Selkup, Ostyak Samoyed in Russia

Selkup, Ostyak Samoyed
Photo Source:  Anonymous - Flickr  Creative Commons 
Map Source:  West Siberian Peoples
People Name: Selkup, Ostyak Samoyed
Country: Russia
10/40 Window: No
Population: 3,700
World Population: 3,700
Primary Language: Selkup
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 5.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.70 %
Scripture: Translation Needed
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: No
People Cluster: Finno-Ugric
Affinity Bloc: Eurasian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Selkup (also known as Ostyak Samoyed) are a small group of indigenous people who live in Western Siberia and in the Russian Arctic. Traditionally the Selkup were semi-nomadic hunters and fishermen who domesticated reindeer. The Russian Empire took over the land inhabited by the Selkup in the 17th and 18th century. The Russians began shooting the Selkup’s reindeer and forcing them to pay taxes in furs. These actions caused the Selkup to flee the Russians and live in even more remote areas of Siberia. The government of the Soviet Union made the Selkup live in one place and put their children in Russian boarding schools to learn Russian and atheism. Many of the languages and cultures of native Siberian peoples have become extinct. The Selkup language is also endangered as young people prefer to speak Russian and often leave their ancestral lands for better economic opportunities elsewhere. The Selkup language was put into Cyrillic script in 1940. At the time of this writing, there are no known Bible resources in the Selkup language.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The fall of the Soviet Union brought some relief to the Selkup. They are now permitted to pursue a more traditional lifestyle of hunting, fishing and raising reindeer. Only about half of the adults now speak the Samoyedic Selkup language. Other Selkup and most young people prefer speaking Russian. The Selkup have two homes, one for the severely cold winters. Their summer houses are tents which allow the Selkup to follow their reindeer herds. The reindeer provide the people with transportation, meat and hides. The men also hunt animals like rabbits, squirrels, wolverines, foxes, seals, and bears. Selkup trade meat and furs for the things that they cannot make themselves like snowmobiles, gasoline, small appliances, tools, and cell phones. The Selkup tend to marry within their group.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The majority of the Selkup practice folk religion and shamanism. They believe that spirits live in the objects of nature including the sky, rivers, rocks, mountains, and animals. The village shaman connects the Selkup with the spirit world. The Selkup feel that they must appease these spirits. Unappeased spirits can bring disasters upon the people. They must perform rituals, make offerings and pay respect to the spirits and their ancestors. A tiny fraction of the Selkup claims to be followers of Jesus Christ.

What Are Their Needs?

The Selkup need to be freed from their fear of evil spirits. Only the Lord can truly deliver them and forgive their sins. Medical and veterinary teams could meet the physical needs of the people and their reindeer. The Selkup would benefit from having the Bible and Christian resources translated into their language.

Prayer Points

Pray that the Bible and Christian resources become available to the Selkup. Pray the Lord sends workers to the Selkup to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ. Ask God to raise up a Disciple Making Movement among the Selkup in this decade. Pray the Lord will overcome the alcohol issues that plague the Selkup people.

Text Source:   Joshua Project