Reindeer Herders Tsaatan in Khuvsgul Province

Tuvan people who live in Khovsgol Taiga

Officially known as The Dukha or Dukhans, these reindeer herders are small Tuvan group of people living in Khovsgol Taiga. The foundation of their community is reindeers and their daily life revolves around reindeers. As of 2010 there were 282 Tsaatan (reindeer herders) living in Khovsgol Taiga. They live in a tent and practise shamanism. Although they mostly rely on the reindeer for their basic needs (milk to make dairy products, antlers to make tools and for transport), Tsaatan people usually do not use the reindeer for meat. Instead they hunt for wild animals in the forest.

Today only around 40 families remain in Khovsgol Taiga and their existence is threatened by the dwindling number of their domesticated reindeers. Also, a serious issue they’re facing is incest. Because there are so few Tsaatan left they have no choice but to intermarry or fade into other ethnic groups.

Originally from Tuva (now Tuva Republic of Russia), Dukhans used to be able to cross the border freely between Tuva and Mongolia. But in 1944, Tuva was annexed the Soviet Union and the border was closed. Due to World War II, the Dukhan fled to settle in Mongolia. At first, Mongolian government repeatedly deported them back to Tuva, but finally gave them Mongolian citizenship in 1956 and called them Tsaatan (reindeer herders) because of their way of life.

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