HUFFINGTON POST

Inside The Life Of A Family Entirely Dependent On Reindeer

This photographer spent ten days capturing a dying culture.

In the northern mountains of Khövsgöl Aimag, Mongolia, the Tsaatan people have been raising and herding reindeer for thousands of years. One of the last groups of nomadic reindeer herders in the world, they depend on their animals for almost all of their basic needs. 

But the region's reindeer population has been shrinking dramatically because of inbreeding and disease, and only 40 families still continue the tradition. According to the Tsaatan Community and Visitors Center, others were forced to move to nearby tourist spots like Lake Hovsgol, posing for photos with tourists as another way to supplement their income. 

Photographer Pascal Mannaerts traveled to the region in June 2014 and spent ten days with one of the few remaining families left that make a living off the reindeer trade.

Discover the lives of Bolorma, Ulziitsetseg, Tuvshinbayar, Ulziichimig, Narahuu and Ulziisaihan in Pascal Mannaerts beautiful photos below. 

 

The entire family poses proudly with some of their reindeers. From left to right, Bolorma, Ulziitsetseg, Tuvshinbayar, Ulziic
The entire family poses proudly with some of their reindeers. From left to right, Bolorma, Ulziitsetseg, Tuvshinbayar, Ulziichimig, Narahuu and the oldest daughter Ulziisaihan.
The sense of community among the Tsaatan people is structured around reindeer. The reindeer and the Tsaatan people are depend
The sense of community among the Tsaatan people is structured around reindeer. The reindeer and the Tsaatan people are dependent on one another. Some Tsaatan say that if the reindeer disappear, so too will their culture.
The reindeer are domesticated and belong to the household. 
The reindeer are domesticated and belong to the household. 
In many ways, they are treated like family members...
In many ways, they are treated like family members...
and command respect. 
and command respect. 
The community's chores and activities are centered around the care and feeding of the animals. 
The community's chores and activities are centered around the care and feeding of the animals. 
Tsaatan people raise their reindeer primarily for milk. Reindeer milk, reindeer yoghurt and reindeer cheese are the staples o
Tsaatan people raise their reindeer primarily for milk. Reindeer milk, reindeer yoghurt and reindeer cheese are the staples of the Tsaatan diet. The reindeer also provide transportation. Reindeer are not used for pulling sledges, but for riding and as pack. 

animals.
Bolorma is boiling the family's daily milk ration. She will later make cheese out of it.
Bolorma is boiling the family's daily milk ration. She will later make cheese out of it.
Reindeer hair is used to make clothes and blankets. 
Reindeer hair is used to make clothes and blankets. 
Only a few reindeer are slaughtered during the year for meat and pelts.
Only a few reindeer are slaughtered during the year for meat and pelts.