"On the Move With Mongolia’s Nomadic Reindeer Herders"

"Facing growing uncertainties, the Dukha people are being forced to make difficult decisions about their traditions and their future."

"A morning mist filled the valley near Hatgal, a small village at the southern tip of Lake Khovsgol in north central Mongolia. Glancing at the figures between the fragrant pines and larches, I could hardly distinguish the silhouettes of the reindeer from those of their herders.

Darima Delger, 64, and her husband, Uwugdorj Delger, 66, gathered their belongings and dismantled a rusty stove. They tossed a coat over the shoulders of their grandchildren who were already sitting on the backs of their animals. The family’s herd stood as still as if in a Flemish painting. Everyone was waiting to depart.

The sound of colliding tent poles — mixed with a swirl of commanding voices — left little doubt: The transhumance to the herders’ summer camp was underway.

Darima and Uwugdorj’s family is part of a small group of semi-nomadic reindeer herders known as the Dukha or Tsaatan. Only a few hundred remain here in northern Mongolia. Their lives revolve around their domesticated reindeer, which supply them with much of their daily needs, including milk (used in tea, and to make yogurt and cheese), leather and a means of transportation. The animals’ velvety antlers, once removed, are sold for use in medicine and dietary supplements. Very few of the animals are killed for their meat — perhaps one or two a year."

Régis Defurnaux reports with text and photographs for the New York Times August 23, 2021.

Source: NYTimes, 08/25/2021