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28. Hunting

The Tungus consider hunting as their principal profession which must be learned by must be learned by every one of their hunters. We have already seen that this profession requires first of all a perfect knowledge of the habits of the animals hunted, which may be acquired both from direct observation of these animals and from tradition. Therefore the transmission of traditions in this case as one of primary conditions of this profession. Aside the knowledge of the animals, the hunters must know special methods of hunting for every particular animal. Long experience in hunting has brought the Tungus to very elaborate methods of hunting. There exists a great variety of snares and traps, a great variety of weapons, and with the introduction of fire-arms, a great variety of the guns used. The hunter must know those which can be used for hunting of particular animals. Naturally, the Tungus .were used to the bow and arrow before the arrival of the Russians in Siberia, following which the Tungus began to use flint guns. During the XIX-th century they changed their arms soon after the change of the arms in the Russian army. So the modern rifle of the latest model introduced after the Russo-Japanese war was already known in 1915 in Transbaikalia and Manchuria. Also the Tungus of Manchuria know very well the rifle of German type (Mauser with 10 cartridges), and also the Japanese rifle, without speaking of old types as the Berdan, Winchester, and others. No hint as to the conservatism in this respect could be observed in the Tungus behaviour. However, one might meet with the old flint-gun, with the percussion cap gun, and other old types. The Tungus prefer these guns for some particular reasons and use them for special hunting, e.g. the squirrel was hunted with the gun of small size and very small round bullet to avoid as much as possible destroying the skin. Also the charge of this gun was small and thus economical. The flint gun was preferred for hunting very large animals like the elk, bear and tiger which must be hit with a very large bullet. In some cases the Tungus refrained from using fire-arms against the bears. In this case the reason was the difficulty of killing the animal with a small bullet of the modern rifles. They preferred the old method of bear hunting with a spear, or hunting knife fixed on a long wooden shaft. The choice of arms depended also on the cost of the charge and the effectiveness of the shot. In fact, the very best fire-arms in some cases could not be used at all by the Tungus because of the very high price of the cartridges and because of the impossibility of repeatedly recharging them as with the Berdan cartridges. In spite of the modernization of arms the Tungus up to recently continued using the cross-bow, and produced different types of arrows adapted for various kinds of animals. Some of these arrows were even very recently supplied with wooden and bone points not because of the lack of the iron, but in view of the particular qualities of these points. So, for instance, an obtuse wooden point was used for hunting large birds. Formerly the using of poisoned arrows was common. For instance, among the Kumarchen even in recent times a poison was used which was prepared from decaying liver [171]. They also used some plants for manufacturing poisonous substances. This art is now forgotten. Among the Birarchen there has been found a new method of preparing poison which, according to them is good for a few effective shots. A small snake is put into the hollow of the gun and left there to decay. After its destruction the gun is charged and the bullet which hits the animal produces a wound the edges of which won become dark and animal succumbs soon after being even slightly wounded. The meat of the animal killed in this way cannot be eaten for the reason of being poisonous.

I point out these details for they show how practical reasons may cause the survival of certain old forms which from a superficial point of view may appear as manifestations of conservatism, obstinacy and poverty of these hunters, and which in some cases may appear in the eyes of the ethnographers inclined to see mysticism and «religious» reasons, as «sacred methods» of hunting. Indeed, one may imagine perhaps more effective methods of capturing animals and killing them but here two important considerations appear, namely, the economic side, whether the capital spent on the «improvement» may give higher benefit or not, which does not require any special explanation, and the self-limitation in the hunting, which is a systematic policy of the Tungus.

The living on hunting for very long centuries in the same regions has convinced the Tungus of the necessity of regulating hunting. At the present time some of these regulations are often broken. The chief rules are as shown: (1) no animals must be killed if the hunter cannot carry the spoil; (2) animals which are not needed by hunter must not be killed; (3) the animals especially cervines of certain age and sex must not be killed at certain periods; (4) the animal wounded must be followed by the hunter until it is killed. The practical meaning of the first rule is evident, — the preservation of the animals. The second rule produces the same effect and also prevents useless spending of energy on hunting and killing of useless animals like, for instance, wolves (vide supra). The third rule is composed of several particular rules. For instance, the females especially when pregnant must not be killed at all [172], the very young fawns of elk, Gervus Elaphus, Cervus Tarandus must be spared too. (The fawns of Cervus Capreolus — roe-deer - may be killed; as a matter of fact they are very numerous); all fur bearing animals must be spared at the periods when the fur is not good, all animals whose skins are used for manufacturing must not be killed during the period when the skin is perforated by the insects. The list of regulations may be increased, but what is stated will suffice for showing that these regulations have in view an economical use of the natural wealth represented by these animals. The regulations of pursuing the wounded animals has in view the avoidance of useless destruction of animals.

Indeed, these regulations may receive a certain explanation in the form of reference to the spirits who «send» the animals to the hunter. They would sometimes say that the spirit of the taiga (it may have different names, vide infra Ch. XI) will not send the animals if they are uselessly destroyed, it will not give mahin, mayin (Barg. Nerc. Bir.) mahin, majin (RTM. Bir. Kum.) — the hunting «luck» [173]. The luck is given by the spirit of the taiga. Even a good, skillful hunter may have no mayin in his hunting. Yet, he must not transgress the regulations of hunting in order to have mayin. As a matter of fact in this conception of mayin there is concentrated the experience of hunting in which there is always certain play of probability of meeting the animals and missing them, and when they are met to hit them or to miss the shot. On the other hand the actions of the hunter may reduce the number of animals, e.g. in the case of non observation of the regulations regarding their preservation, when the animals become rarer, and the breaking of some prohibitions and customs, the practical meaning of which is not perhaps clear, may warn the animals of the hunters presence. Indeed, in so far as the conception of mayin is concerned, it is a mere «chance» which may be increased or decreased by the hunters acts, but as to the spirit giving the mayin, it is a hypothesis. However, the hypothesis of spirit has a secondary importance when the hunter considers the practical side of the hunting and the Tungus, especially experienced old hunters, give quite clear and rationalistic reasons even in the explanation of some customs avoiding a useless killing of the animals and preventive methods regarding the hunters smell perceived by the animals.

The hunting complex has also gradually incorporated several other regulations all of which I shall not describe here, but I shall give only some instances. While hunting the Tungus use some restrictions as to the production of useless noise, laughing, useless talk, sometimes making a fire, abstaining from using certain words (special language, or better a special vocabulary). There are several other special prohibitions, as for instance amongst the Barguzin and Nerchinsk Tungus, the hunter must not give to the dog or throw away the head and testes of the musk dear, the liver and heart of the Cervus Elaphus, and so on. Among the Birarchen the hunter must not start hunting on odd days of the month. However, such regulations exist only among the groups which keep an exact calendar. Some of these prohibitions may be understood as measures for preventing animals from being disturbed, while some other phenomena such as the use of galeg-da objects which may be recognized by the animals by their smell [174], or the managing the animals soul, or specific professional terminology may grow since the fashion receives a certain recognition. I think the abstaining from laughing and idle talk is connected with the importance, the seriousness of the hunting, to the Tungus [175]. During the hunting, the oesophagus, the wind pipe, and the principal arteries and veins of the neck must not be cut; these organs must be taken out together and carefully separated one from the other. If this rule is broken there will be no luck in hunting mayin obdowca (Bir. Kum.), — «the luck was broken». Finally some of these customs cannot be explained by the Tungus themselves and they follow them as with other rules and customs already described, the violation of which may reduce the mayin — the chance of killing the animal [176].

So amongst the Tungus there was little by little formed a complex of rules concerning hunting. This complex might be created only on the condition of its transmission from one generation to another. Naturally, it was worked out owing to the continuous increase of experience and correct inferences made of the observations of facts and change of the Tungus and of the animal population of various regional and yet more generally, of the regions occupied by the Tungus living on hunting. As a code of rules, many of which could not be justified by practical reasons; it needed therefore support of the higher authority which was that of taiga spirit. It may be noted that even during the last century, there were introduced new ideas of hunting for the market which required more than the old regulations permitted. On the other hand, the needs of the Tungus also increased owing to the change of weapons and increase of the goods used by the Tungus: e.g. regular supply of the alcoholic drinks, manufactured tissues, and even food-stuffs (vide SONT, pp. 26-28). This conflict between the old system of regulations and new requirements has resulted in change of the idea as to the spirits regulating the hunting, and even mayin. The change of this complex was greatly assisted by the missionaries who did their best to destroy «old beliefs» in the spirits. This conflict involved the young and old generations in the continuous discussions in which the old generation was sure of the necessity of keeping to the old self-limitations, while the young generation insisted upon the technical changes and quick enrichment of the Tungus. Indeed, such an enrichment could not be possible under the conditions of the system of economic exploitation by the Russian and Chinese traders, which was realized even by the older generation.

The older generation knew that the increase of hunting spoil was possible if the fire arms were changed, but in the system of equilibrium existing between the increase of wild animals and Tungus consummation of them, the fire-arms as they were first used and strict observation of the regulations were in a complex relation to the reproduction of animals and to the Tungus needs. From the point of view of individual wealth these restrictions of hunting were not beneficial but they permitted the Tungus to have preserved their ethnical existence. This consideration was a decisive moment in their behavior. The innovations in the form of modern fire arms, non-observation of regulations, intrusion of: foreign traders, reflexion on the hypotheses regarding the spirits meant for the old generation, destruction of the Tungus integrity and finally loss of their independence. The change of «old faith» [fe doro of the Man-chus, n'opti or sagdi on (Barg. Nerc. Kum. Khin. RTM. Bir. Mank.), also sagdi doroyon (Bir.), sagdi joso (Khin) (Ur. Castr.) cf. Mon. Rud. jos II joson cf. also joso (Manchu Writ.) was thus equivalent to the destruction of the Tungus. Indeed, in this case I show the process of reasoning which was not expressed exactly in the terms here used, but which was that of their idea. The old generation did accept the new situation for in their eyes it was impossible to oppose the penetration of the alien (Russian aid Chinese) influence and the young generation was not yet versed in the problem of the methods of keeping the equilibrium, — as shown they did not know all the consequences which might result from the change of the old regulations and increase of the hunting spoil.

As a characteristic element of Tungus behavior it may also noted that the Tungus are not atrocious in the sense of causing useless suffering to the animals. They do not kill animals which are not needed for the reasons already indicated and yet they would consider it «bad» should one kill them without any aim. As a matter of fact, they recognize killing of the animals as a necessity and they avoid making the animals suffer. If the animal is wounded and cannot move the Tungus immediately kill it by introduction of the narrow hunting knife into the brain through the basal aperture of the skull. For the same reason they do not kill the animals by methods of slow action. The explanation given may be that the animals will be angry with the hunter. However, this may be a simple rationalization of their dislike of atrocity conditioned by some different causes (vide SONT, Ch.VIII).

We have seen above that the Tungus do object to change methods of hunting and customs connected with it on the ground of preservation of the existing equilibrium., So that in this case if there was certain opposition to the innovations in technique of hunting it was not always based upon the psychological condition of sticking to the existing complex, and mental laziness but it was based upon practical consideration as to the possibility of changes in view of preservation of the ethnical integrity and independence. In the system of hunting the element of tradition and understanding of the practical possibility of changes was not of lesser importance than theoretical knowledge of economic relations, These have formed the theory of economics and economic policy of the Tungus, as one of the elements of the material complex in its reflection in the psychomental complex of the Tungus. Indeed, the contents of this branch of Tungus knowledge is not very voluminous for the body of facts and relations to be dealt with is not large. Yet, the method of investigation of economic relations» as we have seen, based upon the collecting of facts, and their analysis from which the Tungus make their conclusions and generalizations, only in some particular cases and individuals is supported or explained by the hypothesis of spirits activity which in its turn is based upon dualistic treatment of the phenomena.

From the above analysis of the facts observed amongst the Tungus we may thus see that they have come to the creation of what may be called the elements of economics. Being an element of the psychomental complex it may be regarded as a derivative function of the material culture. The contents of the Tungus economics thus might increase together with the quantitative growth of the material culture and complication of the relations resulting from it, if the Tungus should be left as an independent group of ethnical units.

Together with the tendency of preservation of the existing complex we meet with a peculiarities of the Tungus psychomental complex, already pointed out on several occasions, namely, the Tungus are anxious to learn new methods of hunting and fishing. In fact in the Tungus complexes of these industries we meet with the elements quite commonly borrowed from the neighbouring groups. If the new element of technique may be thus adapted to the existing complex if it is good, and if it does not disturb the functioning of the whole complex, it is adopted immediately. Otherwise the Tungus would hesitate to incorporate it. So the Tungus complex may consist of elements of various origin, ethnically and chronologically. As to the technique used by other groups, as for instance an unregulated destruction of the animals in the regional practiced by the Chinese and Russians, it may be severely criticized by the Tungus. They consider in the same way any new weapon or method of hunting.

Those who are not familiar with the complex conditions of Tungus industry of hunting very often believe them to be conservative and backward. However, before making such a generalization, we must carefully investigate the causes of preservation of certain forms of hunting, of preference for often times very «primitive» methods and of general policy of keeping the hunting, spoil at a certain level. In fact, the hunting of some animals by modern methods, as e.g. squirrel, could not pay back the expenses, considering the market prices, while the «primitive methods» sometimes better preserve the skin. The Tungus policy of control of hunting can be understood only after a very detailed study. There are people who advise the Tungus to introduce changes, but such incompetent advisors in the Tungus eyes look childish. Should these advisors insist upon their innovations and the Tungus should accept them the whole complex would be destroyed.

The process of disintegration of the Tungus hunting complex, as stated, began during the nineteenth century. In most of the localities occupied by the Tungus the living animals are becoming more and more rare, so that the former equilibrium has been shaken [177]. In so far as it may be seen from the recent reports of the travellers, since the destruction of the old social organization produced by the governmental policy in Siberia, the Tungus have gone still farther in the process of their disintegration [178]. The loss of this complex in Manchuria is chiefly conditioned by the increase of population consisting of newcomers, — Chinese hunters, — who do not care to preserve the animals and destroy as many as they can. The loss of the former equilibrium and the loss of the old complex have ruined the Tungus of Amgun regions (cf. 1.1. Gapanovich). In the Sixota Alin (Maritime Gov.) region many animals have gradually disappeared (cf. S. Brailovskii) which brings the Tungus towards an ethnical disintegration justified by the idea of accepting a «superior» form of culture (Chinese).

It is evident that the loss of the complex of hunting and that of the knowledge of extinct animals produces great changes in the psychomental complex in general. This is especially evident in the groups which have discontinued their regular nomadism, like the settled group of Birarchen, e.g. in the village Celu (vide SONT), the Nomad Tungus of Mankova, and naturally all Tungus groups which adopted fishing (especially in the regions of the Amur River) and agriculture. Amongst these groups the positivistic method of thinking shows marked decline, and the overgrowth of the spirit complex, chiefly due to the alien influences, begins to take the place of the former familiarity with the natural phenomena.


171. Cf. R. Maack, op. cit. This has been confirmed by the Kumarchen. I am not competent to judge as to the chemical conditions of production of poison which is not destroyed by the heat of explosion. However, the Tungus themselves compare this method with the poisoning of arrows. It may be pointed out that the Chinese chronicles frequently mention the use of poisoned arrows among the population of Manchuria, particularly the Sushen.

172. The pregnant female bears must not be killed. The killing of the bear-female the Birarchen suppose may result in death of one of the members of the hunters family. This prohibition is strongly supported by the peculiarity of the pregnant bear which may give premature birth to the cubs leaving them to the hunter and herself running away, which is a common occurrence, according to the Tungus. This produces very strong psychological effect upon the Tungus.

173. The same word has received a new function, with the introduction of Christianity. So in Enis. main is translated as God, master; main (Trans. Tit.) — the god, Jesus Christ [the etymology given by E. L Titov — mangi -(vide infra) is certainly wrong.] It is very likely that main was used by the missionaries. Owing to this among some Tungus there appears a new term for mayin (main) this time borrowed from the Russians hunters, -fart -the «luck».

174. Once among the Birarchen I heard a complex explanation (a theory) of the fact that the animals recognize the things galegda namely, every animal, the man as well, has a kind of micro-organism (kulikan) which say to the animal about the presence of galegda, These kulikan are especially sensitive as to the presence of iron. Therefore an inexperienced hunter as far as possible must avoid having iron with him. The iron brings some animals into the state of excitement, e.g. bear.

175. However some Tungus believe that the bear may understand human speech, as the men understand it at a distance (vide infra).

176. Here it may be especially pointed out that the hunters must be very careful about producing noise, smells and showing themselves to the animals. Most of the animals possess well developed senses. For the beginners these customs are sometimes taught in the form of absolute and unexplained rules.

177. E.g. already in the XVIIIth century the local Tungus groups of Manchuria could not find sufficient number of sable skins for paying their tribute, so they began to buy them from the Tungus living in the Russian territory. In 1915 there were no more sables in the mountains of Khingan. The decrease of the sable in Siberia in 1912 compelled Russian government to prohibit its hunting for a certain number of years. In some regions, e.g. in the Oxotsk region, no animals are left for hunting except the squirrel (cf V. N. Vasiliev, op. cit. pp. 29-30).

178. The governmental policy seeks the support of young generation which is neither competent nor willing to maintain the old system, while there is no more chance of building up a new hunting system.

 
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