Indigenous Rights and Resource Development:
How can the Nentsy people in Russia's far north take action to influence the development of natural resources in the region?
For indigenous peoples to determine the outcome of increased development of energy infrastructure along Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR), they must fight for a voice in dictating the development of the Russian Arctic.
The Arctic Circle has long remained a region with a reputation of inaccessibility and low economic potential, with 10% of its population belonging to indigenous tribes and communities. As global climate change causes temperatures to rise and the sea ice that has historically covered the Arctic Ocean to melt, navigation and development of the Arctic is increasingly viable. As a result, the Russian government has moved to expand natural resource extraction from the rich oil and natural gas fields that exist under Arctic land and sea ice, developing infrastructure not only for extraction but also for trade of these resources in global markets via the Northern Sea Route. Russia's far north is hardly an uninhabited region, home to 44 different distinct indigenous peoples numbering in the hundreds of thousands and composing a majority of the region's population. Traditional indigenous economies include reindeer herding, fishing, hunting, and gathering. Resource development has threatened the health of these peoples and their economies for decades, but climate change has accelerated development and imperiled cultures that should be protected under federal and international law. Environmental degradation at the hands of resource development in the form of pollution also threatens indigenous livelihoods. Currently, indigenous groups are watching their ancestral lands and rights disappear, only to be replaced by seaports and energy plants whose planning processes had little to no indigenous input or approval. Development in the region is likely to progress as climate change increases accessibility, but information networks and international organizations provide a glimmer of hope for indigenous communities that deserve a say in the development narrative of their lands and lives.