Text: Anders Stenbakken
Destination East Greenland
The East Greenlanders’ uniqueness from the rest of the country is clearly reflected in the language and culture of the region. The language of East Greenland is substantially different from that of West Greenland both in its pronunciation and its vocabulary.
Strong culturel roots
During a period of only 110 years the East Greenlandic Inuit have faced many changes, going from a life in total isolation to being a part of the rest of the world. Satellite TV, Internet, fast food and fashion trends are having a visible influence on life here – like anywhere else. Isn’t this going to destroy the East Greenlandic Inuit culture? We think not. The cultural roots are deep and strong. In few places, if any, has mankind endured more hardship, a more hostile environment and a fiercer competition from nature simply to survive. The nature of East Greenland has created one of the most specialised hunting cultures in the world, the Ammassalik culture, which in many ways differs from the rest of Greenland. Much has changed, and a lot of modern amenities have become part of the daily life in Ammassalik. However, in many ways nature still determines living conditions. The knowledge and the proper use of old hunting methods are still the foundation for the survival of many families. A hunter can have all the modern equipment at his disposal, but if he doesn’t understand the nature he’ll come home empty handed at the end of the day all the same.
Fishing and Hunting
The main occupations in the outlying settlements - are seal hunting and fishing. The kind of industrial fisheries familiar on the west coast have not yet been established here. Old traditions associated with the division of the catch are still observed in East Greenland. For example, the skin of the polar bear is given to the person who first sighted the animal rather than the hunter who actually killed it, who will get the scull, some ribs and one of the hind legs. The game in Ammassalik is mainly seals, minke whale, narwhal and polar bear. Once a year, in springtime, huge amounts of capelin, a salmon-type fish, called AMMASSAT in Greenlandic, come close to the coast to spawn and are easily caught. The district owes its name to the Ammassat.
Sailing and Camping
Not everybody is a full time hunter. Actually, quite far from it, especially in the town of Tasiilaq. However, hunting and fishing is a lifestyle around here, and almost every household has a boat. In the summertime the weekends and holidays are spent at the good fishing and hunting areas in the fjords of Ammassalik district. These weekend and summer camps are the true strongholds of the Inuit culture, as they represent the traditional way of life. It’s very important to have a good catch, but equal to this is the importance of being together with friends and family in the nature.
Test your knowledge on East Greenlandic culture and history here. (Greenlandic and Danish site)