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The Inuit of the Greenland Seas: Ch 3 of Go Greenland

Published
September 30, 2021
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THE INUIT tend to live close to coastal areas or spots good for fishing. Their way on life means they are dependent on marine animals for food, as well as on caribou.

The Thule Culture, forerunners of the Inuit, originated in Alaska and migrated across Arctic Canada. About 1,000 years ago they advanced into Greenland. The Thule were more adept at making sophisticated tools for Arctic living than an earlier culture that lived in these parts, the Dorset Culture. Though technically a late stone age (Neolithic) culture, in the sense that they didn’t make metals from scratch out of ore, the Thule culture practiced epi-metallurgy, meaning the use of metals that they found in the environment. Along with chert and flint, naturally occurring copper and meteoric iron were formed into cutting edges that made knives and harpoons more effective. The so-called ‘copper Inuit’ of northern Canada made use of naturally occurring copper, which can form a wicked edge like the points of copper carpet tacks. For their part, Greenland Inuit used iron from several large meteorites that crashed to earth near a future Danish settlement called Thule in the north of Greenland. The early Greenland Inuit radiated out from this area, assisted by their iron points, and was from that expansion that the expression ‘Thule culture’ arose.

The Inuit greeting in which they appear to touch noses was another point of interest for me. It is a lot like the New Zealand Māori hongi 11,500 kilometres away and the honi in Hawaii. I also saw a similar practice in the United Arab Emirates.

The Arctic was one of the last major areas in the world to be settled permanently. It is a common idea that the Inuit would have had some relation with the other native American groups further to the south, but DNA testing show they are quite distinct. Both populations resulted from migrations out of Siberia, but these took place many thousands of years apart.

The Inuit culture, like many other nomadic cultures is greatly dependent on the surrounding environment and nature. Shamanism is a major component of their way of life, cultural development and religions.

As they spread out through Arctic Canada and into Greenland, the Inuit diversified into sub-groups. The majority of the Greenland Inuit are known as Kalaallit, their language as Kalaallisut. This is the official spoken and written language of Greenland, often referred to in English as Greenlandic.

Go Greenland is available on this website, a-maverick.com.

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