About Kiliii Yuyan

Posts by Kiliii Yuyan:

On Family, Kayaks, and Polar Bear Attacks: Kiliii in CommArts

I had long thought I was in my ‘Indigenous shoes,’ but in order to do photography that is meaningful and deep, you have to really, really own it.

Kiliii Yuyan

Last year, I spoke with Dzana Tsomondo, a fellow immigrant who grew up in the same county that I went to school in. We connected immediately, in part because we shared so much parallel history– his family swept up in the civil war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), my family swept up in the cultural revolution and border wars between China, Russia and Japan.

Thus, when Dzana wrote a feature story for CommArts on me and my work, he understood many things that were not easy to speak about. We spoke about the travails of family, my love for traditional boatbuilding and photographing in the dangerous environments of the Arctic for National Geographic. Find out more.

Anaiyyun: NatGeo Short Films Showcase

I’m happy to announce that my short film Anaiyyun: Prayer for the Whale is now in the National Geographic Short Films Showcase. This is the official online release of the film after a year of screening at film festivals around the world. Quyanaqpak to all my Iñupiaq friends that helped to make this film about their lives on the sea ice.

On the sea ice in northern Alaska, the Inupiat wait for the whales. The tradition spans 1,000 years, and a successful catch will feed an entire community for the winter. During whaling season, crew members spend their days watching the icy Arctic water for the right moment to strike. It will take courage and skill to achieve their mission, and they must avoid desperately hungry polar bears along the way. But in the long moments they stand on the ice, protected from the wind inside a fur-lined parka, a timeless gratitude develops. In those moments, the patient act of waiting transforms into a prayer for the whale. Anaiyyun: Prayer for the Whale,from filmmaker Kiliii Yüyan, tells the story of an Inupiat whaling crew that hunts where the vast plain of ice meets the waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Podcast Interview on Hunter-Gatherer Societies

Recently I spoke with Ted Alvarez, host of the Explorist podcast, a well-crafted podcast on the interaction with nature and people. The first season of the podcast is all about hunting and gathering in modern times, from looking at non-natives those who are involved primitive skills, to subsistence indigenous communities. My interview closes out the season with hair-raising stories from the sea ice, and major themes in my work as an indigenous person from an extant hunter-gatherer culture. It’s one of my favorite interviews.

You can find the podcast page here, or find it through Apple Podcasts.

Exhibition Opening and Talk at Glazer’s Camera

Thanks to Glazer’s camera for a successful talk and exhibition opening last weekend! It brought a lot of people in from the NW who were interested in the stories of the indigenous Arctic, and I think it stirred a lot of people’s deep curiosity. Special thanks to Will Kutscher and Dana Rasmussen for their efforts, as well as Nikon and Moab Paper for sponsoring the exhibition. The exhibition will be open until the end of December 2019. 

The Arctic Refuge in Sierra Magazine

Last spring, I got an email from Sierra Magazine, asking if I would like to photograph in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge while paddling a solo packraft for an 8 day expedition on a Class 3 river. Obviously, yes.

The Arctic Refuge, a battleground between oil interests and environmentalists, has become a symbolic struggle over the last 30 years in America. Aside from all of that, it’s of particular interest to me because the people with the most vested interest in the Refuge are the indigenous people that live within it, the Gwich’in, who depend on the caribou for their way of life. This is a story I’ve long been interested in.

Carrying me and my tiny packraft back upstream to camp along the Hulahula River.

There’s no need for me to expound here, as writer Brooke Jarvis has already done a terrific job at weaving together the different perspectives on ANWR and why, at this moment in time, we need to leave at least one corner of this vast wilderness for the caribou and the indigenous peoples who have kept this place beautiful for millennia.

Many thanks to Jason Marks for the story, Sam Murphy for a great edit, and my fellow expeditioners who made our journey safe and brought human warmth to the Arctic.

National Geographic Expeditions Polar Expert

I’m excited to announce that National Geographic Expeditions has brought me aboard as a Photography Expert for the Polar regions. I’ll be part of the team for NatGeo Student Expeditions in Alaska July 2019, and NatGeo Expeditions in the Russian Arctic Summer 2020. I’m very much looking forward to being able to share my passion for the Arctic and its peoples and wildlife in the next several years.

Exhibition for a HFO-Free Arctic

It’s increasingly important to help people visualize the Arctic as a living ecosystem with people and wildlife together. This is especially true in the case of the coalition working to ban the use of heavy-fuel oil for ships in the Arctic.

Heavy fuel oil is a cheap, viscous and dirty source of energy for large ships and has long been used as a primary fuel source in shipping. Both the International Maritime Organization and indigenous groups from the Iñupiat community of the Arctic Slope to the Inuit Circumpolar Council. At a meeting late October, the IMO pushed the issue of a ban forward and it’s a great step towards ensuring that marine mammals and the ocean ecosystem of the Arctic will not be decimated by a spill.

I donated photographs for the exhibition ‘The Arctic- On Our Watch’, put on during the IMO meeting in London, and it was heavily viewed by meeting participants. One more step towards listening to the voice of those who understand the Arctic the most– its indigenous peoples