Written by Clare Angeroth Franks, REEI MA student.
The 2010 documentary, “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga” appeared on Indiana University Bloomington’s campus on Wednesday, October 24. The documentary was introduced by visiting scholar Bathsheba Demuth, Assistant Professor of History and Environment & Society at Brown University and Assistant Director of the Climate History Network. The event was sponsored by COAS Themester at Indiana University, Russian and East European Institute, Indiana University’s Center for Documentary Research and Practice, IU Integrated Program in the Environment, and Russian Studies Workshop. Members of the Bloomington community, students, faculty, and staff attended the screening.
“Happy People” follows the lives of several trappers from the village of Bakhtia, Krasnoyarsk Krai, which is located along the Yensei River in the Siberian taiga. Throughout the year, the trappers are busy preparing for the trapping season by crafting new skis, creating new traps, and fixing their hunting outposts. The documentary focuses on these preparations and hunting techniques used by the hunters and focuses especially on the ways in which those techniques have changed throughout time. Many of the skills they use were learned from the Ket people, the indigenous ethnic group that lives in this area. Although not much of the film captures modern life of the Ket, there are several scenes with members of the indigenous community. As Dr. Demuth noted in her introduction, the changing environment plays a large role in the lives of these trappers. From the early thawing of the Yenisei to the smaller number of sables, trappers are noticing these differences in climate.
Following the screening Dr. Demuth was available for questions about her research and the film. Audience members were invited to listen to Dr. Demuth’s October 25 talk on her work and research on the environment history of the Bering Straight.