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The Tsaatan people of the Darhad Valley - a post by Hillarie

Reindeer herders living on the northern taiga

We really didn't know what to expect when we headed off on a two day horseback riding trip to visit the "reindeer people' of northern Mongolia. After about 5 hours on the back of a horse traversing spectacular landscapes and endless mountains and valleys, we headed down the final hill to a small settlement of nomadic peoples.


Words truly cannot describe the sight before our eyes. From the distance, small white dots began to emerge and become recognizable forms. Laid out in a scattered formation were about 20 teepees forming a small community of nomadic reindeer herders in a mountain valley. As we got closer we began to notice many, many reindeer. Big reindeer and baby reindeer were everywhere.


Once we got over the shock of seeing so many reindeer we started to notice the people! Kids, elders, families - we were warmly welcomed by the village leader and shown our accommodation for the night.


For thousands of years, the Tsaatan people have lived in the remote, deep forest of northern Mongolia. They move from pasture to pasture every 7 to 10 weeks and depend on their reindeer for nearly all aspects of their survival, as well as their cultural and spiritual identity. This tiny community of nomadic reindeer herders is one of the few remaining tribes of its kind.

The highlight of this adventure was when I got to milk a reindeer with the help of an experienced elder during the evening ritual of pairing the mothers and babies for feeding. Small amounts of milk are used by the community for milk tea and reindeer milk cheese.


And as if our time in this community wasn't amazing enough, we found ourselves spending "quality time" with the baby reindeer! Reindeer are surprisingly gentle and friendly. They freely came to us for cuddles and a bit of love and attention.


This was truly a magical experience. It was so special - almost too special to write about. A once in a lifetime experience that will stay with us forever. The images of the Tsaatan people are so vivid. An unimaginable way of life, a beautiful culture and a connection to a land and animal that is hard for the majority of us to comprehend.

Posted by fishonyukon 06:22 Archived in Mongolia

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