Reading #7

Theme 1: Ethnic Identity

Period: Russian (1741-1867)

From the summer of 1832 to the autumn of 1833, a Creole named Zakhar Chichenev lived on St. George Island. He left the following description of the life on the island (translated by Antoinette Shalkop, with additions by Dr. Lydia Black):

From July to the last days of September, or to the first days of October, people busy themselves gathering driftwood, riding in the baidara (open boat), cutting wood. The women pull grass, collect moss for the roofs of the buildings. The carpenters repair the old buildings and the stretchers for the fur seals; if there is a new building to go up, ten men are busy with it. In the last days of September, or in the first of October begin the killings of the fur seals, which keep all the inhabitants busy, except for the ailing ones. They slaughter and clean the fur seals, the women stretch the skins and two men are busy at the drying house. The dry skins are bent and tied into bundles; the meat is salted. Upon the end of the slaughtering, they prepare themselves for fox hunting: they put together traps, weave the nets, repair the deadfalls and other instruments; they also sew for themselves some clothing and kamleiki. From the 20th of October begins the fox hunting and lasts until the first of December. The foxes one has acquired one cleans in the evening; the women stretch the skins and they are dried in the drying house. From December to April people busy themselves gathering driftwood; on quiet days they travel in baidaras, at times they kill sea lions for food. The carpenters and the sawers busy themselves with building; the women receive in winter the intestines for making the kamleiki; some women make as many as six in one winter in addition to sewing skin boats and clothing for themselves and their husbands. Beginning with the last days of April, and sometimes with the first days of May begins the sea lion slaughter; the men busy themselves with it, and the women clean and dry the intestines. Lavtaks (skins for boat covers) which have been steamed are stretched on long needles and dried during the summer months. The slaughter continues until the last days of July, at times until the first of August. In the meantime the people are busy with work around the village.

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