While our World is bent on the latest technological inventions and places turning into what we call smart cities, there is one community in Mongolia that is far from our understanding of survival. Known as the Dukha people, this community has stayed true to their roots for centuries and has been oblivious to the industrial encroachment the rest of the world faces. These reindeer herders live in northern Khövsgöl Aimag of Mongolia and their whole lives revolves around the wellbeing of reindeers and nature. Originally from Tuva Republic of Russia, the reindeer herders crossed borders to Mongolia during the Second World War and have since inhabited this region. Known as the last groups of nomadic reindeer herders in the world, the Dukha community now consists of only 40 families and the population of this peculiar community continues to shrink as the days pass. Though Mongolia is now undergoing a commercial change, this community is one of the few that would have suited the taste of their once and greatest leader Genghis Khan in the way they survive even in this century.
The community life for the Dukha is structured around the reindeer up to a point where they believe that if the reindeers disappear, so will their race. The reindeer and the people of Dukha are dependent on each other and the reindeer is treated with respect and as a family member in this community.
The children of the Dukha community are taught how to care for and keep the reindeers safe from predators. The relationship between the reindeers and the children is something that comes naturally to even the toddlers. From a tender age they acclimatize the calves to different terrains.
Since the reindeers are used to the Dukha people being around them and treating them with respect, the reindeers are friendly in nature and sometimes even care for the children of the community.
Here a little girl is all set to bathe the calf
The people of the Dukha community are referred to as ‘Tsaatan’ by the Mongolians, which literally translated to reindeer herders.
As of today, there are totally 40 Dukha families surviving, which is between 200-400 people.
Apart from living off the produce of reindeers such as their milk and other animals which are hunted, the Dukha people now make a living off tourism. They stage performances for tourists and give them reindeer rides.
Apart from domesticating reindeers since their birth for them to depend on each other for survival, the Dukha community also tames wolves to help in hunting and keeping the predators at bay from the reindeers and the people.
Just like the era of Genghis Khan, the Dukha people still follow the tradition of training golden-head eagles for hunting. A huge amount of respect is given to the individuals in the community who manage to catch and train an eagle.
Not only with the reindeers, but the Dukha people have a spiritual connection with animals and nature itself. It is this connection that helps sustain their culture and prevents the community from becoming modernized.