Kalaalit Nunaat (Greenland)

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Kalaalit Nunaat (Greenland)

Kalaalit Nunaat (Greenland)

Kalaallit indigenous Greenlandic Inuit culture, identify their island as Kalaalit Nunaat, which literally means "the land of the Kalaallit". The name Greenland comes from early Scandinavian settlers. Greenlandic Inuit peole are considered to be descended from Dorset and Thule people, who settled Greenland in ancient times.

Bear Hunter

Prehistory of Greenland is a story of repeated waves of Paleo-Eskimo immigration from the islands north of the North American mainland. The Saqqaq culture (ca. 2500 BC - ca. 800 BC) is the earliest culture established in the southern and western parts of Greenland and coexisted with the Independence I culture ( ca. 2,400 - ca. 1,000 B.C.), which arrived in northern Greenland from Canada. Independence II has been called an intermediate phase between the earlier cultures and the Dorset culture, which arrived in Greenland in ca. 700 BC. Recent studies have shown the cultures may be identical within Greenland and for this reason have been designated "Greenlandic Dorset". The Early Dorset culture existed in Greenland until about 200 AD. Next to arrive may have been people belonging to the Late Dorset culture, perhaps as early as 800 AD. Late Dorset culture was limited to the northwest part of the island, and disappeared ca. 1300 AD. The Norse began to colonize the island in 980 AD. The Thule (ca. 1200), another Arctic culture having emerged 200 years earlier in Alaska, arrived from the west and settled south of the Late Dorset culture and ranged over vast areas of Greenland's west and east coasts. These people, ancestors of the modern Inuit, were flexible and engaged in the hunting of almost all animals on land and in the ocean, including large whales. They had dogs, which were used to pull sleds, used kayaks, harpoons, bows and arrows, and had large food storages to avoid winter famine. The early Thule avoided the higher latitudes, which would only become populated again after renewed immigration from Canada in the 19th century.


Approximately 89% of Greenland's population (57,695), are Greenlandic Inuit (51,349), and belong to three major groups:

Todays population of Greenland are distributed throughout 120 localities around the coast. 65 of these settlements have less than 100 residents each. Nuuk the capital, has a population of 13,000 making it the largest town in Greenland.

The Greenlandic Inuit have a strong artistic tradition based on sewing animal skins and making masks. They are also known for an art form of figures called tupilaq or an "evil spirit object." Today, tupilaqs of many different shapes and sizes are carved from various materials such as narwhal and walrus tusk, wood and caribou antler. They are an important part of Greenlandic Inuit art and are highly prized as collectibles. Sperm whale ivory remains a valued medium for carving.


Greenland today is dependent on tourism, fishing and fish exports. The fishing industry in Greenland is very important to the national economy of Greenland and local food supply. The shrimp fishing industry is by far the largest income earner. A large number of people in Greenland earn their living from the fishing industry. Despite resumption of several hydrocarbon and mineral exploration activities, it will take several years before hydrocarbon production can materialize. The state oil company NUNAOIL was created in order to help develop the hydrocarbon industry in Greenland. The state company Nunamineral has been launched on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange to raise more capital to increase the production of gold, started in 2007. Economic stability is seen as a basis for full political independence from Denmark.

Hunting and whaling have always been important ways to make a living. Greenlandic people are mostly of Inuit origin and the nation's culture reflects that. Inuit culture is the most pure hunting culture in existence and most Greenlanders still hunt at least part-time to supplement their diet and provide skins for clothing and kayaks.

Reindeer hunting has a special status in the hearts of Greenlanders. A musk ox provides four times as much meat as a reindeer, but most would much rather have caribou or reindeer meat than musk ox. Controlled hunting is important for the welfare of reindeer, the quality of life for Inuit, and the preservation of tundra grazing areas.

The musk ox is the largest land mammal in Greenland. The Greenland Musk ox originates from North-East Greenland. During the eighties, animals were moved to South Greenland, where they have prospered, due to very good environmental conditions. Greenlandic Inuit whalers catch around 175 whales per year, making them the third largest hunt in the world after Japan and Norway, though their take is small compared to those nations. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) treats the west and east coasts of Greenland as two separate population areas and sets separate quotas for each coast. The far more densely populated west coast accounts for over 90 percent of the catch.

The harbour seal is prized by locals in Greenland for its meat and its fine silky hair, the harbour seal skin being part of national traditional Greenlandic clothing. Precise figures for harp seal abundance are unavailable, however recent estimates are 300,000 in the east Greenland population. In January 2006, the government of Greenland banned imports of Canadian seal skins, citing fears Canadian seals are brutally beaten to death. In the sea around Greenland live five species of seal, of which the ringed seal, the harp seal and the hooded seal are the most common. The bearded seal and the common seal are relatively rare. None of the species are threatened by extinction, however the common seal, which is not really an Arctic seal species, is thought to be dwindling in numbers in West Greenland. Nowhere in Greenland are seal pups killed except by natural circumstances such as polar bear or arctic fox.

Today quota-based hunting of the walrus takes place in Greenland's hunting districts. For the Inuits the walrus has always been an important animal to hunt, and one which was also particularly dangerous to meet in a kayak.

East Greenland is polar bear country. Polar bears, called Nanoq by the Inuit, are the world's largest land predators and are the only bear to be considered a marine mammal. Of all the animals the Inuit hunts, Nanoq, the polar bear, is the most prized. Permanent Greenland residents who have hunting as their main occupation may only kill polar bears.

Traditional culture is threatened by climate change, development and a growing cash-based economy. Arctic, winter temperatures above the 63rd parallel north have increased on average, by 2 to 5 Celsius over the past 50 years and could rise by yet another 10, having a dramatic effect on the wildlife, environment and culture of the high Arctic. Hunters are spending more time in the fjords, rather than on the sea ice, because there is less sea ice on which to hunt seal, walrus and polar bear. Moved north by the warmer water are worms and parasites that the hunters have never seen before which rapidly riddle and destroy seal carcasses if they are left in the water very long. Not only is sea ice thinner, it forms one to two months later and melts one to two months sooner.


Colonialism in Greenland: An Inuit Perspective
Greenland's Inuit culture and history
Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC)
Culture of Greenland
Arctic ICCE Project
Culture of Greenland
Music of Greenland
Greenlandic Cuisine
Reindeer Hunting in Greenland
Inuit Diet
List of Greenlandic Inuit
List of Inuit
Greenlandic Inuit People
Culture and History in Greenland
The Inughuit tribe of Northern Greenland
History of Greenland
National Museum of the American Indian
Greenlandic independence
Outline of Greenland

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