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"Spatial Navigation Among Dolgans: What Do Traces in the Snow Tell?"

January 25 @ 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm MST

Dr. Lera Vasilyeva
US Fulbright Scholar, Boise State Anthropology Research Fellow, Center for Arctic Social Studies,
European University at St.Petersburg, Russia

The talk focuses on navigation methods used by the Dolgans of the Eastern Taimyr Peninsula, Russia. Their contemporary winter means of transport – snow machines – replaced reindeer sleds, but navigation skills used while driving have a lot in common. I will discuss the techniques used by the Dolgans to set the course and to maintain it, ranging from wind direction tracking to using celestial bodies. An equally important navigation technique is movement along traced lines, such as riverbeds or traces left by previous drivers. There are also cultural limitations to the choice of course of driving, such as avoiding sacred places or gender restrictions. In my talk, I will look at all these factors to provide insight into how a Dolgan driver makes decisions on driving a snow machine.The material will be discussed in the context of mental/cognitive map theory and the concept of environmental engagement.