(Daiesh, esli imeesh.)
“Give it, if you have it” is an aphorism from the Dolgan and Nganasan people of Ust’-Avam in the Taimyr Autonomous Region of North-Central Siberia. It is part of the so-called Law of the Tundra (Zakon Tundry).
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The main use of “give it, if you have it” has to do with food distribution. In Ust’-Avam, where people depend on hunting, fishing, and gathering for the majority of their food, hunters, and their families, regularly share food with other families who are less fortunate or do not have hunters in their households. This is seen as proper behavior, as illustrated by the use of the proverb and framed as part of the Law of the Tundra. Food sharing is very common alongside traditional hunting and gathering economies in a variety of ecological zones around the world.
Other uses of “give it if you have it” in Ust’-Avam include other forms of helping out on the land. Hunters should help one another, be hospitable to one another with regard to food, effort, and goods, including spare parts, especially when they are on a trip.
The sharing of spare parts is particularly essential when one has not made contact with other hunters at an appointed time, which almost always means that the person has broken down and is stranded somewhere. A search party is usually formed within a day after someone has broken contact. Several people were rescued in this manner while I was doing my work in Ust’-Avam in the 1990s. There were a lot of stories about such rescues in the past. Hunters often break down while riding the aging Soviet-era snowmobiles.
If someone doesn’t follow the Law of the Tundra, there can be serious consequences. More on this in later installments.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.