tsaatan people


Tsaatan_environmental_portrait_1

WHAT IS THEIR PHILOSOPHY OF LIfE

"LACK OF COMFORT & DIFFICULTIES MAKE PEOPLE APPRECIATE LIFE MORE"

The inhospitable border area of Eastern Sayan Mountain between Russia and Mongolia, where the Subarctic begins, is called home by the nomadic tribe Tsaatan. They have learned how to live in peace together with reindeer as a form of symbiosis. Humans take care of the animals. In return they receive free milk, transportation for their camps and occasionally fur for making of winter clothes.Today there are less than 50 families left.

WHERE TSAATAN PEOPLE LIVE


The land locked between the Tsagaan lake and the Sayan Mountain in Northern Mongolia is a protected National Park where Tsaatan people live.

finding harmony - A STORY OF reindeer & humans


SAYAN MOUNTAIN AND THE TSAATAN CAMP IN THE TAIGA, MONGOLIA

Siberia stretches for 13.000.000 sq. km from the Ural Mountains that separate Europe from Asia to the Pacific Ocean, as well as from the far northern Arctic all the way to the Northern part of Mongolia. Vast, cold, wild, beautiful and in the same time frightening. It determines the Subarctic climate of the Mongolian tundra around Khövsgöl Lake. Deep inside the forest live a group of nomadic people known as Tsaatan.

REINDEER HERD 

Tsaatan prefer to follow the tradition of their ancestors and refuse to adopt the comfort of the modern world. As a nomadic ethnic group they change about 4 to 5 times the location of their camps. This is determined based on the availability of moss for the reindeer as well as water. A group of several families is called olal-lal.

TSAATAN CAMP  IN SIBERIA, MONGOLIA

Tsaatan prefer to build their camps deep inside the forest of the tundra as a natural protection from the blizzard storms. Reindeer have large size huffs which let them move easily in deep snow or mud. In the same time the thick fur protects the animals from subarctic climate in the tundra.

TSAATAN ELDER WITH HIS REINDEERS IN THE STEPPES NEARBY SIBERIA

Tsaatan people speak a vanishing Turkic language used by less than 400 people today in the Tsaagan-Nuur region of Khövsgöl Lake, Northern Mongolia. 

TSAATAN WOMAN IS PREPARING HER RAINDEER, MONGOLIA

Tsaatan live with a strong sense of community where reindeer is in the center of their culture. They are dependent from each other. The reindeer are trained and usually a family take cares of about 50 animals. In many ways they are treated like family members and shown respect. Tsaatan communities on the taiga are usually a group two to five nomadic families that reallocate to find grazing moos for the reindeer. Herding tasks are shared amongst the camp with children at a young age.

NARA AND HER REINDEER IN THE EARLY MORNING NEAR THE BORDER OF SIBERIA, MONGOLIA

The girls and younger women do the milking and make yogurt, cheese, and milk tea mixed with herbs from the forest. A few of the men stay with the reindeer in the winter months, living in the open air with their herds to protect them from predators.

TSAATAN VILLAGE, MONGOLIA

The men also make and repair their hunting tools and reindeer saddles. Reindeer is killed only in case of serious injury or sickness. Hence, Tsaatan diet consist mostly of reindeer milk products, wild game and various berries from the forest.  by hunting wild animals from the forest.

TSETSE IS THE SHAMAN OF TSAATAN PEOPLE, MONGOLIA

When Tsetse was in her '30s she experienced her first vision and was nominated as the shaman of the tribe. As such she was the one to decide all important matters....including who can stay or should leave. Tsaatan people believe in the shamanism and the powerful spirits of the forest and secretive animals.

TSAATAN ELDER GETTING READY TO MOVE HIS REINDEER TO NEW LOCATION, MONGOLIA

Tsaatan people have the oldest variant of Shamanism practiced by Mongolian nomads. Their shamans are called “boo” and it's believed that a shaman can make connection with the world ofdeath as well as to influence the weather.

SHAMAN TSETSE IN HER TEEPPE, TSAATAN CAMP, MONGOLIA

In the middle of the tepee there is steel stove where reindeer milk is boiled together with some local herbs. Shaman Tsetse uses a mirror alike bronze plate and Khel Khuur (a kind of Jew's harp) instrument to connect with the spirits of the forest. She receives various visions that help her foreseen the future of a person or the entire tribe. Based on her vision is decided the tribe needs to change the location of their camp before the winter starts.

On the following morning the water in the river is covered by 30cm+ thick ice. Tsaatan have to dig a hole. Everyone is working hard to pack all belongings and get ready to reallocate.

MANHA & HER UNCLE, TSAATAN PEOPLE, MONGOLIA

Manha and her uncle prepared the reindeer for a long journey. Their camp needed to be moved to a new location, where reindeer and Tsaatan people can survive the Subarctic winter taking care good of each other as their ancestors use to live a simple live and connect with the nature for thousands of years.