Two Prominent Elders, Chukchi Petr Innokentievich Kaurgin and Evenk Semion Stepanovich Vasiliev from Republic of Sakha-Yakutia, Russia

Snowchange Cooperative joins in mourning for Prominent Elder Petr Innokentievich Kaurgin From Lower Kolyma, Republic of Sakha-Yakutia, Russia. The village of Kolymskaya and the nomadic community of Turvaurgin are greatly saddened because of this loss. Kaurgin was a prominent knowledge holder of the Chukchi of the Lower Kolyma region, and a son of a spiritual person, shaman. Petr Innokentievich Kaurgin buried his father in the tundra in a traditional style. Today he has gone home.

He was the oldest person in the village of Kolymskaya, and worked all his life in the Khalartcha tundra as a reindeer herder and fisherman. Snowchange collected oral histories with Petr Innokentievich Kaurgin from 2005 to 2012. Kaurgin explained over the years of the times when the spiritual leaders of the Chukchi were repressed, how the nomadic herding changed throughout the 1900s and how the Chukchi adapted to these events. In the 2000s a new phenomenon arrived: the melting of permafrost, which physically altered the landscapes and the fishing lakes of Mr. Kaurgin. During an oral history documentation in March 2006 he said: “Many lakes have disappeared. A lot of them have just vanished. It all began about ten years ago. Also the Kolyma and its riverbanks are changing, collapsing, as everything melts. The river is our lifeline, it feeds us.” Mr. Kaurgin knew his landscapes and homeland with intimate detail.

The observations of Elder Petr Innokentievich Kaurgin have been instrumental in identifying how weather changes and permafrost melt impact the Indigenous societies of the Arctic. His words and knowledge has appeared in international scholarly publications and Arctic Council Assessments, including the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment. He is survived by his widow mrs. Anna Yakolevna Kaurgina, their children, grandchildren and the large extended clan of the Kaurgins.

In Southern Yakutia, Elder Semion Stepanovich Vasiliev, known as Savei, was the spiritual leader of the Evenk of Iengra, Republic of Sakha-Yakutia. He passed away 1st November 2013. Snowchange joins in condolences for the family and village of Iengra for the loss of Mr. Vasiliev.

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