Hunting Culture

Hunting culture for thousands of years

Since the first wave of immigration via Thule around 4-5000 years ago, the Inuits in Greenland have been dependent on nature's resources in the form of fish, birds, land mammals and marine mammals. Hunting and fishing have therefore always been a question of survival in a country in which the summer is short and the climate unsuitable for effective farming. An exception to this, however, has been sheep farming, which was practised during the Viking period and has taken place in modern times since 1906 in South Greenland.

Unique hunting tools and vessels

The Inuits have had to utilise their ancestors' skills, their own imagination and the materials that were available in the landscape around them to make the tools that could mean the difference between life and death. Throughout the generations, the Inuit cultures managed to create and refine unique products such as the kayak, the women's knife known as the ulo, the soapstone lamp and harpoons, bird spears and high quality clothing made of animal hide and fur. The fact that even compacted snow could be used to build a temporary shelter in the form of the igloo bears witness to an extraordinary ability to utilise nature's own materials.

Traditions handed down

Right from childhood the youngest generations have been taught by fathers and mothers how to make use of the traditional tools and methods of hunting. Indeed, it is not unusual even today that children capture their first ptarmigan or seal even though they have only just begun attending school. The first catch is a big event that is celebrated in a similar manner to birthdays, where family and neighbours are invited to kaffemik - the traditional social gathering in a Greenlandic home.

Climate change is threatening the hunter culture

Greenland is no longer a major hunting society, but the hunting traditions are still maintained throughout the country, especially in the hunting districts in North- and East Greenland. The hunters from North Greenland say today, however, that climate change has already led to short periods with much thinner ice or no ice at all in the winter and generally more unstable weather. This may prove to be a major problem for the hunting culture in certain Greenlandic towns and settlements because the local population's culture and existence depend on the ice for hunting and capturing prey, as well as for transport.

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