Dukhans, ”those who live with reindeer”, don’t live in yurts, but in tepees made of wood and reindeer skin. Their social and material tradition has not changed since the dawn of time. Shamanism and totemic rituals are in the centre of their social organization. Their subsistence is guaranteed by game hunting (bears, wolves, marmots, foxes, otters) and by reindeer herding. Reindeer herds are their unique resource, whether for food and clothes or for money. They’re often in transhumance, searching new pastures to give the reindeer according to seasons. Today, reindeer population dropped to 600 heads, whereas there were 2000 in the 1970’s. Since the democratisation of Mongolia, no governmental programs have been in place to replenish reindeer herds with animals from Siberia, directly endangering the Dukhan way of life. Today, most of the incomes of the Dukhans come from tourism. Travellers buy their craft and stay in the camps.
During your stay with Dukhans, you will be hosted by a family, that is to say a small community with about 20 persons, and you'll share their daily life : milking reindeer, making meals, mounting a reindeer, etc. First of all, this will be a unique opportunity to share with your hosts and to ask questions about their way of life and their special view of the world. You will also meet the shaman, the spiritual leader of the group, and ask him questions.
Don't forget that comfort is precarious. There's neither bed (you'll sleep on a ground mattress), nor water closets, nor showers. Going in this remote place, you accept to travel in difficult conditions. But the reward deserves a few sacrifices.
Today, only 44 Tsaatan families still live in the taiga, which is to say hardly any more than 220 persons.