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  • Dukha
    The Lords of the Taiga
  • Highly distinct from the steppe grasslands found in much of Mongolia, the habitat classified as taiga, dominated by forested areas and high tundra, forms the northern-most tip of Mongolia, providing home range for the world's southern-most indigenous reindeer herders.
    Inhabitants of the Eastern Sayan region, where North Mongolia meets Tuva Republic, share common genealogy, language and traditions but the events of the past set them apart by borders, the Dukha being the only ones remaining outside Russian Federation. The land of nomadic Dukha - Tsaatan in Mongolian, meaning roughly 'with reindeer' - is one of the most isolated and austere places in the Northern hemisphere.
    Today, the Dukha represent Mongolia's smallest ethnic minority, with approximately 45 nomadic households herding reindeer. Their spiritual traditions are powerfully defined by shamanist beliefs and among the most enduring in the world. They are, to varying degrees, facing threats to their cultural survival - transitions to market-based economies, tourism, global warming, language loss and assimilation into the dominant majority.
  • fall camps are typically on forest edges, in tighter valleys, and offer more protection from wind, snow, and rain.
  • Chechek (Flower), my host, was a single lady and the shaman of the taiga.
  • teepee, or 'alajy og' (pole house) as they call it.
  • it's usually the ladies who take care of the reindeers.
  • there is a stove right in the middle of every teepee.
  • 'ereen', made out of colorful cloths tied to each other, represents the protective sprit. It is the most sacred object within the Dukha household. this 'family eren' is the oldest and the most powerful in the whole taiga, made by a shaman who holds an eagle sprit.
  • this is as techno as it can get in the taiga. solar panels right out of the teepee charge the battery.
  • dead or hunted animals' meat are equally distributed among the families in the taiga
  • Chechek prepares breakfast, milk tea made with reindeer milk.
  • the leader of the tribe is traditionally the oldest male. Gombo is the current respective one.
  • community frequently come together and chat, nuts of the pine cone is the ultimate snack.
  • most of the kids stay in the nearest town (8 hours by horse) to attend the school.
  • Davaajav is a brave one.
  • for transportation, the horses are as important as reindeers.
  • Davaajav throwing a lasso.
  • antlers have to be cut before the migration, otherwise its impossible to proceed in the wild forest.
  • twice a day ladies milk their reindeers. yogurt-like milk is 4 to 5 times more fat than the cows'.
  • till very recently reindeer skin was used as covers for teepees. today replaced by canvas.
  • collective work and getting ready for the move.
  • when pitching a teepee, three pine trunks are tied together and placed on the ground. then ten or twelve pine trunks are balanced together around them. 
  • canvas is thrown over the structure, overlapping each other on a gradient, so that rain water will always run along the seems of the canvas in a circular motion. 
  • Dukha benefit from reindeers' milk, skin, antlers and most importantly utilize them for transportation.
  • Dukha moves 6 to 10 times within a year. it's a festive moment when the reindeer herds appear from the forest.
  • inhabitants of the east taiga.
  •  © uluc kecik 2010