In the polar tundra of northern Siberia it is too cold for trees to grow. In winter a dazzling expanse of snow and ice reaches as far as the eye can see. Here, the Nenet people live - a nomadic tribe of reindeer herders. The Khudi clan is one of over one hundred Nenets clans. Descendants take the clan name - Khudi - as their surname.

Siberia, N 68 08'51" E 69 18'23"

428 people

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Reindeer are everything for us

without them we could not live or breathe, we would disappear. This is our earth, our soul.

Nina was taught to herd reindeer by her father, Seroko Khudi, which is very unusual for a woman. Her father began teaching her when she was just five years old. He told her it was important to pass on his knowledge as he had no male heirs.

She remembers her father worrying about the reindeer the way you would worry for a child: if he couldn’t see them he wanted to know where they were.


70 Years Old | 8 Children

"We are like birds, when we grow up we fly away and make our own nests"

Nina (née Khudi), who is now in her seventies, moved to this grazing route over 40 years ago. When she was 18, her father arranged for her to be married to a member of the Laptander clan. It was hard for her to move away from her family’s chum (tent). She remembers she used to help her mother with chores such as preparing food, collecting ice for water and taking care of the children. Her father made her the tent she still lives in and she intends to pass it on to her children.


75 Years Old | 9 Children

We need to live some distance apart from each other because our reindeer need their own pastures to graze

When Khateva had a young family they would migrate to the coast in summer. Nowadays, he migrates based on how much grazing there is: in winter once a month and in summer every two days. The family holds a meeting to decide whether it is time to migrate. Not all his sons migrate together as there needs to be enough grazing for all the clan’s reindeer.

Family Tree

I couldn't live in the city, i can't breathe there. I like this fresh air.
I have the reindeer here, and fish.

Most Nenets children are taught to fish by their fathers. In the summer, when it’s too warm to store meat, fish replaces reindeer meat as the staple food. In the winter, fishing through an ice hole with a net provides variety to the Nenets diet.


37 Years Old | 2 Children

I don’t want my children to get involved in those computers. I want them to stay nomads and know how to handle real life.

Timofey, Khateva’s son, was raised by Nina after his mother died. He has a knack for recognising reindeer by their faces and antlers. Timofey lassoed his first reindeer at the tender age of four. His father also taught him to build sledges and make belts. In turn he has taught his son Vasievolod (age 12) and his daughter Victoria (age 7) these skills.

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