Thursday, September 24, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland VI The People

The history of Greenland's people is rich and fascinating. The current population of the country is  about 55,00. Greenland is independent but still closely related to Denmark. Inuit refers to a culturally similar people living in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Inupiat are Alaskan Native people living between Norton Sound on the Bering Sea to the Canadian border on the east. Coastal natives of Northern Canada and Greenland are Inuit.  

Greenland Inuit are descendants of migrations from the Aleutians and across Canada. The Saqqaq, the earliest known archeological culture, inhabited southern Greenland (2500 BCE- 800 BCE). DNA evidence shows that they were related to native inhabitants of northeastern Siberia. The major Pre-Inuit Culture in North America were the two Dorset Cultures (500 BCE-1500CE).  Legends recount the Dorset people driving away  mythical  "First Inhabitants". Reportedly the Dorset Culture was extinct by 1500 due to difficulties in adapting to the weather of the Medieval Warm Period (aka climate change). The Dorset Cultures were replaced by the Thule People. The Thule are the ancestors of all modern Inuit developing in coastal Alaska by 1000 AD expanding east across Canada and reaching Greenland by the 13th century and living on the west, south and east coast of Greenland by 1500.

On our expedition we were able to meet Greenlanders of many stripes. They speak Greenlandic, Danish, and English. They are uniformly welcoming and friendly. We visited uninhabited hamlets, small and  large villages, and the capital city of Nuuk. People of all ages were genuinely interested in our being there. Here are a few of many people visits from the trip.


These children live in Nanortalik which is Greenland's most southerly town. They are playing carefully with an injured bird on a field of buttercups.


In the capital city of Nuuk,this wonderful lady invited about 8 of our Tour Group for a Home Visit. It was afternoon tea in the dining room of her home. It included tea and pastries. She talked to us about her life and even sang for us. The photos on the wall are of her wedding. Her necklace is extraordinary. Her personality was captivating.



She and her daughter were most hospitable. The painting on the wall made me feel quite at home
since it is what my artist wife Jan would do and has done.


The last of my brief people picture stories concerns a child who died over 500 years ago. In 1972 two brothers came upon a pile of rocks near Qilakitsoq, an abandoned Inuit settlement on the northwest Greenland coast. When they noted what appeared be human remains they notified authorities who ultimately discovered eight mummified bodies in two burial sites. The first grave contained three women, a two year old boy and a 6 month old baby boy, while the second grave contained three women. DNA testing showed two groups of related mummies and one mummy unrelated to either of the two groups. The mummies dated to 1475 AD and were fully clothed and in good nutritional state. Five of the six women had facial tattoos. The mummies are on exhibit in the National museum in Nuuk.

The six month old boy is the most famous of the group. As the image below shows he is well preserved appears almost doll like.  It is felt that he was buried alive with his mother as dictated by Inuit custom. This was done after a mother's death if no one could be found to care for the child. 

To see this 500 year old child and his relatives in this tableau was an exceptional experience.





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