“Tsaatan” reindeer herders
“Tsaa” is Mongolian for deer. The Mongols refer to them as such. “Spirit” refers to “the people of the reindeer” or “the tsaatan” reindeer herders. According to Badamkhatan, a Mongolian ethnographer who spent years studying them. The Uryankhai Uyghurs, as the Tsaatans are also known, speak Uyghur. The Todzhans of nearby Tuva and the Soyots of Buryatia’s Okinsky area are their nearest relatives; both are Turks. In addition, it should be remembered that Todzhins and Soyots were the most ethnically diverse groups among the Tsaatans’ ancestors, including those who were not at all Turkic. In other words, languages have evolved over time.
Transport in this area is primarily provided by reindeer. Additionally, these animals are the main source of income for nomads. The Tsaatan people’s preferred beverage and main food source is milk. It is used to make cottage cheese, cream, and cheese. They use customized containers to preserve dairy products in a mountain river’s stream, which acts as an ideal refrigerator.
The Tsaatans revere deer and avoid venison, favoring the meat of wild geese and partridges instead. But if the deer gets old or sustains an irreparable injury, they simply kill the helpless animal for sustenance. The deer of the tribe are highly sociable and adore people.
The main income of the tsatans is obtained from the sale of furs, cheese and tourist trade (riding tourists on reindeer, selling fakes from deer antlers).
The tsataan people practice shamanism, a belief system centered on the worship of natural spirits. Taiga winter temperatures can reach -50°C, making survival a constant struggle in this small country. They perform a variety of rituals to obtain food, heal the sick, and for other purposes in order to live in harmony with such challenging environmental conditions.
The Tsaatan people are now on the verge of extinction; according to the official 2020 census, only 500 Dukha tribe members survived in the taiga. Their numbers are diminishing year after year. (information gathered from locals)