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Greening of the Arctic

Story by Marie Gilbert and Julie K. Jackson, Institute of Arctic Biology


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Photo by Bruce C. Forbes/University of Lapland
The Nentsy use wooden sleds to carry possessions and canvas tents during their summer migration. In the winter they use deer skin tents.


Russian Nentsy (plural), Nenets (singular), are an indigenous people living in the polar regions of northeastern Europe and northwestern Siberia. Also known as the Samoyeds or Yuraks, Nentsy are currently the largest group speaking Samoyedic, a branch of the Uralic language.

Nentsy are predominately reindeer herders who rely heavily on these animals for food and skin for clothes, tents and footwear. There are more than 210,000 reindeer on the Yamal Peninsula alone. Herd sizes range anywhere from a dozen to several hundred reindeer per family, with a few families amassing herds in the thousands. In response to the changing climate, Nentsy seasonally migrate up and down the peninsula with their reindeer, dragging all their possessions with them on wooden sleds.

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