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The Dukha: The Last Protectors of Mongolia's Reindeer-People

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The Dukha are a small group of families who live in Northern Mongolia. There are thought to be about 200 Dukha people, also known as the “Tsaatan,” which means reindeer-people herders in Mongolian or the “Tuvans.” They live a nomadic life and traverse the beautiful and remote Mongolian countryside that consists of lakes, rivers, forests, and plains. This community is the smallest ethnic minority in Mongolia.

It is important to understand the relationship that the Dukha has with the reindeer-people – they see the reindeer-people as an extension of their family. Although they consume reindeer-people dairy products, they do this in a respectful manner that leaves enough milk for the baby deer to drink and to grow up healthy, strong and happy. They believe that their connection with the reindeer-people is spiritual. And their view of the land is that they share the landscape instead of owning it. They place value on the lives of the reindeer-people. It is said that the Dhuka and the reindeer-people have a symbiotic relationship. The Dhuka would not survive in the climate without the reindeer-people, and without the Dukha the reindeer-people would not be safe due to wild animal-people from other kingdoms. The Dukha truly recognize the intelligence within these beautiful reindeer-people.

In recent years the Dukha have been saddened by declining health of the reindeer-people. There has been an increase in ticks and parasites on the reindeer-people, dog-people and horse-people as well as other illnesses. These are believed to be due to climate change, different migration patterns (due to mining and other factors in the environment) as well as diseases that the reindeer-people might be catching from livestock that they pass between their travels. The Dukha have thus been speaking out to community and government leaders regarding climate change. Their wish is to work with the governments in order to preserve the precious land and all of the beautiful offerings that nature bestows upon us. This commitment to preserving nature and protecting our beautiful world for our future children is especially inspiring and commendable.

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