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"C'mon into the chum!"

The Nenets (meaning "man") of Siberia are Arctic reindeer herders. They travel great distances up and down the Yamal Peninsula, moving from northern tundra pastures in summer to the more protected sub-Arctic areas in winter.

Their portable teepee-like tents are called "chums". The chum is the center of life - a place of storytelling, food preparation, eating and sleeping, and it is the beginning and end of all journeys. Inside the chum the woman is always in charge - on the tundra, it is always the man.

Traditionally, clan membership allowed the Nenets to share animals and food, unite and divide herds, and make use of the nearby resources. Like many other indigenous Arctic cultures, their beliefs stressed respect for the land and its resources.

In the early 1930s, this region of Arctic Russia underwent dramatic change. The government forced reindeer herders onto newly established collective farms and their children were sent to state-run boarding schools. This eventually led to serious adjustment problems for young people who, after years of government education, remembered little of their parent's way of life and native language.

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