Lifestyle

The traditional economic lifestyle of the Khanty included fishing, hunting, cattle breeding and gathering. Depending on the time of the year, any occupation can become the main one. In addition to the permanent winter village, the Khanty also had temporary camps where they stayed in certain seasons. They stayed in one place (whether a winter village or a summer camp) for as long as they fished or hunted in the same area. In winter they hunted elk, trapped fur animals and often hunted bears in den. They returned to the village in March, when the fur hunt was over.

Women during winter did household chores, took care of the cattle, and shuttled between home and hunting grounds bringing in food and taking away elk meat. For winter fishing, whole Khanty families stayed in a 'spring' camp until the ice broke. They kept the catch live in a cage to later ship it to the summer camp by river.

In April, they went to soras, low grounds filled with water during spring thaw, to hunt ducks. In late April they also hunted large hoofed animals. Starting in May, when the rivers release from ice, they use nets for fishing. At this time they took all their family and went to the summer camp, down the Salym river, to fish during summer.

In late summer they made hay for domestic animals. If such animals were many, someone stayed in the winter village to take care of the cattle. Normally, they brought sheep in boats to the summer camp. The horses would travel on their own if the distance was not very big.

Berry gathering started in July with the cloudberry. In Khanty tradition, the first cloudberry they found in a season should be wrapped in a red cloth. Later they gathered blueberry, bilberry, currant, bird cherry, red bilberry, and cranberry. The pine forests along the Small Salym River were especially rich in berries.

In years of good berry harvest, the gatherers would leave the berries in birch-tree barrels in the forest or swamp, to be collected in wintertime when the place could be reached by sledge. Normally, women and adolescents would do the gathering.

In August-September they gathered cedar seeds. They returned to winter yurts in August-September on foot along the river bank, tugging their boats upstream. For people in middle and upper Salym, the road from the summer camps to the winter village took two weeks.

Cedar forest was an important source of wellbeing, so the Khanty protected such forest as much as they could. Felling cedar trees was allowed in exceptional cases only, and never as a source of firewood or for construction. The ones guilty of cutting cedar trees were punished.