Children of deer

The Nenets are one of the indigenous nations in Russia’s arctic north. The lifestyle of these “children of deer, ” as they call themselves, has been defined by their main occupation — reindeer breeding. During Soviet times many traditions of the Nenets people suffered irreversible damage. Shamans, who were previously the bedrock of the society’s cultural and spiritual life, suffered crackdowns and were eventually driven to extinction — along with their rituals, legends and crafts. Such intrusions from church and state have resulted in a cultural vacuum. The Nenets have an estimated population of around 45,000 and most members do not know their native language and have lost touch with their philosophy: “We don’t take more than we need.”