Sebjan-Küöl (Sebjan for short) is located approximately 400-500 km to the north of Yakutsk in the Verkhoyansk mountain range, on a tributary of the Dulgalakh river, which in turn flows into the Yana river further north. For most of the year, it is reachable only by air (helicopter or small biplanes); only in late winter and early spring (from the end of December until mid- to late April) can the village be reached by truck along frozen rivers (the so-called ‘winter highway’).
Sebjan-Küöl was first founded in 1932, when it was part of the ‘national district’ of Sakkyryyr, together with other predominantly Ėven-speaking settlements further north. In 1965 the Sakkyryyr district was disbanded, and Sebjan-Küöl was included in the Kobjaj district of which it is still a part.
Sebjan is a predominantly Ėven village with not quite 800 inhabitants, of which approximately 85% are registered as Ėvens, with the remainder being predominantly Sakha (Yakuts). Its isolated location might account for the fact that the Ėven language in Sebjan is currently still being transmitted to (some) children, although Sakha (Yakut) has taken over as the dominant language in public use. The village subsists mainly on reindeer breeding, with 11 reindeer brigades herding over 15,000 reindeer, several thousands of which are privately owned. Life amongst the reindeer herders of Sebjan-Küöl in the 1990s is vividly described in the book ‘Reindeer People’ by Piers Vitebsky.
Vitebsky, Piers (2005): Reindeer People. Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia. London et al: Harper Perennial.