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The Chukchi People


The Chukchi are indigenous Mongoloid North-Asiatic nomads residing in the extreme north-eastern part of Siberia in an area extending from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Kamchatkan Peninsula in the south, and from the Bering Strait in the east to the Indighirka River in the west. Linguistically they are grouped with the Koryak and the Kamchadal or Itelmen in the Chukchi-Kamchatkan group of Palaeo-Asiatic languages. They are broadly divided into two groups, the Coastal Chukchi (ankalyn) and the Tundra or Reindeer Chukchi (chavchu meaning "rich in reindeer"). Probably the first outside contact with the Chukchi was by the Cossak Ivan Yerastov in 1642; in 1649 the Russians founded a fortified settlement on the Anadyr River; the earliest written mention of the Chukchi was by the explorer V. Krasheninnikov in 1755. Russian conquest of Chukotka was a slow and arduous process and Chukchi resistance was so strong that the Russians thought best to conclude a peace treaty with them in 1778; thereafter the effort to extend Russian domination was largely through trade.

The Coastal Chukchi are perhaps the tribe most responsible for the existence of the present-day Siberian Husky purebred dog breed. They relied on dogsled transport and the dog was culturally important to them in various ways, including aspects of their animistic and shamanistic religion. The Chukchi were enthusiastic traders and established fairs of various kinds, including a "dog fair" that was held at the Anadyr River village of Markovo; it was from this dog fair that the largest group of Siberian dogs imported to Alaska came in 1910. However, it is not true that the Chukchi were the sole source of the dogs ancestral to the Siberian Husky breed, nor that the dogs of the Chukchi constituted a breed in their own right called the "Chukchi sled dog" that was kept pure for three or four thousand years, as is often asserted in the breed myth material set down in many popular books about Siberian Huskies.


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