Photographer Madoka Ikegami is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. These images are from her project “Tsaatan People‘. To see Madoka’s gallery of work click on any image.
Lkhagvasuren Battur (59), a guide, chops down a tree for firewood to be used in a stove inside ortz, the teepee-like tents, used by the Tsaatan people. The firewood burns so well that it heats up the ortz quickly but it also burns fast, requiring a constant supply of firewood.
Ganbat Punsul (43) milks her reindeer at sunrise before her husband, Ganbat Tsendee (45), takes them to a forest for foraging. The family are members of the Tsaatan ethnic minority. Reindeer milk makes up an important part of the Tsaatan diet and reindeer’s antlers are used to make hand-crafts.
Lkhagvasuren Battur (59), a guide, right, and Buyan-Ulzii Jargalsaikhan (39), a driver, left, relax in an ortz, the teepee-like tent made of canvas and wooden staves.
Lkhagvasuren Battur (59), a guide, poses with an ox which he borrowed from his friend to carry tourists’ baggage. He mostly rely on horses to carry tourists and their baggage but sometimes use oxen for heavier loads. During our three days in East Taiga, the ox in this picture and one of the guide’s horses disappeared from the campsite. Each time this happened he jumped on his other horse and embarked a search which took several hours to bring them back. “How did you know where to find them in this vast mountainous area?” I asked. “I look for animals’ footprints,” he replied. “They always try to go home because they feel comfortable being with sheep and other animals that they see everyday”. “Do you get angry at them every time they disappear?” I was curious. “Not angry” he replied. “When they disappear, it’s a human fault; either I didn’t tie the rope properly or it was old and torn off. It’s not their fault.”
“My life is like ortz. I move a lot every year.” Saintsetseg Jambaldorj (49), a member of the Tsaatan ethnic minority, describes her life. Ortz can be easily packed up and carried to new locations. The Tsaatan people are one of the last remaining groups of nomadic reindeer herders in Mongolia. They seasonally migrate within the forests of the Taiga according to weather and food conditions for their majestic animals.
Young guide rests while looking after oxen.
Ganbat Sandag (57), an elder of the Tsaatan community prepares firewood for the night.
Ganbat Tsendee (45), far left, leaves the Tsaatan community with his two sons, Bayandalai Ganbat (11), second left, Bayardalai Ganbat (14), second right, and Batbayar Davaadorj (14), right, to a car pickup point for a ride the rest of the way to their school in the nearest town in Tsagaan Nuur. The boys stay at the school’s dormitory during the week and return to the Tsaatan camp for weekends.
Reindeer wait for their owner, Ganbat Tsendee (45), a member of the Tsaatan ethnic minority for their daily foraging in a nearby forest at sunrise.