Appeal to President and Government of Mongolia
An introduction of the ancient and modern day culture of Dukha Peoples of Mongolia by the Delegation of Dukha Peoples of Mongolia
25 June 2003
President Bagabandi, Paliament Members, Ministers, Media, Institutions, Non-government organizations (NGO) and Citizens of Mongolia:
WITH DEEPEST RESPECT and pride as members of the great nation of Mongolia, we the undersigned and duly elected delegation representatives of the Dukha Peoples of Mongolia seek to represent our culture, lifeways, challenges and hopes as a unique, native minority population of Mongolia.
OUR PEOPLE are people of the high mountain taiga homeland of Hovsgol Aimag (Tagan Nuur, Ulaan Uul and Renchilumbe Sums) and are perhaps more widely known as "Tsaatan." But this is not our real and true name and we prefer to be called "Dukha" leading to our ancient roots as part of the Turkick speaking peoples across the highland border regions of Tyva, Irkutsk, Buryatia Russia and northern Mongolia.
OUR ANCIENT CULTURE represents one of the oldest cultures of Mongolia's Peoples and native, ethnic minorities. By some estimates, our people have been recognized as the first in the world to successfully domesticate the reindeer as many as 3,000 years ago or longer.
OUR ANCESTORS learned to live sustainably and without harm to nature in the taiga due to our relationship and domestication with woodland reindeer. Our ancient stories and songs - and the Dukha, Soyot and Turkick place names of our homelands - passed down from ancient times from generation to generation carry these truths.
WE WERE IN THE TAIGA in year 1207 when Joci, first son of Chingiss Khan reportedly "subjugated the forest peoples" without bloodshed in his first so-called victory for his father - Chingiss Khan.
WE HAVE NEVER BEEN A WARLIKE PEOPLE, for our culture has had to learn to live peacefully amidst the very delicate nature of our taiga habitat and there is no doubt in our minds that, as we do today, our Ancestors welcomed Joci, son of Chingiss Khan, in friendship, fed him and his warriors and gave them our delicious reindeer milk tea and surely traded furs and gifts. But we were never a conquered people.
WE LIVED FREELY IN THE TAIGA THEN, as we wish to do now and to insure such freedoms for our children and future generations.
AND THUS WE HAVE COME IN DELEGATION AND UNITY, with commitment for the first time since long before the fall of communism and the new market reforms began to represent ourselves, our culture, our concerns and life challenges and our hopes for the future.
IN THE TAIGA, we are 207 strong in number, living fully nomadically as we have always done through the harshest of weather and seasonal conditions with our reindeer, and some 300 more of us have adopted a more settled lifestyle, but we here keep our old ways for we know that they are right, just and good.
WE WILL NEVER LEAVE OUR TAIGA HOMELAND, and we implore the Government of Mongolia, the President, the Parliament and the Ministries who oversee public and private actions to respect our full and native rights to the land of our ancient origin, our taiga, and our rights to live in peace and traditionally, nomadically, harming not the nature nor our neighbors and friends, the respected Darhad Peoples in Mongolia and the Tyvan, Buryat and other Peoples of neighboring Russia.
WE ARE SEEKING OUR VERY OWN REPRESENTATION in the Government affairs of Mongolia that have impact on our lives. We, the Dukha People greatly respect and admire our Bag, Sum, Aimag and National Representatives, but we wish also to fully and equitably represent ourselves before the Government in regards to important issues affecting our future.
THUS WE ASK RESPECTFULLY of the Government of Mongolia to help us advance our representation, and that of all native and ethnic minorities in Mongolia on government policy, law, state, public and private actions of significance to our culture, lives and lifeways.
WE ARE RECOGNIZING IN APPRECIATION all of the past and present formative efforts of the Government of Mongolia, as well as actions by public and private institutions and international non-government organizations that have supported and aided our traditional lifestyle and we seek their further cooperation with full thanks and appreciation.
WE URGE THE GOVERNMENT of MONGOLIA to do all it can to support the traditional nomadic lifeways and economies of all of Mongolia's Peoples including the mountain nomads, such as we. We express concern when either state actions or privatization of land or resources impairs or degrades the free-ranging lifestyle and traditions so important and unique to Mongolia and our culture.
WE RECOGNIZE SEVEN PRIMARY ISSUES in which we expect full and forthright deliberation, cooperation and partnership agreement on with the Government of Mongolia, including:
1. Economic Programs Enhancement and Support - We the Dukha seek real partnership and appropriate economic assistance with the Government of Mongolia and international aid programs in terms of advancing equitable state salaries, improvement strategies for herder income and salaries, small business training, creation, business investment loans and development that must support our traditional nomadic lifestyle with reindeer and our own fully-registered native, business cooperative, the Tsaching Reindeer Cooperative of Tsagan Nuur. We also wish to design, manage and benefit directly from financially and equitably from tourism, ecotourism and adventure tourism that focus interest on our native lands and reindeer herding lifestyle. We wish to design truly sustainable levels of tourism appropriate to discourage tourism actions, taxes, etc. that inhibit our nomadic lifestyle or degrade our taiga habitat or wildlife resources. An equitable portion of state tourism tax proceeds should be returned to the native peoples to support their sustainability and development needs.
2. Nature Protection of our Taiga Homeland - We the Dukha, having always been a part of and protectors of the taiga, seek to insure its longterm protection for our nature in our ancestral homelands. Further, we request direct information and participation on any and all matters, actions, legislation, state or private projects that may damage or degrade the taiga environment - its lands, waters, plants and wildlife. We, the Dukha seek to be included upfront about the creation of, or management of existing or newly proposed natural protected territories. This is our home, and this is where we subsist with natures bounty, and we aim to see it protected truly for all future generations of Dukha and Mongolia.
3. Protection of the Traditional Culture of Dukha Peoples - We the Dukha seek to insure the protection of our ancient culture, lifeways, language, shamanic spirituality and all of the facets of our lives that make us a unique and distinct people of the taiga. As a small minority, we like all small minorities across the world, have great difficulty against outside influences. We implore the Government of Mongolia to help us protect our culture, language and lifeways. Most important and key to the preservation of our traditional culture and reindeer herding lifestyle is furthering the protection of our reindeer herd. This includes gaining more open border policies between Mongolian Dukha Peoples and our direct relations in Toja-Tyva, Tyva Republic, Soyot of the Buryat Republic and the Tofalar of the Irkutsk Oblast of Russia. Some of our families have been prohibited from meeting each other for over 52 years - first by state policies, then by Cold War border restrictions and now due to financial hardship and difficulties. Sharing and trading of prized reindeer genestock between cross-border reindeer herding peoples could greatly advance our herd strength and longevity, as well.
4. Education and Youth Programs - Despite our ancient roots and traditional lifeways of the taiga, we are part of the modern society. Thus, we seek improvements in education and youth recreational programs both in the taiga and in the sum centers and in university and adult education opportunities that can support the future of our people. Our children deserve the best and most equitable education opportunities in Mongolian language, but as important in our own native Tyvan language - and with the same rights and benefits as any other Mongolian students. We seek state funding through the National Education Programs to fully and adequately support Tyvan language training for our children and students as a means of protecting and preserving our true native Dukha culture.
5. Medical Aid &Transportation - We the Dukha face great challenges in our remote location of receiving quality medical support, aid and care for our people. We especially seek support for this aspect from the Government of Mongolia and wish to see far improved means of emergency and general care transportation opportunities so that our people can get to medical care safely and in a timely manner that best benefits their health. We believe further that the reasons for government are to assist directly in covering the costs of such basic access to health care.
6. Communication and Media - We the Dukha request the Government of Mongolia's assistance in gaining better access to all forms of information media via the internet, newspapers, radio and television. We are interested in being aware of our government's actions, just as we are people of the world seeking to know the events of national and international news and opinion.
7. State Budget and Finances - We the Dukha seek to be kept aware, informed and be inter-active with government budget and state financing opportunities that can help support our taiga lifestyle and the development and advancement of our culture, peoples, economy and lifeways. We are seeking only what is equitable and just as members of the Mongol Nation, but, for the last several years, have seen little state funding or aid support our peoples.
These represent the primary issue arenas of concern to our delegation. These and other issues not mentioned here are the basis for what we hope will be a longstanding and productive inter-cultural dialogue to advance our rights, recognition and development.
To advance our representation and partnership with the Mongolian Government, we, the undersigned respectfully request that we be afforded at the highest levels of government twice yearly meetings or seminars in Ulanbator and in Tsagan Nuur to address these specific issue arenas and to advance cooperation on the protection of our culture, the protection of native minorities, our taiga homelands, our nomadic lifestyle and the future of the Dukha and Mongolian Peoples.
Official Signatories of the Elected Dukha Elder Delegates:
Mrs. Oyunbadam, Dukha Reindeer Herder & Tyvan Language Teacher
Witnesses in Support:
Mr. Erdenzhap, Tsagan Nuur Sum Governor