The Darkhad is a subgroup of Mongol people living mainly in northern Mongolia. They living mainly in the Bayanzurkh, Ulaan-Uul, Renchinlkhumbe, and Tsagaannuur sums of Khuvsgul Province. The Darkhad valley is named after them. The regional variant of Mongol language is the Darkhad dialect.
The Darkhad were originally part of the Oirat or Khotgoid tribes. Between 1549 and 1686, they were subjects of Zasagt Khan aimag and the Khotgoid Altan Khan. In 1786 they became part of the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu's shabi otog. At roughly the same time they became known as Black Darkhad.
Many Darkhad practise shamanism. In the 2000 census, 16,268 people identified themselves as Darkhad.
Also Tsaatan people lives in Darkhad Valley – there are a small community of reindeer herders.
The North Taiga band was organized under the Qing Dynasty from 1755-1912 as part of Toja or Uriyankhai banner. With Mongolian independence in 1921, the banner became part of independent Tuva, which was soon annexed by the Russians in 1944, leaving only North Taiga band on the Mongolian side of the frontier. The South Taiga group of the Dukhans and other Uriankhais fled over the frontier from Tuva to avoid conscription in the 1930s. At first, the Mongolian government repeatedly deported them back to Tuva. In 1956 the government finally gave them Mongolian citizenship and resettled them at Tsagaan Nuur Lake on the Shishigt River.
Only 44 Dukha families remain, totaling somewhere between 200 and 400 people. They ride, breed, milk, and live off of reindeer, though the reindeer population has dropped to approximately 600 since the 1970s, when it was an estimated 2000. Since the democratization of Mongolia, no governmental programs have been in place to replenish reindeer herds with animals from Siberia, direly endangering the Dukha way of life. Much of the Dukha income today comes from tourists who pay to buy their crafts and to ride their domesticated reindeer. The name "tsaatan" means "reindeer herder" as in "tsaa buga" (reindeer).
A news report in 2009 put the Tsaatan population at 220.
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