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Kangamiut, Greenland - September 9, 2005

Kangamiut Village

From the ship we can see the brightly coloured houses of Kangamiut tumbling down to the sea in the shelter of the hillside. A short zodiac ride took us to the docks, where we were welcomed into the church for a talk by a local elder about life in this isolated village. Simultaneous translations from Inuktitut to Danish by Samuel and to English by Christine brought the stories to life.

Among other stories, Kaj told us of the harrowing experience of being caught in a storm while travelling by Umiak from the Kangerlussuaq fjord back to Kangamiut after a season of fishing. He was bringing hs 9 year old daughter with him. The fear of losing her to the storm is the most vivid memory of his long life.

Jane Coryell’s Sketch of a Kangamiut Dwelling

Traditional Greenland Costume Today's Costume

This beautiful girl proudly models the traditional Greenland costume made by her mother entirely by hand.

Outside, the girls are wearing jeans and clothes that would fit in anywhere in the world.

Kangamiut recently celebrated its 250th Jubilee. Local craftsment recreated a kayak in the traditional manner, which is on display outside the church. The kayak was invented by natives from this part of the world.

This traditional float was made from the skin of a seal and is used as a marker at the end of a long line to follow the path of a harpooned whale. In order to create an airtight float, it is necessary to skin the seal entirely from its mouth, sewing up the remaining openings. This is a craft almost lost to ancient history.

The rope attached to the harpoon would have been made from a single bearded seal. Peeling the skin like an apple into a single continuous strand up to 28 meters long.

Kangamiut was the home of Kepigsuak who features in the legend of Utereetsok’s Journey to the Far North. One of the collected tales of Henry Rink, the Danish Royal Inspector, or Governor of southern Greenland in the 19th century.

The houses are linked by wooden walkways and staircases, but the shortest distance between two points is often across the rocks, at least for the young and the young at heart.

Most of the houses were “decorated” with drying meat and fish. Hunting and fishing is still an important source of food for the residents of rural Greenland.

A century ago, Kangamiut was a major trading center for the whaling ships and fishing fleets that sailed this coast. Now there is little business here. Most of the inhabitants receive welfare from the Danish government. There is one general store where all supplies and groceries must be purchased.

60% of the Greenland economy is in the form of transfer payments from Denmark. As a result of the collapse of the fishing industry and the declining acceptability of traditional sealing and whaling, there is a very high unemployment rate, leading to social problems such as alcoholism and depression.

Continue to Day 3 - Nuuk

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© Copyright 2005 Peter Jennings. All rights reserved.