Hamid Sardar Afkhami is a photographer who toured Tibet and Nepal for his photography project.
He also visited Mongolia with the goal to photograph the unique nomadic tribes who live alongside reindeer.
A scholar of Tibetan and Mongolian languages, Afkhami has a Ph. D. from Harvard.
His desire was to capture and present Dukhas’ unique’s lifestyle to the whole world. This generation of Mongolian nomads herds reindeer.
Despite the inevitable external influence and presence of the outside world in their tribe, their lifestyle and deep beliefs have helped them keep their lifestyle the same as it was hundred years ago.
Dukhas have Turkish roots and they depend on reindeer. In addition to getting milk and cheese from them, they also use the reindeer for hunting and transport.
The Beautiful Mongolian Tribe with a Deep Reinder Culture
Currently, there are only 400 Dukhas from 44 families.
So, Afkhami wanted to capture their lives and also made a documentary about their unique lifestyle. The name of the documentary is The Reindeer People. It was awarded Best Film on Mountain Culture given by the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
In their culture, there’s a deep belief in ancestral spirits. Dukhas believe that their ancestors are present in the forests and that nature and forests are sacred to them. The leader of the Dukhas is the 96-year-old Tsuyan.
They believe they have a deep spiritual connection to all animals and plants.
Tsuyan teaches Dukha people about their culture and values and shares the knowledge and experience he has gained throughout his decades of life.
The kids in the tribe are taught how to tame and train Reinders from an early age. These animals are gentle and calm and are good with kids.
Unfortunately, the Dukha population is declining and so is the reindeer population.
How Do the Dukhas Survive in the Wild?
The Dukhas, believe it or not, survive primarily from tourism.
Namely, tourists from all over the world come to see them and pay them to watch their performances, buy their handmade crafts, and of course, take a unique reindeer ride.
The tribe hunts small woodland animals like rabbits for food and sometimes sells the caught rabbits to tourists. Interestingly, the tribe is also good at training neighboring golden eagles to help in the hunting process.
In their tribe, hunting eagles is a privilege. The ones who can do it are respected.