Forgotten lessons of human-animal system
For millennia, humans have depended on animals for resources necessary for survival. Through domestication, man has sought to ensure these resources by creating systems that bring humans and animals together into arrangements of coexistence.
In the developed world as social, economic, and environmental factors have grown increasingly complex, systems of domestication have often tended towards mass production, resulting in pollution, cruelty, and imbalance.
Few models remain that remind us how humans can utilize animals for resources while still maintaining balance, respect, and sustainability in the face of an ever-changing world.
the Tsataan Reindeer Herders of Mongolia
The Dukha (Mongolian: Цаатан, Tsaatan) are a small culture of reindeer herders living in northern Khövsgöl Aimag of Mongolia.
The North Taiga band was organized under the Qing Dynasty from 1755-1912 as part of Toja or Uriyankhai banner. With Mongolian independence, the banner became part of independent Tuva, which was soon annexed by the Russians in 1944, leaving only North Taiga band on the Mongolian side of the frontier. The South Taiga group of the Dukhans and other Uriankhais fled over the frontier from Tuva to avoid conscription in the 1930s. At first, the Mongolian government repeatedly deported them back to Tuva. In 1956 the government finally gave them Mongolian citizenship and resettled them at Tsagaan Nuur Lake on the Shishigt River.
Only 44 Dukha families remain, totaling somewhere between 200 and 400 people. They ride, breed, milk, and live off of reindeer, though the reindeer population has dropped to approximately 600 since the 1970s, when it was an estimated 2000. Since the democratization of Mongolia, no governmental programs have been in place to replenish reindeer herds with animals from Siberia, direly endangering the Dukha way of life. Much of the Dukha income today comes from tourists who pay to buy their crafts and to ride their domesticated reindeer. The name "tsaatan" means "reindeer herder" as in "tsaa bug" (reindeer).