Purpose - The article discusses the issues involved in reconciling the development of natural resources with traditional uses of land, such as nomadic reindeer herding and fishing. Whilst it is in the national interest to exploit the oil-gas reserves the indigenous population cannot be protected by usual methods of compensation. It raises complex questions of whether the destruction of indigenous livelihoods and cultures can be avoided and whether and what ways the traditional users of the land can protect their interests through sharing in the benefits from natural resource development. Design/methodology/approach - The article uses a case study of Yamal-Nenets Autonomic Okrug undertaken by G Ledkov and examples from other Northern regions. Findings - There has been significant disruption of environment quality and indigenous livelihoods.Practical implications - The leading oil-gas companies developing the industry and infrastructure, are aware of the environmental and social impact of their operations and have sought to mitigate these through engineering solutions and by sponsoring cultural event in similar ways to those used by oil and mining companies elsewhere.Social implications - The Nenets' (and similar indigenous peoples') survival as a distinct culture is bound up with their traditional livelihoods and the natural environment. Originality/value - G Ledkov's perspective as the Duma member for the region gives this article a unique insight into the negotiation process in a situation of asymmetrical power. The results can be used for other Northern regions indigenous population.