Kiliii Yuyan is an indigenous photographer (Nanai) whose work is dedicated to Native cultures and natural history. He has worked alongside Iñupiat whalers in the Arctic, Anangu aboriginal hunters in central Australia, Inari Sami reindeer-herders in Finland. Kiliii is also a traditional kayak-builder. Through photography, his work tells the stories of the voiceless– people, wildlife, and the changing land.
Kiliii’s work has been awarded by PDN, CommArts, Sony World Photo and Siena International Photo; his clients include National Geographic Online, National Geographic Traveler, The Nature Conservancy and Outside. Kiliii spends the majority of his time above the Arctic Circle or on the ocean at the wild edges of our world.
I am a descendant of the Han Chinese and the indigenous Nanai/Hezhe people of Siberia. I grew up in the US at a distance from my culture’s traditions, but remained connected through my Nanai grandmother. Her stories fueled a desire to reclaim my indigenous identity by learning to live close to the natural world.
I have spent the last 15 years exploring the traditional skills of Nanai and other Native cultures, including wilderness subsistence and traditional kayak-building. It's led me to documenting the stories of modern indigenous peoples around the world, from urban communities to remote villages in the Arctic. Those communities have shown me what it is to see the land through indigenous eyes.
As our modern needs make increasing demands on the land and its resources, indigenous knowledge is evermore important to understanding ecology. These communities have balanced competing human needs with the preservation of wildlife for thousands of years. There’s an urgency to cultural collaboration—each day, indigenous cultures come under threat from loss of language, land, hunting rights, and identity. If we lose their stories, we lose the knowledge that gives all human beings a chance to shape a future on this amazing planet.