The lifestyle of Nota Lake Lapps
For the Nota Lake (Notozersky) and Songlesk Lapps the basic social structure was the commune – sijjt. Its main features included: (common winter camping grounds and common harvesting areas), communality of daily and economic and spiritual lives, existence of certain internal structures and basic communal elements.
For the Lapps the community was the same as the land owned by it comprising of the ancestral land of the members. This is evident from the fact that the community and the settlement both were called sijjt. The sijjt could comprise of many smaller communal groups (camping grounds) from a single settlement. The communities were typically comprised of 60-70 to 200-300 people. The sijjt typically had permanent members, although it still was an open social structure, which allowed the induction of new members into the community. The sijjt was mainly subdivided into families, as well as temporary and permanent labour collectives, which were composed along the territorial, as well as familial lines. The interrelations in such groups were based on helping each other and cooperation.
The sijjt’s territory comprised of estates, which represented the basis for traditional complex ownership. The states comprised of: salmon rearing areas, lakes, forests, hunting grounds and reindeer grazing grounds. The winter camping grounds were like the center of this territory, where the Lapps lived from December till April. For the rest of the year the sijjt would fall into familial groups and would be split over set routes. The travelling groups were mainly comprised of several “brotherly families” or close relatives. The sijjt could have an intricate network of seasonal spots in its labouring territories (“fall spots”).
One family could own as many as 4-5 seasonal spots. “The movement of Lapps is like the infinite movement of time” – wrote I. Manninen (Manninen, 1932 S 287). The Lappish community maintained its archaic functional model till 1920s. The sijjt’s population would sometimes separate into working groups, heading to the working grounds and sometimes would come back to the centre.
The most visible difference between the models of sijjts of Nota Lake and Songelsk Lapps was the presence of permanent settlements – two types of camping grounds (winter and summer), as well as short shifts from one labouring ground to the other. The shifts were arranged along the lines of traditional paths taken by the reindeers, but never crossed the line of the living grounds of “forest” Lapps. The time of shifting from one grazing ground to the other was the end of April and beginning of May.
The territorial integrity was the founding stone for the sijjt. The boundaries of each community’s land were well known to all the neighbours. The markers of boundaries were hills, larger rivers, local area markers, as well as wastelands without reindeer moss. The sijjt had exclusive rights over the natural resources of its territory. Therefore, “despite their love for roaming, the Lapps rarely went beyond their own lands… and if they did, it would just be to find their reindeers, who carried the owner’s seal”.
“In Lappish settlements the salmon rearing areas were communal property and could be used by the whole sijjt. The communal ownership of salmon rearing areas was also subject to regular redistributions of fishing grounds. When fishing for salmon using the fencesthe rights to the area and tackle belonged to the community and the catch was distributed according to the familial share, owned by each family in the sijjt.
The Lakes were owned by the families or familial groups. The right of ownership and fishing were inherited by each next generation and they were never subject to division or redistribution. However, in holy for Lapps lakes, one could only fish on certain days of the year and could only fish with communal net.
The communal ownership of hunting grounds was mainly due to the drive hunting of wold reindeer using fences and concealed pits or traps. Such hunting concerned the whole sijjt and usually the whole male population would lend a hand in such hunt. The hunt for wolves, bears and beavers was also collective. At the same time parts of the hunting grounds were lent for familial use, which was tended to give chances for individual hunting and significance of fur business.
In the second half of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, the sijjt also owned the reindeer grazing grounds. Reindeer farming had deep traditions of cooperation among the members of the single community, as well as between the members of separate sijjts. The free grazing of reindeers – the specific characteristic of Lappish reindeer farming system – was possible only when you had harmony among the neighbouring tribes, good neighbourly relations and known collective responsibility for freely grazing herds. If one would find a reindeer belonging to the member of the same community, the find would not be awarded, but if someone would find a reindeer belonging to a member of another community the locator would be awarded one rouble (1900s). Reindeers from very far off tribes could be treated as wild and therefore, could be hunted.
The “assembly” played an important role in regulating intra-communal relations, relations with other sijjts and with the representatives of the Russian Administration. The assembly was normally attended by the male population, but decisive votes were cast only by the heads of families, i.e. “The Lapps, who owned a tent”. The “oldest and the most respected Lapps” had the most say, when it came to deciding important matters. The assembly normally dealt with matters of working nature: regulating the use of working grounds, redistribution of salmon rearing areas Fishing ground — spot in a river or a lake, where you can set your tackle for a sure catch among the families, construction of fishing stakes, watching over the territorial interests of the sijjt, as well as all the matters concerning family life: distribution of inheritance, change of seal, adoption of kids etc. when handling cases regarding conflicts, theft, illegal ownership of someone else’s reindeer etc. the assembly acted as a court. The assembly also discussed the sijjt’s tax liabilities. We also have some evidence pointing towards communal cults and communal festivities. For example, A. Genets describes reindeer sacrifice near the sijte-taippe, attended by all the members of the sijjt. In his description of 1874, he says that the ceremony was attended by all the males and some old females of the sijjt. There were two tents built away from the main settlement, which were used to spend the nights, during the sacrifice ceremonies. The sacrifice ritual required 12 reindeers, which were slaughtered one every day. The hide of each reindeer would be put on a wooden goat, which were then placed in the forest.
The sacrifice ceremonies, usually took place in winter, after the Christmas time. The sacrificial grounds (sijte-taippe) were usually near the reindeer hedge. The sacrificed reindeer would be eaten by all the members of the ceremony. The sacrifice in the name of the goddess of domesticated reindeers Ra-ziayke, came in winter according to one source, according to others it was either around Easter or around the Yegoriev Day (23.04/6.05), “where the domesticated reindeer is the subject of the moment”. The Lapps would collectively go into the tundra to hill tops, where the reindeers would gather, would build a tent and sacrificed. “The whole ritual was conducted by knowledgeable people, commonly known as shepherds”.
During the spring reindeer festival, all the men would go to the reindeer island on their boats and would leave behind the reindeer horns brought with them. As per the accounts of old people, the island was home to competitions “among the young Lapps, who would come out naked only with reindeer horns on their heads for the fight. The winner would get the most beautiful girl as a reward”.
The Lapps would select the best whole ear reindeer, which had not yet been ridden and would sacrifice it to the seid (holy rock), at the sacrificial grounds linte-pajjk, which would be approximately a mile from the settlement. The given reindeer would be cooked in the common pot and “eaten by the whole community”.
The idea of family is expressed using a word derived from the Russian word “RODSTVINIK” (RODT), which for Lapps includes a pretty wide circle of relatives from the paternal as well as maternal side. N. N. Kharuzin’s testimony is quite descriptive: “For the Lapps the word (RODT) means all the people who have familial bonds without any discrimination if the relation is by blood or by feed”. This means that the Lappish RODT is the wide family not the immediate family.
The Lapps did not have strict matrimonial code, but marriage among the relatives was not allowed, which included maternal and paternal relatives. This taboo was implemented through certain ethical rules. For example, it was believed that if someone would marry a close relative, one of the parties would die or “will be stricken by bad luck”.
It was not prohibited to marry persons with the same family name and as per the accounts of many researchers it was done quite often. Out of the 1115 marriages 90 (or 8%) were between people with the same family name. according to the Lappish elders it was prohibited to marry your cousins, but apart from that you were free. The marriages between people with the same family name were not prohibited, although they had relations.
The researches, from the end of XIX century and beginning of the XX century show that the Lapps did not only marry within their own community, but on the contrary the bigger the community the more often they married people from other Lappish settlements.
For example, the Nota Lake Lapps 58 out of 109 within the community, whereas the Songlesk had 31 out of 61 marriages within the community.
There were traditional matrimonial relations among the Nota Lake, Babinsk and Ecostrovsky settlements. The Songelsk Lapps often married the Lapps from Petchgsk, Pozretsk, Nyavdemsk (now part of Norway since 1826) and Motovsk tribes.
Sometimes there were “unions of tribes”, which meant very important matrimonial links, which had their affect on traditional neighbourly relations. The Nota Lake and Songelsk had such relations. For example the Nota Lake and Songlesk tribes owned very vast fishing grounds in the Tuloma River, hunting grounds between the rivers Lotta, Nota and Javr.
Such unions were formed because of territorial proximity of tribes and personal relations, as well as current familial relations. In the end of XIX century and the beginning of XX century the Lapps commonly had separate and combined families. So, the size of average family in the Nota Lake tribe was 5.2 people and in Songlesk tribe it was 6.4 people.
Interestingly enough the Lapps always pointed to their wives as “he” and never as “she”. Probably this was the remnant of matriarchal social structure, which was dominant among the Lapps, some 4000 years ago.
The large family had combined (joint) hunting and domestic collective, which commonly owned working grounds, housing, boats, dry land etc. We can look into several concrete examples. For example, in 1920s in the paternal family of Yakovlevs (Kildinsky tribe), comprised of the parents and families of two married sons, where the household was common, the food was cooked in one pot, but at the same time there was a division of labour: “half the family members fished for salmon, whereas the other half took care of the reindeers at the lake”. Another example can be the brotherly family og Konkovs, where the elder brother headed the family – A. M. Konkov. The Konkovs had their summer camping grounds at the Kolozero, which is also known as the Abramovka. They commonly used the salmon fishing grounds at Vyldek-Kiint at the shores of Kola river and summer grazing grounds at Kuad-tunter. Each of the married couples had their own tent at the working grounds: “We the Konkovs lived from spot to spot and during one spring we shifted through three spots, as the moss shifted”. In many cases the collective property was not affected by the separation of a larger family. For example the family of S. K. Osipov (Nota Lake) fell apart after his death. But his 6 sons left all fishing areas in combined ownership, where they usually fished together and divided the catch equally.
The Lappish families normally had combined reindeer herds, but among the herd reindeers could be identified as belonging to one or the other members of the family.
One of the ways of acquiring property was receiving gifts, which were endowed on important occasions: birth, christening, growth of the first tooth etc. the reindeers belonging to a girl were separately identified in the parental herd and after marriage they were stamped with the girl’s personal seal. Such reindeers were called “immortals”, because according to the traditions the number of such reindeers had to remain constant. In case of divorce the woman had the right to these reindeers and she would return to her parents’ home with the given reindeers. B. Kollinder rightfully interprets the separation of woman’s reindeers in her husband’s herd as a sign of her relative independence. All the items made individually were also considered as personal property.
In the end of XIX and beginning of XX centuries the Lapps continued implementing the whole set of social relations and other relations to maintain the territorial integrity for the commune and its interrelation with the Russian Administration, neighbourly and interpersonal, which helped retain functionality of the Nota Lake Lapps.
Salmon is fished out of rivers using the fences. For the purpose the fishermen opt for narrow and shallow spots, where they hammer in a few piles across the whole breadth of the river, which are then sheathed with thin sheets of wood. At various spots, depending on the width of the river, the fence has low passages, which are covered with dragnets, tied with thin cords; the holes in the dragnet face downstream; to make sure that the salmon would not jump over the fence the fishermen used to raise the fence above the waterline. The fish, coming up the river, after reaching the fence would look for passages (holes), and goes straight into the dragnet, which meant falling prey to the fishermen. The dragnets are checked twice a day and usually you can have a 100 fish or more each time. Fishing with fences starts in April and goes on till deep autumn. In the Tuloma River the fence is set only under the fall and covers just one of the channels. In good times you can have more than 11/2 t В лучшие годы попадает в оный более 11/2 t stones of salmon, whereas one of the fishermen pays 700 roubles per year to Nota Lake Lapps, to make sure that they would help rear the fish. The largest of the salmon caught at the Lapland shores is 50 to 70 pounds in weight. A stone of fresh salmon is sold for 1-2 roubles. But the salmon from the rivers, which run into the White Sea and along the Tersk Coast, is considered better than the Lapland salmon, therefore is worth more. In 1826 the value of salmon sold from Ponoya was around 40 thousand roubles, whereas from Varzukhi the amount was as high as 60 thousand roubles.