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In Siberia, Oil Companies And Reindeer Herders Fight For Rights To Land

In the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District of western Siberia, many families of the Khanty minority make their living by herding reindeer. But the territory where they live has been leased to an oil company, whose operations restrict the herders' movements and damage the land. Some herders have become environmental activists, filing thousands of complaints and even taking cases to court to try to fight the developers' encroachment.

Four-year-old Igor poses near his family's reindeer herd in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District.
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Four-year-old Igor poses near his family's reindeer herd in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District.

Lubov Multanova tends a smoldering moss fire. The smoke helps keep swarms of flies from pestering the reindeer. 
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Lubov Multanova tends a smoldering moss fire. The smoke helps keep swarms of flies from pestering the reindeer. 

A family gathers in their tent for tea. The Khanty reindeer herders are partly nomadic and move in search of food for their reindeer from spring through autumn. 
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A family gathers in their tent for tea. The Khanty reindeer herders are partly nomadic and move in search of food for their reindeer from spring through autumn. 

Members of the Multanov family gather near the campfire. To travel to neighboring districts, they have to pass through checkpoints manned by Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of energy giant Gazprom.
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Members of the Multanov family gather near the campfire. To travel to neighboring districts, they have to pass through checkpoints manned by Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of energy giant Gazprom.

Vitaliy Multanov with his daughter Vitalina and his mother Lubov. This family resides in a district where the land has been leased to an oil company. 
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Vitaliy Multanov with his daughter Vitalina and his mother Lubov. This family resides in a district where the land has been leased to an oil company. 

Ten-year-old Sasha perches on part of an oil well left here after exploratory drilling.
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Ten-year-old Sasha perches on part of an oil well left here after exploratory drilling.

Anton and Dmitry discuss an upcoming government assessment of the land they use for herding. 
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Anton and Dmitry discuss an upcoming government assessment of the land they use for herding. 

Faya looks at polluted water leaking from the ground at a site damaged by oil drilling near their family's camp.
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Faya looks at polluted water leaking from the ground at a site damaged by oil drilling near their family's camp.

Sergey (left) and Vitaly Multanov (right) and Dmitry Laziamov use a GPS-enabled smartphone to find their way through the tundra.
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Sergey (left) and Vitaly Multanov (right) and Dmitry Laziamov use a GPS-enabled smartphone to find their way through the tundra.

Vitaly's wife, Tatiana, covers her face with a scarf. Tradition dictates that women should hide their faces from male relatives older than their husbands.
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Vitaly's wife, Tatiana, covers her face with a scarf. Tradition dictates that women should hide their faces from male relatives older than their husbands.

Efim Multanov lassos a reindeer to be sacrificed for a family ritual.  
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Efim Multanov lassos a reindeer to be sacrificed for a family ritual.  

Efim Multanov performs a prayer before slaughtering a reindeer.
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Efim Multanov performs a prayer before slaughtering a reindeer.

Family members gather around the sacrificed reindeer.
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Family members gather around the sacrificed reindeer.

Sveta, 9, cuts a piece of reindeer meat.
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Sveta, 9, cuts a piece of reindeer meat.

The reindeer's blood is also saved for consumption.
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The reindeer's blood is also saved for consumption.

Faya throws her 1-year-old daughter Irina into the air.
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Faya throws her 1-year-old daughter Irina into the air.

Efim Multanov, the head of the family, and young relatives
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Efim Multanov, the head of the family, and young relatives

Sergey Multanov measures the oil level in an abandoned well used for exploratory drilling.
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Sergey Multanov measures the oil level in an abandoned well used for exploratory drilling.

Activists from the environmental group Greenpeace join members of the Multanov family as they climb onto an abandoned cistern to assess an oil spill. Local residents have filed several cases to demand that the oil company clean up spills -- and they have sometimes won. 
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Activists from the environmental group Greenpeace join members of the Multanov family as they climb onto an abandoned cistern to assess an oil spill. Local residents have filed several cases to demand that the oil company clean up spills -- and they have sometimes won. 

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Dmitry Laziamov rides a snowmobile through the woods. 
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Dmitry Laziamov rides a snowmobile through the woods. 

A dam used to catch fish on the Sotypai Yakha river
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A dam used to catch fish on the Sotypai Yakha river

Orthodox crosses at a cemetery where members of the Multanov are buried. The Multanovs fear the family site could be destroyed by expanded oil drilling in the area.
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Orthodox crosses at a cemetery where members of the Multanov are buried. The Multanovs fear the family site could be destroyed by expanded oil drilling in the area.

An abandoned oil well and waste from drilling near the herding grounds
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An abandoned oil well and waste from drilling near the herding grounds

Reindeer tracks mark the sand by an abandoned oil well.
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Reindeer tracks mark the sand by an abandoned oil well.

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