Final - 1 Daniel Schiller POS 301 Dr. Francis Smiley Final...

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1 Daniel Schiller POS 301 Dr. Francis Smiley Final Exam 08/06/07 Essay # 1 The Tsaatan (Reindeer People) of Mongolia Introduction When we think of Mongolia we often see images of the vast Mongol hordes rushing across the steppes on their way to annihilate another enemy in their attempt of world domination. Led by Genghis Khan, the Mongols once were the rulers one of the largest empires in human history. Today however Mongolia is a relatively peaceful country immerging from the shadow of the former Soviet empire. Mongolia is filled with various cultures and ethnic backgrounds many of whom are nomadic pastoralists. The groups I will be focusing on in this paper are the Tsaatan people. Often called the Dukha which is their ethnic name, the Tsaatan are nomadic reindeer herders of the Northwest region of Mongolia. In this paper I will explore several aspects of their lives customs and beliefs. I will describe the Tsaatan in detail in order to give the reader a better understanding of one of the oldest and most fascinating cultures that Central Asia has to offer. Reindeer It would no be proper to speak of the Tsaatan without first talking about the reindeer. According to the Tsaatan reindeer are a way of life. They provide the Tsaatan with everything that they need from milk, meat, leather, bone for tools and even transportation. The reindeer subsist on lichen which is a type of moss that grows in the wooded mountain areas between 7500 and 10,500 feet above sea level. The lichen helps the reindeer build layers of insulation to protect them against the brutal Mongolian winters. The reindeer is the most important aspect of Tsaatan life and everything that Tsaatan do is meant to preserve the integrity of the herd. Unfortunately
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2 due to the segregation of the Tsaatan people from other reindeer herding people the reindeer have not had the opportunity to intermingle with other reindeer and inbreeding has had a detrimental effect on the health and stability of the herd. On the bright side, several Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the Totem People’s Project have recently stepped in to help the Tsaatan by providing veterinary services along with the introduction of outside animals to the herd and offering artificial insemination (Haag 2004). Cultural Background The word Tsaatan literally translates into “Reindeer people” and differs from the other ethnic groups that live in Mongolia. Unlike other nomadic pastoralists of Mongolia who herd yak, sheep, goats, cattle and horses the Tsaatan strictly herd reindeer. The Tsaatan are one of the smallest ethnic groups on earth with a total of approximately forty families actively herding reindeer. The Tsaatan are the southernmost reindeer herders on earth (Webster 2002). They originate from the larger and older Tuvan ethnic group of Siberian Russia and speak a dialect of the Tuvan language. The Tuvan have been herding reindeer in the Russian wilderness for thousands of years and are the ethnic cousin of the Tsaatan. The Tsaatan make their home in the
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Final - 1 Daniel Schiller POS 301 Dr. Francis Smiley Final...

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