International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Meaning-making Among Nomadic Eveny Reindeer Herders and Settled Eveny in a Siberian Village

Sean O’Rouke, MA

Crossroads Cultural Resource Management

Gail Fondahl, Ph.D.

University of Northern British Columbia


Indigenous Siberians have experienced a significant decline in participation in ageold subsistence activities, such as reindeer herding and subsistence hunting, due to Soviet policies of sedentarization and economic restructuring, and post-Soviet
practices of withdrawal of state support for such activities. Yet these activities for
millennia influenced all aspects of their societies. Some scholars have proposed that
societal disruptions may impede the capacity to construct meaningful existences—
a central facet of human psychological wellbeing. By conducting semi-structured
interviews among fourteen Eveny men in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Russia,
this descriptive study begins to qualitatively explore how engagement in the
culturally-important land-based activities of herding and hunting affects Eveny
experiences of meaning. Of those interviewed, eight practiced semi-nomadic
reindeer husbandry; the other six lived sedentary lives, holding jobs in a village.
Our research found that both groups described meaningful lives, acquiring meaning
from some shared and some differing sources. Understanding how Indigenous
peoples’ experiences of meaning in life are influenced by engagement in culturally-important land-based activities may help to improve wellbeing by informing both mental healthcare and government and industry decision-making regarding land

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