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Becoming an adult

Negotiation of identities in Markovo village (Chukotka)

Marina Hakkarainen

This article examines the attitudes of the indigenous people in Markovo, Chukotka, to their tradition and traditional knowledge as it relates to their becoming adult members in the community. Within the local cosmological system the opposition between the elders, who are considered as possessors of special knowledge, and the youngsters, who are seen as lacking it, creates certain tensions and determines the dynamics of individual development. A person who has entered her or his adulthood should accumulate special knowledge and power. In doing so, young adults begin to overcome the oppositional relationship between elders and youngsters. Markovo villagers associate such special knowledge and power with tradition. However, modern ways of life have become the dominant frame of reference, thus the position of youngsters toward tradition is not self-evident. They feel the need to negotiate their place in the community and their indigenous identity. Discussions about tradition play an important role in their attempts at attaining a local identity.