Many parts of the Mongolian Taiga cannot be reached by a horse, let alone a car, only on foot or riding a reindeer. Unlike the Scandinavian reindeer, some of the Tsaa are trained to carry a rider. The Tsaatan use a horse saddle, which they tie in a special way around the belly and the neck of the reindeer. Riding on a reindeer is a constant battle to maintain balance. If you move too far to either side, the saddle will turn round and you find yourself lying on the earth wondering what has happened.
But due to inbreeding over many decades the reindeer are dying. There are at the moment about 600 reindeer left and 200 Tsaatan who still live in the traditional, nomadic lifestyle. The only means of survival of both the Tsaa and the Tsaatan is to strengthen the health of the animals and to import reindeer from Russia!
Reindeer people living on the Siberian side of the border with the Tsaatan, in Tuva and Irkutsk, do not have enough reindeer themselves to be able to sell any. We have to look farther away to Yakutia to find enough reindeer.
How can the reindeer be brought south from Yakutia to the Tsaatan in Mongolia?
This is what this project is about:
Herding reindeer from Yakutia to Mongolia
The first aim of this project is to bring reindeer to the Tsaatan, to support the survival of the Tsaatan culture and language and to make the Tsaatan and the problems of reindeer husbandry in those areas more known to the public.
The second aim is to do this in the traditional way by herding them south, not transporting them in a train or truck.
I want to find scholars of anthropology, linguistics and reindeer husbandry who are willing to support this project and give it a scientific background.
To be able to pull this off we need media coverage, newspapers, magazines, TV. A documentary could be realized, portraying the Tsaatan and the reindeer trek. The challenges and difficult situations as well as the multicultural exchanges and the laughter and life during such a herding trek would make excellent material for a documentary.
The multicultural exchanges I envisage could include representatives of the Evenki joining us for the Reindeer Run, as well as people from other reindeer nations, including the European ones. Maybe a Tsaatan can arrange to join us and teach his language. Knowledge in reindeer husbandry, traditions and languages could be exchanged.