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Evenki Adolescents’ Identities

Negotiating the Modern and the Traditional in Educational Settings

Svetlana Huusko

Young Evenkis grow up in the middle of powerful colonial representations of their culture, community, and history. These are constructed in and disseminated through popular oral culture, education, museums, and shape both Russian ideas of Evenkis and the self-identity of the indigenous youth. This article discusses how the Evenki adolescents construct their personal identities and negotiate with dominant representations of Evenkiness within educational settings in Russia. When the indigenous culture is represented as locked in the past, the adolescents, while identifying themselves as indigenous, view themselves outside the culture. Fieldwork results show how the local approach to understanding “tradition” and “modernity” leads to the marginalization of indigenous culture and to assimilation among Evenki adolescents in Buriatiia, Russia.