Tsaachin / Reindeer Herders
Reindeer people – is a nation, who keeps reindeers, which inhabitants in the northern part of Mongolia. The entire existence is based on their herds of reindeer, which provide milk for making cheese, antlers for carving and medicine, transport (the makes can carry up to 90kg of weight) and, very occasionally meat. The Tsaatan are part of the Tuvan ethnic group, which inhabits the Tuvan Republi of Russia, and they speak both Tuvan and Mongolian. There are only about 400-500 Tsaatan in total spread over 100.000sq km of northern Mongolian taiga landscape. They are truly nomdic8 often moving their small encampments in the search of the special type of grass and lichen loved by the reindeer (of which there are less than 1000). The tsaatan don’t use gers, but prefer urts, similar to Native American teepees, traditionally made from birch bark but now from store-bought canvas.) Shamanism plays an important part in Tsaatan; the shaman also acts as a healer, providing traditional remedies for ailments. When the president of Mongolia visited the Tsaatan in winter of 2012, he decreed that elders and families with many children will receive a stipend from the government. Before communism and forced collectivization the Tsaatan were completely self-sufficient with enough reindeer per family to feed themselves. These days, in autumn, the Tsaatan gather berries, pine nuts and wild potato, and fish and hunt when possible as further means of subsistence. Reindeer are also used as riding and pack animals in the rugged taiga environment the Tsaatan call home. Said to have been domesticated several thousand years ago, reindeer play a central role in the spiritual, socio-economic, and linguistic traditions of the community.