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The Evenki People

Custodians of the Resources of Yakutia

Russian Federation

by Natalya Saprunova

Published February 2024

The north of Russia conceals countless riches such as gold and diamonds, but also Indigenous cultures. The Evenks, in Yakutia, survive as best they can alongside mining companies who exploit their lands, sacrificed on the altar of economic growth. As Indigenous people of reindeer herders, they were the ones who guided Russian explorers to the deposits, enabling the industrial development of the Soviet Union. Today, the taiga is massively felled, river beds are ravaged, and groundwater is polluted, threatening entire ecosystems. Deforestation favors the appearance of hot winds and subsequently more than local climate change. Indeed, the permafrost contained in Siberian soils is melting more and more, releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases and amplifying global warming. In addition, ancient bacteria and viruses dangerous to humans and animals may arise. Today, the Evenki hope to bring their culture to life and to interest a younger generation who suffers from the problems of sedentarization and difficulties in carrying out traditional activities linked to reindeer herding, hunting, gathering, and crafts. The Evenki people regret it all the more as they hoped for a better tomorrow for their children by working for Russian geologists.


Natalya's project, "The Evenki People" will be on display at the Bridge Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 13-May 25, 2024, and at Photoville in Brooklyn, New York, June 1-16, 2024.


Natalya Saprunova

Natalya Saprunova, born in 1986 in Murmansk in the Arctic region of Russia, is a documentary photographer now based in Paris and a member of the Zeppelin agency. During her graduate studies as a French teacher in Russia, she worked as a photojournalist for the Murmansk Messenger daily newspaper. Arriving in France in 2008, she studied and worked in marketing for eight years in Paris. At the end of 2016, she gave up her permanent contract to return to photography, a field that has fascinated her since her early childhood. Naturalized French and graduated in Documentary Photojournalism from the EMI-CFD School in Paris in 2020, she continues to explore the issues of modern society related to identity, integration, climate change, youth, femininity, and spirituality. Passionate about the transmission of knowledge, she has been teaching photography at the Graine de Photographe School in Paris since 2016.

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