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Full Access From Living Water to the “Water of Death”: Implicating Social Resilience in Northeastern Siberia

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From Living Water to the “Water of Death”: Implicating Social Resilience in Northeastern Siberia

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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Rural inhabitants of the Arctic sustain their way of life via refined adaptations to the extreme climate of the North, and subsequent generations continue to adapt. Viliui Sakha, Turkic-speaking horse and cattle breeders of northeastern Siberia, Russia, have been successful through their ancestral adaptations to local water access, in both a solid and liquid state, at specific times and in specific amounts. Viliui Sakha’s activities to access and utilize water are grounded in a belief system where water is spirit-filled, gives life, and can interplay with death. In the context of contemporary global climate change, water’s solid-liquid balance is disrupted by changing seasonal patterns, altered precipitation regimes, and an overall “softening” of the extreme annual temperature range. Inhabitants are finding ways to adapt but at increasing labor and resource costs. In this paper, I analyze Viliui Sakha’s adaptations to altered water regimes on both the physical and cosmological levels to grasp how water is understood in Sakha’s belief system as the water of life, how it becomes “the water of death,” and the implications for social resilience.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University 4400 University Drive, David King Hall, MSN5F2, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444, USA, scrate1@gmu.edu

10.1163/15685357-01702003
/content/journals/10.1163/15685357-01702003
dcterms_title,pub_keyword,dcterms_description,pub_author
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Rural inhabitants of the Arctic sustain their way of life via refined adaptations to the extreme climate of the North, and subsequent generations continue to adapt. Viliui Sakha, Turkic-speaking horse and cattle breeders of northeastern Siberia, Russia, have been successful through their ancestral adaptations to local water access, in both a solid and liquid state, at specific times and in specific amounts. Viliui Sakha’s activities to access and utilize water are grounded in a belief system where water is spirit-filled, gives life, and can interplay with death. In the context of contemporary global climate change, water’s solid-liquid balance is disrupted by changing seasonal patterns, altered precipitation regimes, and an overall “softening” of the extreme annual temperature range. Inhabitants are finding ways to adapt but at increasing labor and resource costs. In this paper, I analyze Viliui Sakha’s adaptations to altered water regimes on both the physical and cosmological levels to grasp how water is understood in Sakha’s belief system as the water of life, how it becomes “the water of death,” and the implications for social resilience.

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/content/journals/10.1163/15685357-01702003
2013-01-01
2017-07-26

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