December 26, 2014

1379 MONGOLIA - Tsaatan people

The Tsaatan (named also Dukha, Dukhans or Duhalar) are a small Tuvan (Tozhu Tuvans) Turkic community of reindeer herders living in northern Mongolia. The North Taiga band was organized under the Qing Dynasty as part of Uriyankhai banner. With Mongolian independence in 1911, the banner became part of independent Tuva, which was annexed by the Russians in 1944, leaving only North Taiga band on the Mongolian side of the frontier. The South Taiga group of the Tsaatan and other Uriankhais fled over the frontier from Tuva to avoid conscription in the 1930s. At first, the Mongolian government repeatedly deported them back to Tuva, but in 1956 finally gave them citizenship and resettled them at Tsagaan Nuur Lake on the Shishigt River. Only 44 Tsaatan families remained, totaling somewhere between 200 and 400 people.

Tsaatan coexist with their totem animal and their culture's central connecting aspect, the northern reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), in an interdependent cultural and ecological habitat. Their reindeers provide them with milk, cheese, and transportation. They sew their clothes with reindeer hair, reindeer dung fuels their stoves, and antlers are used to make tools. Meat and hides are also used, but sparingly, for they are in fact hunter-gathering pastoralists. When a deer is culled, no part, save the bile, is wasted. Thanks is offered in their way, continued from the days of forefathers and shamans. They live as nomads, moving their tepees several times a year, when the seasons change, because if stayed in their winter camp during the hot summer, the reindeer would become vulnerable to insects and parasites.

Fellow turkic-speaking people, the Todji-Tuvin, Soyot, and Tofilar, also have reindeer and once ranged, traded and periodically inter-married across what is now a strictly controlled border between Mongolia and Russia. Not long ago, all four groups ranged perhaps as many as 15,000 reindeer, but now only 2,200 reindeer remained (according to some sources only 600). As a result, their traditional way of life is in danger, much of their income today comes from tourists who pay to buy their crafts and to ride their domesticated reindeer.

About the stamps I wrote here.

Tsaatan - Before They Pass Away
We are Dukha - Cultural Survival
Dukha - The Reindeer People Of Northern Mongolia - Mongolia Travel Guide

Sender: ???
Sent from Shenyang (Liaoning / China), on 21.03.2014

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