Shanghai Daily Report on China’s Reindeer Herders

October 9, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Challenges, Reindeer, Reindeer Herders

Evenki Herder in China

There are not many stories out of China that are about the Evenki reindeer herders that are still practising reindeer husbandry in the North East of the country. The Shanghai Daily has just carried a story on the reindeer herders of China, who number in the tens.

HOHHOT, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) — Soon, tribesman Gu Wenqiang will have to bid farewell to his herd of deer, leaving his small shack tucked away in the lush green forests of the Greater Khingan Range.

After more than a month of tending the herd of reindeer, the 36 year old will soon drive from his temporary shelter and return to his hometown of Aoluguya Ewenki located 50 km away. It’s an occurance that’s happening more frequently these days.

 

For Gu and others from the Aoluguya Ewenki tribe, dubbed “the last hunting tribe of China,” such trips have become routine following the tribe’s relocation to a township near Genhe City, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, from the mountain forests eleven years ago. For a decade, nomadic life has been the only choice to keep their ancient culture alive.

Compared with the damp, silent forests, the nationality township, less than 4 km away from the city proper, is abuzz with northern-Europe influence. The ethnic construction there is not only the home to people like Gu, but thousands of tourists eager to catch a glimpse of his mysterious culture.

Gu’s house is filled with products made in exquisite handwork and ethnic clothes, which, according to Gu’s mother, are quite popular among tourists.

 

“These souvenirs guarantee us some income,” Gu’s mother said of the pieces, which play a vital part in the lives of the local people, particularly those without reindeer.

The Aoluguya Ewenki tribe moved to live in the forests in the Greater Khingan Range, China’s largest state-owned forest region in terms of continuous area, 300 years ago. For centuries, the tribe’s life in the virgin forests remained intact: living on the meat of beasts and dressing in animal skins.

In 2003, in a step to improve their living standard, the government helped the tribe relocate to the suburb area of Genhe, providing new houses and articles for daily use. Daily expenses like electricity, water and gas are also free of charge.

 

To help the tribe people live a better life, the local government also stepped up efforts to build tourism infrastructure and create job vacancies.

Meanwhile, local officials have set fixed areas in the forests for people like Gu to keep raising reindeer in their traditional way: providing food for the deer while warding off their predators. Despite the boredom of such simple life, it’s the only way to help their culture survive, Gu said.

 

But the thought of going back to his beautifully decorated house is not cheering him up at all. Gu is a little concerned, worried the tribe’s offsprings will abandon the traditional way of life in the forests and run for the cities.

“I don’t know if my children can stand the loneliness in the forests and keep the reindeer,” Gu said. “If they don’t, the culture of our tribe will be forever lost,” he said.

 

Source: Shanghai Daily

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