The Dukha tribe in northern Mongolia have an amazing symbiotic relationship with reindeer.
Photographer Hamid Sardar-Afkhami traveled to the outskirts of Mongolia to study the dwindling Dhaka tribe. There are estimated to be only 44 Dukha families left and Sardar aims to bring attention to their fascinating way of life.
The Dhaka tribe are the last reindeer herders left on Earth. The once thriving reindeer population is now estimated to 600 reindeer. These people use reindeers to hunt wild boar and elk but also drink their milk and make reindeer cheese. Their relationships with reindeer is spectacular.
Sardar also created a documentary on the Dukha way of life called “The Reindeer People.” It won the Best Film on Mountain Culture at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. The synopsis on the film is as follows:
In Northern Mongolia, there exists a sacred alliance between people, ancestor spirits and reindeer. This film is an intimate portrait of a family of Dukha reindeer nomads following their migration through the forests of Mongolia’s Hovsgol province. They move with a herd of about a hundred reindeer through a sacred forest inhabited by the spirits of their ancestors, who communicate to the living through songs. The oldest Dukha, is a divine seer, a 96-year old shaman, called Tsuyan. She is the link between the healing songs of the forest ancestors, her people and their reindeer. She is the centerpiece of an extraordinary adventure that unites people and animals in one of the wildest regions of Mongolia – where people still live and hunt in a forest dominated by supernatural beings. To live in harmony with them, people had to learn to respect nature and animals and to pass down their beliefs, from generation to generation, by invoking the song-lines of their deceased ancestors.
This ancient way of life will soon only be commemorated through works like these. To preserve these cultures is imperative and the only way we can do that is through recognition.
All photos via My Modern Met