Before They Pass Away: A Photographer Races After Vanishing Tribes

By Jane Hwang - 2014-01-07T15:48:54Z

Photograph by Jimmy Nelson BV courtesy teNeues

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The Nenets of the Siberian Arctic

The Nenets are nomadic reindeer herders who for more than a thousand years have endured temperatures as low as -50° C, or -58° F, in winter and as high as 35° C, or 90° F, in summer. The tribe is facing the double threat of the Arctic’s melting permafrost and resource extraction.

Preparations for what is known as the Yamal Megaproject -- a long-term effort to exploit the Yamal peninsula’s natural gas, developed by Russia's Gazprom -- were initiated in the 1990s. “What happens to the land is very important to us,” Nenets herder Sergei Hudi recently told the indigenous-rights organization group Survival International. “We are afraid that with all these new industries, we will not be able to migrate anymore. And if we cannot migrate anymore, our people may just disappear altogether. Land is everything to us. Everything.

"Under Joseph Stalin, Nenets communities were split into groups known as brigades and forced to live on collective farms and villages called kolkhozy. Each brigade was obliged to pay reindeer meat as taxes." -- Survival International 

Left: Brigade 2, Yamal Peninsula, Ural Mountains, March 2011