Who are Tsaatan People ?
It took us a 7 days by horses from Khatgal to reach the Village. In the forests of Taiga, hidden in the mountains separating Russia from Mongolia live the Tsaatan people – Those who have Reindeers. Originally coming from the Tuva Republic in Russia, they escaped from the soviet regime across the border. They were repeatedly deported back but in the 50s Mongolian government agreed to accept the reindeer families granting them Mongolian citizenships. At the same time – negdel – (pastoral collectives) were implemented . The state collectivized reindeers as they had with every other agricultural entity. The government tried to turn reindeer into a purely economic entity devoid of the spiritual meaning it held for centuries. The number of reindeer decreased, and then came the period of post-collectivization, when on the verge of XXI Tsaatan had to adapt to the open market economy.
With little government support, no vets, limited goods exchange, marginalized by living on peripheries and limited by strict national park policies they keep on surviving.
Seasonal migration : Summer – Autumn – Winter – Spring
When we arrived in the village, 20 out of 30 families did already leave for the summer pastures. It was 3 pm, the remaining families arranged all their belongings next to the bare skeleton of their tent. Some reindeers were already tightly packed, with the folded canvas, stoves, buckets wrapped around their backs. Santa’s reindeers – with extra pipes on the sides. When the complete tent was packed, a chain of 5 – 6 reindeers with a guide in the front was leaving into the snow capped mountains. Their summerhouse will be on around 2300 ASL, on open pastures with cold breeze freely blowing into furry reindeer antlers.