The Inuit Circumpolar Documentary

The Tradition Documented Since Astrup

In a previous short note on this website “Towards the Glacier”, I was referring to our strong dogs raised in Qaanaaq and how they are pulling the 500 kg sledge up to the top of the glacier with good speed. I also referred to the one who first told us Norwegians about the Greenland dog and dogsled-driving, Eivind Astrup – and one article which briefly sum up the importance of Astrup and the history about him. I regret that I did not write the full name of the author of the only biography about Astrup, or quote the short article correct. Anyway: To find out more about Astrup, we highly recommend to read “Polarforskeren Eivind Astrup. En pioner blant nordpolens naboer”, by Tom Bloch-Nakkerud, (Bastin, 2011). Unfortunately, it is only in Norwegian. The article in English that gives a summary of Astrups importance, most probably based on this biography, is Astrups Harness, written by Jonas Warme Moe (The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, Volume 12, Number 1, December 2012). The Fan Hitch sorts out a lot of resources about the Inuit Dog, but also contains articles that makes it easier for us to research topics.

Astrup found that in order to travel fast and safe by dogsleds, you must raise the dogs good, train them, treat them- and feed them well. That is exactly what the polar eskimo do today; what the hunter do who try to live from hunting alone. Without his dogs, he can’t go hunting. To have dogs, he needs to hunt to feed them. Astrup told the Norwegian people 120 years ago how the dogs were fed with blubber and meat from walrus, and how this diet made the dogs stronger and bigger than any dogs he had seen. These dogs still get the same food as in Astrups days, from the same people who told Astrup about dogsleds.

Some people, far, far away from Qaanaaq, have for the last fifteen years or so developed politics designed to stop the polar eskimo from hunting walrus and other animals. That means he should stop having dogs. Without dogs he must quit seal hunting. Stop hunting polar bear. Stop making sealskin kamiks, sealskin gloves, polar bear trousers. Then he don’t have to tell stories from hunting anymore to his children. Make songs about seals. Give his wife feedback on her sewing, based on his latest hunt in a midwinter gale. His wife does not need to repair clothes anymore. Or even make them at all. In the Nanoq project, the Inuit participants will try to present this circle to decision makers, to make them understand that what they really demand is “STOP BEEING AN POLAR ESKIMO! STOP LIVING! DISAPPEAR!

Torgeir Higraff
13th of April, 2013


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