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Photo Journalist, Kiliii Yuyan, shares his project with Saint Lawrence Island students.

Indigenous Photo Journalist, Kiliii Yuyan, shares his project with Saint Lawrence Island students.
Posted on 03/30/2018
Kiliii works with youth in Gambell on a mask project.

Excerpt from Kiliii Yuyan's letter to BSSD:

"Hello everyone,

Quyanaq for your help and understanding in working on this difficult and sensitive project. I am Nanai, indigenous to the Russian Far East, and have long felt more at home among Siberian Yupik communities than just about anywhere else, so thank you for welcoming me to your home.

My larger project is on the issue of indigenous suicide across North America, but I would like to start in Gambell in mid-March. Because the Arctic has such a high rate of mental health issues for youth as a region, that’s where I’m focusing my efforts for now. This story will be about the St Lawrence community and Siberian Yupik youth, as written and photographed for the humanitarian Pacific Standard Magazine. I’ve been working with the Center for Native American Youth and the Center for American Indian Health to get an accurate and empathetic a portrayal of the community as I can, with an emphasis not on problems, but on hope for the future. Too many Western journalists come in with an agenda or pre-concieved ideas and don’t understand that their stories affect the self-identities of the people they are writing about. When I was a teenager I also had a lot of struggle with similar issues, and I am deeply grateful to those around me who helped me get through.

My first objective for this project is make a positive impact with the youth on St. Lawrence Island. When I was originally planning this story I spoke to two of my friends, who are Canadian Inuvaluit and North Slope Iñupiaq, who both run art therapy programs for youth. They spoke about the power of using art and photography to lift spirits. That made a lot of sense to me and I’m interested in collaborating with Robin to design a voluntary art therapy program that youth and kids can participate in. I am currently envisioning doing papier-mache masks that draw on traditional Western Alaskan Iñupiaq designs, which can then be painted and decorated as personal expression."


Website // 503.984.8675 // @kiliiiyuyan

Photos from Gambell

Kiliii working with a Gambell student on a mask
Kiliii working with a Gambell student on a mask.

Gambell student working on a mask
A Gambell student working on a mask.

Mask being created from sketch
Mask being created from sketch.

Kiliii teaching digital SLR photography to Gambell students
Kiliii teaching digital SLR photography to Gambell students.

Gambell students practice digital SLR photography
Gambell students practice digital SLR photography.