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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why should I organize my visit to the Tsaatan through the TCVC?

Visitation to the Tsaatan organized by individuals and companies outside the community, or carried out by independent travelers with privately contracted guides, leaves the Tsaatan largely out of the loop of tourism. That said, some tour operators have made great efforts to collaborate with the Tsaatan to share the benefits of tourism. The center works best in tandem with other tour industry professionals. When you incorporate the TCVC in your travel plans, you help encourage this interplay by enabling the Tsaatan to have an increasingly participatory role in tourism, earn benefits such as revenue from visits, and establish standardized norms and guidelines for visiting their unique community and ecosystem. Utilizing the TCVC is a great way to show the Tsaatan the respect and support they have requested when visiting their community.

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Why is the TCVC not closer to Lake Hovsgol? Isn’t that where the Tsaatan live?

The Tsaatan do NOT traditionally live near Lake Hovsgol. In recent years, a very small number of Tsaatan families have chosen to move to the Lake in order to harness revenue from tourist flow in the area, despite the fact that the Lake Hovsgol region offers very little, if any, forage for reindeer, resulting in disease, malnutrition, and even death of their herds. The recent trend of heading south to the lake has also catalyzed rifts in the Tsaatan community. For example, herders that stay in the taiga feel that Tsaatan presence at the Lake objectifies their culture, jeopardizes the health of their primary resource, their reindeer, and disrupts traditions and patterns central to the Tsaatan lifestyle. Families that do choose to go to the Lake earn small amounts of cash from tourists by posing for portraits or conducting shamanic rituals, a result of little access to alternative income sources, and dire economic situations. This tough decision ultimately threatens the very survival of the Tsaatan and their reindeer. When asked, Tsaatan herders consistently say they would rather host visitors in their home region, the taiga, where their reindeer are healthy and their lifestyle can be sustained. By visiting Tsaatan families at the Lake you are helping to perpetuate a dangerous cycle that may spell out the end of this unique culture. Please be an informed traveler, and do your part to promote sensitive tourism in Mongolia. You can do this by showing the Tsaatan that you are willing to make the effort to support their community by going further north to the TCVC, rather than seeing “The Reindeer People” at Lake Hovsgol.

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Is an in-depth, authentic experience possible if I make plans through the TCVC?

Making plans through the TCVC is the BEST way to ensure that you have an enriching, authentic experience since the TCVC allows you to directly connect with members of the community. You can hire a Tsaatan guide who knows the taiga intimately, and can help you make arrangements to stay with host families, take part in daily life, and understand the culture and environment of the Tsaatan. The TCVC can also help make sure that you do not break specific taboos, stay too long or in the wrong place, or do things that may be harmful to the community. By avoiding these things, you will have a more positive visit, and walk away with a greater understanding of Tsaatan life.

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Can I just show-up at the TCVC? Will someone be there to help me?

A host family lives adjacent to and watches over the TCVC who may be available when you arrive. They can open the TCVC for you and help you make arrangements. Please remember that services take time to coordinate and it may take several days before you are able to travel into the taiga. Not only does food need to be purchased but horses, guides, and cooks must be coordinated and travel from the taiga to pick you up. “Walk-Ins” are very difficult to arrange so it is essentially necessary to make reservations ahead of time (at least 5 days.)

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I have visited the Tsaatan before, should I return on my own or include the TCVC in my plans?

Even if you have visited the taiga numerous times, it is always a good idea to include the Tsaatan in your travel plans, as you are making a visit to their home. If you have not used Tsaatan guides or horses in the past, using the TCVC helps you do so, ensuring that your visit considers the people you are going to see.

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Will it cost me more to incorporate the TCVC in my travel plans?

The TCVC offers services that are competitively priced, such as daily rates for horse rentals, guides, cooks, and accommodations. You may find that TCVC rates are actually significantly cheaper than rates quoted elsewhere, as the Tsaatan are the direct service providers and have virtually no overhead associated with their Center. Every dollar you direct towards the TCVC deeply benefits the Tsaatan, whose average household income is less than $100 per year, well below Mongolia’s poverty line.

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I want to conduct research or produce a film, photo exhibition, or other media about the Tsaatan, how can the TCVC fit in with my plans?

If you are hoping to conduct any kind of commercial, academic, or media-related activity involving the Tsaatan, it is particularly important that you incorporate the TCVC in your plans. The Tsaatan have encountered many filmmakers, photographers, authors, journalists, biologists, and anthropologists, and are savvy to the concept that many of these visits are designed to produce products that yield profits, publications, or public material of some kind. Some Tsaatan welcome participation in these kinds of projects while others are not interested. Most herders feel, understandably, that compensation is appropriate if the end-result is a profit-generating product. The TCVC can help ensure that your project takes these factors into consideration, resulting in sensitivity towards the community and a greater chance of success of your project. Please remember that filmmakers are required to sign contracts in advance of production with the Tsaatan community. Contact the TCVC well ahead of when you plan to visit the taiga so that a contract can be created with the TCVC lawyer.

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