Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Reindeer People

If there were no reindeer we would not exist

Tsaatan (reindeer people) are the last reindeer herders who survived for thousands of years inhabiting the remotest subarctic taiga, moving between 5 and 10 times a year. Presently, only 44 families remain, their existence threatened by the dwindling number of their domesticated reindeer.

The Tsaatan rely on the animal for most, if not all, of their basic needs: milk, which is also used to make cheese; antlers, which they use to make tools; and first and foremost, transport. They do not use the reindeer for meat. This makes the indigenous group  unique among reindeer-herding communities.

The Tsaatan (reindeer people) of northern Mongolia are a nomadic indigenous culture who depend on reindeer for nearly all aspects of their survival. Inhabiting the remotest subarctic taiga, where winter temperatures can drop to minus 50°C, the Tsaatan are Mongolia’s last surviving reindeer herders. 

Originally from Siberia, the Tuvan speaking Tsaatan are a Turkic people. For thousands of years, the Tsaatan have survived the harsh conditions of the forested mountains, moving their families, Ortz (tepees), animals and their few worldly possessions between five and ten times a year.

This group of ethnic people has developed a unique culture and tradition in which reindeer play a pivotal role. 

These pictures are from a magnificent book by Jimmy Nelson, entitled “Before They Pass Away.” It’s a huge, heavy treasure-trove of photos and information about the most endangered peoples on earth.  You can buy or rent it from

For more information go HERE

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