An Examination Of Greenland’s Inuit Culture

Greenland’s Inuit people established a culture that has existed for thousands of years.

Greenland’s Inuit people, who began inhabiting the land approximately 4,500 years ago, have established a culture in the country that has existed for millennia and is still seen in traditions, activities and national customs.

Ice fisherman in Greenland
Ice fisherman in Greenland. Photo by Visit Greenland on Unsplash

While most historical exploration of the people’s lifestyles can be seen at ancient settlements like Sermermiut, one can understand the Inuit’s impact on modern Greenlandic life by examining its various elements.

Dog sledding, which is a significant part of Greenlandic culture, is an activity that most likely began with the Thule, who arrived in the land approximately 1,050 years ago and are classified as one of the four mass-immigration groups that came to the area.

Dog sled and dogs
Dog sled and dogs. Image by Taken from Pixabay

As the Thule embarked on long expeditions, they began the tradition of dog sledding to assist themselves with hunting. Nowadays, one can engage in the activity to understand Inuit practices and explore the country with a local driver.

Visitors to Greenland may also experience kaffemik, a social engagement with Inuit roots in which people reunite to share food and drinks for as long as they would like.

As the Thule grew, they valued a community-centric ideology and status relative to other members often depended on learned skills such as hunting or fishing. In order to earn social recognition, communal gatherings became important, and traditions like kaffemik began.

Sermersooq, Greenland
Sermersooq, Greenland. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Prior to the Thule’s arrival, the Inuit culture around 2500 B.C.E. was partially defined by the inhabitants’ valuing of a vessel similar to a kayak. The craft’s significance has remained great since then, and those wishing to engage in an adventurous activity can explore Greenland’s shoreline in it.

The kayak has also become a national symbol as it seems to connect the country with its thousands of years of history.

Travelers to the nation can also recognize the persistence of the Inuit’s influence on the current population by examining the traditional clothing.

Greenland’s Inuit Culture
Examples of Greenland’s national dress. Facebook: Folklore Footprints

Originally, the ancient societies wore dress constructed from animal hides or skins to protect them from the harsh climate and were often comprised of boots, furs and pants. Eventually, as Europeans arrived in Greenland during the 1600-1700s, the fabrics and beads the newcomers brought with them became incorporated into the Inuit clothing and, today, can be seen in attire worn on festive occasions, such as Christmas, Easter and the country’s National Day.

One may be able to notice the national costume by attending confirmations or weddings as well, since the dress is adopted for various types of remarkable days. To view the traditional animal skin suits, visitors to the nation can tour the Greenland National Museum & Archives. Located in Nuuk, the institution contains the ancient clothing, 15th-century mummies, skin boats and dog sledges.

The Qasigiannguit Museum also displays the clothing the Inuit would have worn while fishing, hunting and kayaking and contains an exhibit dedicated to a presentation of women’s clothing worn for holidays nowadays as well.

Regardless of the location one travels to in the island, it is likely they develop an understanding of the Inuit culture that has existed for thousands of years and will continue to evolve given Greenland’s recognition of the significance it has.

Ray Lewis

Content Editor Associate

Originally from New Jersey, Ray developed a passion for traveling through his adventures in Europe. He created unforgettable memories in Greece and Italy, but is looking to explore more countries in different parts of the world as well.

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