Dolgan

Dolganka, Altai Krai, Russia, 658741

First Contact:

gather% / fish % / hunt %
fat % / protein % / carb%

A rough estimate to help us understand how carnivorous and how ketogenic these people were before being exposed to western civilization

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Click this Slide deck Gallery to see high quality images of the tribe, daily life, diet, hunting and gathering or recipes

About the Tribe

‘Dolgan’ means ”people living on the middle reach of the water”. The Dolgan live in the territory of Taimyr, Dolgan-Nenetsky Autonomous District, Krasnoyarsky Kray and Anabar Ulus, Sakha Republic (Yakutia) and in the vast territory from the west side of the Lower Yenisei river to the east of the Anabar river. Dolgan number less than 8000 people. Traditionally nomadic hunters, gatherers and reindeer herders, the region is also home to the largest wild reindeer herd in the world. Despite the similarities in livelihoods and major economic activities with neighboring peoples, such as reindeer herding, hunting, fishing and gathering, Dolgan (the self-designation of Dolgan – dulgan, tya-kikhi, haka) culture contains a number of distinctive features that create its special uniqueness. Primarily, this relates to Dolgan traditions and their food culture. Dolgan cuisine, traditions and customs related to food, are an important part of the material culture of Dolgan culture and reflects their socio-cultural and historical processes, religious beliefs and worldview.

Importance of Animal Products

As the main traditional activity of the Dolgan people is reindeer herding, unsurprisingly the main component of their diet is reindeer meat, an easily digested and clean food packed with macro and microelements (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, iron), vitamin B and vitamin PP (nicotinic acid), essential for good health. Reindeer meat can be boiled, dried, smoked, frozen or eaten raw. There are several Dolgan dishes made from reindeer such as kyyl ete (wild reindeer meat), et (boiled meat), amaha (stew made from cut meat and bone marrow), kyos (soup), oiogos mine (rib soup), heliei (meat broth with wheat flour), ulukte (sun dried meat), and others. Beside reindeer meat Dolgan also use bone marrow (boiled or raw), tun’iakh (hooves), tyl (tongue), karak (eyes), hynak (cheeks) etc.), and inner organs (liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, intestines etc.). Blood is used to make chyol (blood sausage). Dolgan consider velvet antlers as a delicacy, which should be slightly grilled on a fire before being eaten. Fishing is an additional seasonal activity, which is also socially and economically important for Dolgan. Fishing is important in summertime, when hunting wild reindeer is difficult. Domesticated reindeer are herded on separate pastures in order to gain weight and keep the wild and domesticated reindeer separate. Dolgan food culture is rich in various fish dishes, such as balyk mine (fish soup), diykula (dried fish), kabardaak (a traditional fish dish), kuumsa mine (brown trout soup), kyspyt (sliced frozen fish), kerdiilek – yukola (a special way to dry fish), tuustak balyk (salted fish), baarky (semi-dried fish). Favored fish for Dolgan are sturgeon, broad whitefish, muksun, nelma and coregonus. Traditionally the broth made from reindeer meat, fish or bird is called min. Min is very easy to cook while herding, migrating, fishing or hunting, because it does not require a lot of time or ingredients to prepare. Herders or hunters can quickly warm themselves from drinking min, and recover their strength. For Dolgan, as for other northern peoples, food is a key factor in maintaining health.


REINDEER EYE SOUP

Dolgan believe that by eating reindeer eyes, people will preserve their visual acuity, their sharpness of sight, and will retain good eye - sight into old age . Good eyesight is obviously very important for hunters and herders living out on the tundra . A symbol of the eye is also used in the Dolgan national costume, which you can see most obviously in the decoration of a man’s hat . The eye also plays the role of a protective amulet . First, you need to skin the reindeer head and cut it into six parts (while reserving the eyes). Wash all parts thoroughly and place in a cas - serole and cover with water . Cook the broth for long time, until all the meat detaches from the bones . Remove all cooked parts of the head from the broth; and detach the eyes from the frontal bone by hand . Filter the broth . Slice the eyes into 5-6 segments and return to the broth . The dish is ready . The entire eye is eaten . For a large family prepare the dish by using several heads

Importance of Plants

Wild plants serve an important medicinal function in the Dolgan diet and they are also an additional source of food, delivering gastronomic diversity and useful nutrients. Dolgan use the roots of edible herbs, wild onions, and berries such as cloudberries, blueberries and lingon berries.

Transition to Industrialized Food Products

Due to the abrupt economic and social changes experienced by Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic, their traditional food cultures have also been transformed. As an example, with the change of the nomadic lifestyle to a settled one, when Dolgan moved from tundra to villages, their involvement in traditional activities decreased. This had a dramatic influence on the traditional model of Dolgan food culture, which now includes products such as wheat flour, vegetables, cereals, pasta, bread, milk etc. People began to add pasta and vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onions, spices etc.) to meat soup. Ptarmigan is often now cooked with vegetables and pastries are baked using flour, eggs and cow milk. Such culinary influences and trends have negatively influenced Dolgan health, as elsewhere in the Arctic. Further research into Dolgan food culture is needed which could also improve the diet model of modern Dolgan society, which has lost many cultural traditions associated with etiquette, diet and methods of cooking traditional dishes that go to creating the full spectrum of Dolgan material and spiritual values.

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