Tribal Quest Siberia: The Nenets and Their Incredible Stories

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In July, our team of employee volunteers returned from Siberia after spending one month on a Tribal Quest expedition with the Nenets, a remote tribe in the Yamal Peninsula. During this groundbreaking trip, our team formed close bonds with the families while documenting and digitizing their family histories.

For those who aren’t familiar with Tribal Quest, this project is a special mission we launched in 2016 with the goal of preserving the family histories of remote tribes from around the world. On the last two expeditions, the MyHeritage team visited tribal communities in Namibia and Papua New Guinea.

We wrote about our third expedition in July, and now we are happy to announce the launch of our new section of the Tribal Quest website, completely dedicated to our third expedition, Tribal Quest Siberia

You can explore and meet the families of the Nenets tribe by checking out our website here: Tribal Quest Siberia

For many tribes like the Nenets, storytelling is one of the key ways that tradition and heritage are passed down from generation to generation. We are incredibly honored that the Nenets allowed us to enter into their lives and document their history through recording their unique stories.

A Nenets woman packs up her things in preparation for migration.

Our Tribal Quest website features captivating photographs and powerful videos that will make you feel as though you were right there with our team, getting to know the different families in the Nenets tribe.

Khanuti Laptander plays with his granddaughters.

Here is a short video that illustrates what daily life is like for the Nenets as they migrate across the tundra with their families and beloved reindeer. Fun fact: Much of this footage was taken with a GoPro attached to a reindeer!

We recorded the names of 3,014 individuals and followed 3 large clans within the the Nenets tribe known as the Khudi, Serotteto and Laptander clans. The website features family trees, interviews and visual content that truly captures their daily lives.

A portion of the Laptander family tree on MyHeritage

Each family in the Nenets tribe has their own unique stories that are rich with history. They told us about their traditions in marriage, what life is like growing up, how important the preservation of their culture is to them and what it is like to struggle between sticking to their traditional roots and thriving in a modernizing world.

Here are some highlights from the stories we featured on our website from Siberia:

Paraskovia, a 97 year-old member of the Laptander clan, has seen a lot in her life – she experienced the excitement of young love, the heartbreak of war and the gratitude of growing old. She told us about her memories from WWII when she saw bombs explode along the nearby rivers. She also remembers the suppression Nenets shamans faced during the Soviet era, when much of their healing knowledge was forgotten. In spite of everything she has gone through in her life, she told us, “I don’t complain. It’s good enough that I’m alive.”

Stanislav Nikolaevich Serotteto has followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by working as a government herder. He is responsible for a large herd of reindeer for the state as well as a smaller one for his family. His work is dangerous and he makes sure to keep a bear tooth with him at all times in order to protect him from any threats. In Nenets tradition, bear tooth belts protect people from evil spirits and danger. The belts never get buried with the owner, but instead, they are passed down from generation to generation.

Nina Khudi had an arranged marriage at 18 years old to a member of the Laptander clan. She told us about how difficult it was for her to leave her childhood chum (tent) in the beginning and how fond she was of the memories she had with her mother. She said, “We are like birds, when we grow up, we fly away and make our own nests.” Her father built her a new chum after she got married, and she still lives in the same chum today — she plans to pass on her chum to her children one day.

Certain traditions have been passed down from generation to generation in each of the Nenets clans. These traditions are very important to each family member and they work very hard in order to keep them alive.

“Reindeer are everything for us. Without them, we could not live or breathe, we would disappear. This is our earth, our soul.” – Nina, a member of the Khudi family
Khudi family members set up their chum – their nomadic tents.
Nenets dogs have strong herding instincts and they help their herders round up their reindeer.

This is just a small glimpse into some of the fascinating stories that we documented. To read more about the Nenets tribe and our expedition, visit Tribal Quest Siberia.

We are already planning our next Tribal Quest expedition in 2018. Where do you think we will be going? Stay tuned to find out!

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