Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
Although the Yakut have officially been included as part of the Ewenki nationality in China, they have their own language and customs. They identify themselves as "Yakut" to outsiders.
In the late 1800s a small Yakut group migrated from far inside the Yakutia region of Siberia, stopping first in the Buriat region before finally proceeding into China. They are the ancestors of today's Yakut in China.
The Yakut live uncomplicated, seminomadic lives, tending reindeer and dwelling in simple tents. Alcohol abuse is rampant among the Yakut of China. In fact, it is so prevalent that the number of murders, early deaths, and suicides attributable to alcohol abuse may seriously jeopardize the future of this small group. Around the world the Yakut are renowned for their strong, hardy, massive Yakut draft horses from Siberia.
The Yakut are shamanists. In the late 1800s anthropologist Waldemar Jochelson vividly described a Yakut religious ceremony: "A shaman has come to heal a sick woman, whose soul has been captured by evil spirits. He has put himself into a trance by inhaling tobacco, dancing, and beating his drum. Now his soul will travel to the spirit world and do battle in order to retrieve the woman's soul and thus restore her. His assistant holds the shaman by a chain so that if he gets lost or trapped in the spirit world he can be pulled back. Some of the flat iron pendants on the shaman's robe represent bird feathers, which allow the shaman's soul to fly. ... As the shaman dances, the noise made by these pieces and by the copper bells and rattles on the robe, as well as the sound of his drum and singing, help summon the spirits."
Although the Yakut in Russia were evangelized by Russian Orthodox missionaries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, few experienced a living faith in Christ. In 1996 four evangelists traveled to the Yakut in China, taking with them a gospel recording of Bible stories in the Yakut language from Russia. The recipients were overjoyed to hear their own language.