Siberian Indigenous Classifications for Understanding the Effects of Climate Change on the Environment

Did you know that?
Indigenous Peoples around the Arctic have several hundred words for snow and Ice. For example, the Saami have more than 300 words for snow!
Indigenous Peoples have a great knowledge on their environment and share this with scientists. However, they cannot share all their information as they might reveal hunting and fishing areas that they depend on for their livelihoods.
There are over 40 different ethnic groups living in the Arctic. In terms of statistics there is no circumpolar definition of an indigenous person and therefore the number of indigenous people is based on different national definitions.
There are between forty and ninety Indigenous languages spoken in the Arctic, depending on the methods used to classify languages and dialects. The languages tell us about the culture and ways of life (see video). Some languages are spoken by only one or two people and studies are trying to preserve these languages.
Several of the authors of our Science Stories book are Indigenous Peoples.
Valentina singing traditional songs north of Nadym, northern Siberia. Valentina has Nenet and Zyriana heritage | Photo: TV. Callaghan

Get Active!
Learn to Speak Evenki
Evenki is a language that is spoken by Indigenous People in China, Mongolia and Russia and it is the widest-spread native language of Siberia. This language is considered to be endangered as there are only approximately 7,000 people in the world who still speak Evenki. There are an estimated 36,000 Evenki alive today. Evenki are highly knowledgeable about their environment and weather and ecological changes in their homelands as the population are dependent on hunting, fishing and reindeer herding. They therefore rely heavily on the environment and the functioning of ecosystems within the taiga forest of the Arctic.

The Evenki language is an essential part of the Evenki society and without it, future generations miss out on fully understanding their culture. Without native language, storytelling (see video), knowledge transfer and other traditions will be lost and there will be less diversity in knowledge, science and languages around the world.
Evenki Poet, Alitet Nemtushkin, wrote a poem describing the importance of preservation of endangered languages:
If I forget my native speech,
And the songs that my people used to sing?
What use are my eyes and ears?
What use is my mouth?

If I forget the smell of the Earth
And do not serve it well
What use are my hands?
Why am I living in the world?

How can I believe the foolish idea
That my language is weak and poor
If my mother's last words
Were in Evenki?

Following questions:
Explore the Evenki-English translator and phrase book to learn Evenki phrases. Can you say any? Try to translate the following sentence into Evenki: "We hunt reindeer at the end of winter."
What do you think the Evenki speak about? Write two sentences that you think Evenki people may say.