Gender over the Life Cycle

Table 1 lists the Sakhas' cultural names for life stages. These terms do not differ with gender except for the first stage of Orto Saas (age 21-45) when both sexes are considered to be in their most productive years. For men this is Wolan Saas, signifying when a man has the most physical energy in the life cycle and is most productive in his work and creative pursuits. For women this is Kere Saas, when a woman is most beautiful and creatively productive. There are no publicly marked passages from one stage to the next. It is interesting to note that in the Sakha language the word for "spring" and "age" are one and the same—"Saas." This is because Sakha count the years based on their New Year, which falls toward the end of May at the very time when nature begins anew.

Table 1. Sakhas' Cultural Names for Life Stages

Name

English equivalent

Literal translation

0-15 years

0-2 months 3-5 months

6 months to 1 yr

16-20 yr 16-18 18-20 yr 21-55 yr 21-45 yr 21-45 yr 46-55 yr 56-60 yr 61-65 yr 66-70 yr 71-100+ yr 71-80 yr 81-90 yr 91-100 yr 101+ yr

Ogho Saas Uu kihil ogho Kihil ogho Nirei ogho Kyra ogho Kuochugui ogho Oburgu ogho Beder ogho EderSaas Sitii Saas Tusnetier Saas Orto Saas Wolan Saas Kere Saas Duolan Saas Agham Saas Kyrjar Saas Kyrjaghas Saas Kyrjaghas Saas Mungur Saas Aap Saas Ytyk Saas Uhun Uller Saas

Childhood Newborn Infant Infant Toddler Juvenile child Juvenile Teenager Youth Youth Youth Middle age Middle years Middle years Prime years Aging adult Aging adult Elder adult Old age Elder Elder Elder Elder

Child age

"Water-red" child "Red" child "Calf" child Small child Large child Sizable child Rambunctious Child Youth

Ready to marry Gaining wisdom Middle age

Strongest years (male) Beauty years (female) Solid years Settling down years Aging years More aging years Old age Older years Respected years Sacred years Long-living years

Ogho Saas (0-15 years) is considered the best time of life, when a person is more or less free from a daily work schedule (although they are given a gradually increasing number of chores in preparation for the responsibilities of youth and adulthood) and expected mostly to play and learn from the world around them. Eder Saas (16-20 years) is the beginning of becoming a mature man or woman and, historically, when marriages were consecrated. In contemporary times, this is the time when dating and courtship begins. Orto Saas (21-55) is considered the time when a person is most fully alive and establishes and builds their own household, has offspring, and pursues and accomplishes significant life work. From 56 to 70 a person progressively slows and settles down physically but this is considered the wisest of life periods. Old age is divided into four progressively older segments, Mungur Saas, Aap Saas, Ytyk Saas, and Uhun Uller Saas.

Socialization of Boys and Girls

Historically, Sakha women were always busy preparing the household meals and stores, working leather, and making family clothes and utensils. They never rested or took time for personal care. Sakha elder women (grandmothers, great aunts, etc.), who were physically less able to perform the above duties, were responsible for rearing the children. Sakha girls were raised to mirror their mothers and other adult female kin by gradually learning all the inside domestic chores including the care of the herds in the barns. Girls were expected to learn and share these household duties. Sakha boys were raised to mirror their fathers and adult male kin who, historically, held the role of household head and were responsible for all outside activities including hunting, fishing, and hay harvesting. Until they were old enough to accompany their elder male role models and learn these skill outdoors, they too were taught by residing elder female kin.

In contemporary context little girls and boys are still taught to take on their respective gender roles described above. However, today, with less strict gender roles, more flexibility in lifestyle, and an expectation that children will gain a higher education outside the home and village, the socialization of boys and girls also emphasizes acquiring literacy, mathematical, and science skills from an early age to gain a competitive edge for careers outside the home village.

Puberty and Adolescence

Historically, it was not uncommon for Sakha to be betrothed and/or married when they went through puberty and adolescence, with some marriages as early as 13 years old. Today, as in the West, Sakha are in formal schooling during these life stages. In the past and today Sakha have no special designations or rites of passage associated with reaching puberty.

Attainment of Adulthood

Similarly, Sakha have no special rites of passage indicating a transition into adulthood. Sakha are considered adults at age 21. The main behavioral change when a person moves into adulthood is sufficient maturity to run their own household (fulfilling all duties according to gender) and raise a family.

Middle Age and Old Age

Sakha hold high respect for elders. This is because the older a person is, the greater their life experience and the more they know about how to work, how to perform subsistence tasks most efficiently, how to use tools, and how to maintain a prosperous household. In general, elders are listened to and their opinions are highly regarded and respected.

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