The Inuit Circumpolar Documentary


What to do with the Dogs?

The team arrived in Qaanaaq. Naimangitsoq, Qitdlutoq, Louise and Hans have discussed the journey. – I have limited vocabulary in their language, so it was good to have an interpreter in the evaluation, says Hans. – Among other things, we discussed the dogs and how we can train dogs for this extreme kind of strain. Apparently, the dogs handled this well, in my view, but if the hunters are not satisfied, there are reasons to listen to them. I enjoyed the discussion, Hans conclude in the voice mail.

For thousands of years the Inuit have trained this dog on the walrus diet and in the hard conditions to be the toughest dog on on the planet. This dog has been standing by his people through famine and extreme weather since prehistoric times. With the help of this dog, hunters have chased down the great white bear with weapons no better than primitive spears.

Extreme Conditions on Return Crossing

We have let behind us 48 tough hours. It was between minus 20 and 30 degrees celsius all the time. The dogs were worn out when we reached the ice sheet. The wind blew a lot so we made an igloo. All the sleds were destroyed by all the rocks, so we had to rebuild them in the camp. During the next night we went up on top of the glacier – dogs still tired from the struggle the day before. Even my polar eskimo friends said it felt cold – with a gale and minus 25 degrees. Then we met a thick fog down south, with made it pretty difficult to find the best way. We did good speed over the crevasses. Fortunately we made it back. Now we are tired.

Hans Reidar Bjelke

Grenlandic Law Stops Cultural Dogsled Expedition

The Nanoq team is back on Greenlandic soil after a brief visit on the Canadian side of the border. Ironic, it is not allowed for polar eskimoes to visit their cultural “brothers and sisters” in Canada like their forefathers have done for hundreds of years. To me, this makes just the same amount of sense as to prohibit the sami people to cross the border between Norway and Finland, to visit each other by reindeer-sleds.

The Greenlandic “Landstinget” does not prohibit cultural meetings. But with dogs and sleds, it is impossible, as I will explain here. And based on our interviews with hunters and wives of hunters, this is just one out of many effective obstacles put in the way of those who try to keep alive traditions.

In the Nanoq project we also document the relations between the inuit and the dog. As a matter of fact, this relation is the reason why we choose to travel by dogsleds from Greenland to Canada. We want focus on the way Inuit in Northern Greenland are treated by their own government.

The numbers of violations are shocking to me as a Norwegian raised in the Northern part of Norway, used to hear about all the rights of Indigenous Peoples from childhood. I early became aware of violations against the sami people. But I can’t understand the treatment the Greenlandic government gives the polar eskimo.

Here, I will start with one example. In The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, there are a number of interesting articles. Like, when we from now refer to the Greenland dog, we mean the dog brought to the country by the Thule culture. This happened in 1100 A. D. (Hanne Friis Andersen from Greenland Dog / Inuit makes no difference (The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, Volume 7, Number 4, September 2005). This culture also brought the language, and this relatively rapid cultural movement from Alaska to Greenland is the reason why Knud Rasmussen could make himself understood with his Greenlandic Kalaallisut language in most of the places he visited during his 5th Thule Expedition (Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition, 1921-24: The Danish Expedition to Arctic North America, Volum 1. Gyldendal 1945).

The reason why I now will get back to the article by Hanne Friis Andersen is because it is prohibited to import any dogs to the dog sled district of Greenland. In fact, to quote Friis Andersen, “if dogs are taken out of the country, they are not allowed back in again. Why this policy? To keep the breed pure”.

Andersen did a Master Thesis on the subject, and found there is no reason to think of the inuit Dog from Canada and the Greenland Dog as separated. “Rather, they are populations of the same dog breed”.

So, why then prohibit the polar eskimo to visit his friends and relatives in Grise Fiord, by traveling like his parents did, with their dogs and sleds? Why make it impossible for them to have a reunion the old, cultural way?

This question needs an answer. Thats why the Nanoq project, fronted by four hunters from the Qaanaaq area, this spring asked the veterinaries in Nuuk for a special permission to go visiting Grise Fiord by dogsleds. The answer is still: No.

Torgeir S. Higraff

The map that shows where Nanoq are now!

Nanoq going north and west

We got some coordinates from the Nanoq Team – and its always good to get their position on the map.

Bjorn H./ Digital crew / Norwegian soil / in my kitchen with a hot coffee and Ipad.

The first video from the Nanoq Team #youtube #greenland #culure #climate

Torgeir Higraff

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

Down from the Glacier

And into the hunting territory of the polar eskimo. Time to go hunting!

Gorgeous Glacier

Rough. Real. Remote. Ellesmere Island rise in the west. Together with the polar eskimo Qitdlutoq Duneq and his fantastic dogs you feel perfectly safe.

We need you to spred the word – so Nanoq are also on Instagram

nanoq on instagram

The Nanoq goal says: “We will help to create a continuous connections, platform and model for future gatherings with the aim of transferring cultural heritage

We have one, -and only one way to do that. We need to create communication.

What is “create communication?

That is you who read this now. That is you who want to spread it on your channels and your lines. That is the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

There is one small team on the ice in Greenland today. They get the facts and photos. We are today 184 persons who likes the Facebook page. We get it too.  There was 15 “likes” when we started our Instagram profile for 1 hour ago.

We need it to be global. We need attention: likes, shares, re-twittering, with you and your friends shouting it out.

We need help to spread the photos, the text, and the voices from the artic ice. That is the artic ice that can melt and hit your doorstep. That is the culture and history we want to help.

Have a super weekend with a like and a share.


Bjorn Heidenstrom

Digital Crew, Norway

On the Top

1000 meters above the sea. It is minus 19 degrees celsius and windy. The conditions on the way up were difficult for both dogs and expedition members – glacial, blue ice and rocks. Hans Reidar Bjelke