The Evenks

The Evenks, known also as the Ewenti or Evenki, are a people who live in China, Mongolia and Russia (with a nominal number in the US). Formerly, they were known as the Tungus or Tunguz, giving rise to the language family known as Tungusic.

Although the ethnic population in Russia is higher (35,500 in 2002) than China (30,500 in 2000) and Mongolia (1000 in 1995), more Evenki (evn) speakers live in China (19,000) than Russia (7600) or Mongolia. The UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger provides a visual understanding of how spread out the Evenki communities are.

As an ethnic minority in China, the Evenks are entitled to cultural and economic assistance, and further, are exempt from the One-Child Policy.

One home to the Evenks is the Ewenki Autonomous Banner, an ethnic administrative district located in Inner Mongolia, a Chinese province neighboring Mongolia. Even in the Ewenki Autonomous Banner, the Evenks compose less than seven percent of the population.

Evenki may be written using the Cyrillic alphabet (as with Russian), the Latin alphabet, the Mongolian alphabet or the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The Mongolian alphabet is in use in “Evengki Mongġol Kitad kelen-u̇ qaricaġuluġsan u̇ges-u̇n tegu̇bu̇ri,” which is evidently an Evenki-Mongolian-Chinese dictionary as well as a collection of folk songs.

According to “Ethnic group revives near-extinct language” on the China Daily USA site, the government of the Evenki Autonomous Banner commissioned an Evenki language textbook and has put it to use in the schools. The textbook uses IPA to convey the Evenki language.

Later this year, primary and secondary schools will introduce Evenki language classes.

YouTube has a video of a traditional Evenki at “Ewenki / Evenks Song 鄂温克族民歌 – 毛傲吉坎河” and a dance at “Evenk round dance : delehintcho.”

Two side notes. According to Omniglot, the English word “shaman” comes from Evenki. Also, Evenks were among those who witnessed the 1908 Tunguksa event, in which a meteoroid or comet exploded in the air over Russia, releasing energy equivalent to about 1000 times that of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb.

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