The Dukha are a nomidac tribe that lives in the Northern Highlands of Mongolia and partly in Siberia, in vast, cold, humid coniferous forests called Taiga. In order to exist, the Dukha travel around in search of fertile land. The Dukha also call themselves Toevans or Tsaatan, which means ‘people who live with reindeer’. The roots of this indigenous tribe are in Toeva, which is currently known as the People’s Republic of Toeva. Toeva was an independent state from 1921 till 1944, but this state later became part of the Soviet Union. From that moment on, the Dukha started living in the north of Mongolia, while traveling around 5-10 times a year. They are always in search of places where there is enough food for their reindeer. The reindeer function better when it is colder, which is why the Dukha regularly travel further north, to heights of about 2300 m.
Because their reindeer are so important to the Dukha, they choose places where their reindeer can acclimate best. They are one of the few in the world that are able to ride their reindeer. This is necessary because it’s not possible to pull a sled, because of the hilly area in Mongolia and Siberia. The Dukha are constantly busy training their reindeer and making sure that they feel comfortable. They let their reindeer graze during the day, and when night falls the reindeer always return back to the settlement.
The Dukha are one of the few in the world that are able to ride the reindeer. The reindeer and tribe need to be trained for riding, which they begin with when the reindeer are about two years old. At this age, the reindeer is called a dongor. A dongor is not able to carry an adult, so the children of the tribe train them. The adults ride on Hoodai (three-year-old reindeer), Zari (castrated males) or older ones. The male reindeer can carry a lot, loads weighing about 40 kg, while females carry up to 30 kg.
One of the most important traditions of the Dukha is raising a herd of reindeers. This herd of reindeers needs to be tamed and become part of the Dukha family. When a man wants to marry the woman, he’s in love with, it’s important that he proves himself to the father of the woman. During this process he has to identify himself with the wild reindeer, by mirroring his moves. Eventually the reindeer will feel comfortable and will become part of the Dukha family.
The Dukha know everything about mirroring, and how to behave in another culture. For us, entrepreneurs, it’s also important to identify yourself with one another. Especially when it comes to partners in foreign cultures, or identifying with your competitors, but also when your having job interviews!