Tsaatan Nomads

This time Nomadic Hype would like to introduce you one of the amazing nomads in Mongolia.

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Where do they live?

 

Tsaatan people are reindeer herders and live in northern Khuvsgul Aimag of Mongolia. Originally from across the border in what is now the Tuva Republic of Russia, the Tsaatan are one of the last groups of nomadic reindeer herders in the world. They survived for thousands of years inhabiting the remotest subarctic Ulaan taïga, moving between 5 and 10 times a year.

 

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What is the importance of reindeer?

 

The reindeer and the Tsaatan people are dependent on one another. Some Tsaatan say that if the reindeers disappear, so too will their culture. Reindeers provide them with milk, cheese, and transportation. They also sew their clothes with reindeer hair, reindeer dung fuels their stoves and antlers are used to make tools. They do not use their animals for meat. This makes their group unique among reindeer-herding communities.

 

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As the reindeer populations shrink, only about 40 families continue the tradition today. Their existence is threatened by the dwindling number of their domesticated reindeer. Many have swapped their nomadic life for urban areas.

 

Tsaatan & reindeer

Tsaatan communities are usually a group of tents of two to seven households that move camp to find optimum grazing for the reindeer that are treated with family members and shown respect.

 

The reindeer are domesticated and belong to the household. The community’s chores and activities are centered around the care and feeding of their reindeer. Herding tasks are shared amongst the camp with children at a young age learning to care for the reindeer and keeping them safe.

 

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They live in yurts made primarily of birch bark

 

Families of the same set up tents close to one another and collaborate in livestock herding. We visited the Tsaatan people at the end of June when they had settled at their summer spot. Its altitude is around 2300 m.

 

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Every evening, more than 100 reindeer return to the camp after a long day walking through the Ulaan taïga to find some food.

 

These were so unforgettable moments to see them coming back, every night, as a gracious army on the horizon, with their antlers dancing in the air.

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