People of Greenland

  Inuk movie of modern Greenland
  A new movie "Inuk" (2009) filmed in Uummannaq, Greenland is titled to be the first film ever about modern Greenland.

The amazingly powerful movie is about a 16-year old Kalaallit from Nuuk, who is sent to an orphanage in Uummannaq. There he meets the hunter Ikuma, who takes him on a long trip.

  Watch the trailer for Inuk >>

Note: the trailer contains adult language.


The name Inuit means “the people”. A single person is called an Inuk, which means “person.”

Inuit are the descendants of a nomadic people who emerged out of the far-east on the Asian continent, migrating from Chukotka in Russia across the Beringia land bridge (now the Bering Strait ) and onto North America some 11,000 years ago. From Alaska they spread east-ward into Canada and last the walked across from Ellesmere Island in what is now Nunavut to Greenland about 4000 years ago.

Today there are around 160,000 Inuit people living in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Russia.

The Thule Culture

In the 1920s archaeologists examined old kitchen middens and house ruins by Uummannaq Mountain in the Thule area. They found a culture which they called: The Thule culture.

It has its origins far to the west by the northern coasts of the Bering Strait.

Between 800 and 1000 A.D. Inuit developed an efficient hunting culture at sea with active whaling. The large catches created a surplus population, which sought new hunting grounds further east.

The journey to the east was possible with the efficient combination of umiaq, dog sled and kayak. At the same time a warming climate had reduced the sea ice in northern Canada. When the Inuit came to the Thule area around 1200 they met the ancient inhabitants of the area, the Dorset people, and the Norsemen, who came from their settlements in South Greenland.

As the Inuit spread through Eastern Arctic, the 2.000 year-old Dorset culture disappeared almost without a trace. The Inuit called these people Tunit.

The Thule people are the forefathers and -mothers of the present Inuit, from Alaska to East Greenland.

  Inuk the first Inuit in Greenland

Artist Nuka Godfredsen's impression of Inuk
Meet “Inuk”
– a man from 4000 years ago!

Using four tufts of hair dug out of the permafrost at Qeqertasussuk, on the west coast of Greenland, scientists in Copenhagen, Denmark are able to reconstruct one of the first people to Greenland.
    Watch Meet Inuk on CNN >>

Read “Ancient Man in Greenland Has Genome Decoded” from New York Times >>

The Native people of Greenland are an Inuit people.

Today, the name Kalaallit is most often used to describe the Native people of Greenland. One person is called a kalaaleq.

Historically, Kalaallit referred specifically to the people of Western Greenland. Avanersuarmiut is the traditional name for Northern Greenlanders and Tunumiit  is the traditional name for Eastern Greenlanders.

Kalaallit are descended from Dorset and Thule people, who settled Greenland in ancient times.

Shari Gearheard and hunters in Greenland

Eloka at http://www.eloka.orgKalaallit hunters in Greenland sharing their tremendous knowledge about sea ice with our own GoNorth! Cool Scientist Shari Gearheard. Learn more at (image courtesy of Eloka)
Every human culture is shaped by the natural environment that nurtures it, and in Greenland, unique natural resources shape Kalaallit culture.

For a people who survive by knowing how to hunt wild game in an environment dominated by ice and harsh weather, it’s not so surprising that the weather—the seasons and the ubiquitous ice—plays an important role in defining the culture.

The country’s ice sheet, covering more than 80 percent of the island, is a strong symbol of identity, as is the annual progression of sea ice that locks the waters that surround the land.
Sea ice in particular seems to play important roles in Kalaallit culture and is a vital element in the Greenlandic sense of place.

For one thing, it serves as a highway connecting communities. No two towns in Greenland are connected by a road, so transportation takes place on the ice or by air.

Sea ice is also the primary winter hunting ground for the Kalaallit.

During the brief summer months with no ice, Native hunters use boats for hunting, but for the rest of the year, the ice becomes a pathway to game—and to each other.

LANGUAGE ~ Kalaallisut

Greenlandic, Kalaallisut as is it native name, is the official language of Greenland.

Until June of 2009 when Greenland went from Home to Self Rule in June of 2009, Greenland had two official languages: both Danish and Greenlandic. In reality there are different dialects of Greenlandic spoken in Greenland. The three main dialects in Greenland are North, East and West Greenlandic.

The West Greenlandic dialect is what is the official language, used for teaching and administration, and also forms the basis of written Greenlandic. This is Kalaallisut, which means “the Greenlanders language.”

East Greenlandic is called Tunumiisut; North Greenlandic, also known as the Thule dialect, is called Inuktun.

The language is written in the Latin script using the Latin alphabet. The written language was developed by Samuel Kleinschmidt in the 1850s and then revised in 1973.

An Eskimo-Aleut language, Kalaallisut is closely related to the Inuit languages in Canada, such as Inuktitut.

Greenlandic is a polysynthetic language that allows the creation of long words by stringing together roots and suffixes. Some words can be entire sentences, such as amaasiaarput (“They walk in a row”) and taamaaqatigiipput (“They are considered as equals.”) The language has 10 cases, eight moods and four-person forms!

To protect the language Greenland have set up Oqaasileriffik, the Greenland Language Secretariat . The Oqaasileriffik oversees how Greenlandic adopts new words, like qarasaasiaq for “computer” (literally “artificial brain”), and how it hopes to survive.For the Secretariat and Greenlanders, maintaining their language is not just an issue of communication, but security and sovereignty.

Watch Carl Olsen, the chairman of the Oqaasileriffik, talk about the importance of the Greenlandic language - below:

Visit the website for Oqaasileriffik here >>

Read the Greenlandic news paper Sermitsiaq >>


Living very closely with nature the traditional belief is that every single stone, flower, animal and organism is alive and has a soul and that the human soul migrates from animal to animal. This is told in traditional myths and legends. Historically, people in Greenland lived close together and often isolated for long periods of time from other groups of people – the harsh weather and winter darkness outside the turf huts and igloos in the past provided plenty of opportunity to tell tales.

For countless generations the narrative tradition – story telling – was the only way of communicating the traditions, way of living, morals and prohibition. Myths and legends played an important role in teaching and sharing norms and how to behaveFor hundreds of years – perhaps even thousands – stories such as Navaranaaq, Kaassassuk and other well-known legends were passed on by word of mouth amongst the Inuit people in Alaska, across Canada and to Greenland, until eventually they were written down by people such as Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen.

Knud Rasmussen, who was born and grew up in Greenland, collected the Greenlandic myths and legends throughout the many years in which he travelled and lived in Greenland, as a result of which a large part of the country’s cultural history became available to readers in the rest of the world. Today a wide circle of people interested in myths reads the book ‘Greenlandic Myths and Legends’, and both public and private companies in Greenland still look to the old tales for inspiration with regard to names, logos and art.

"Journals of ... Rasmussen"

A movie in the incredible trilogy from Inuit production company.
  Read "FOLKTALES" by Knud Rasmussen ~

“A masterpiece... The first national cinema of the 21st century.” – A.O. Scott, NY Times review of Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, 2002.

Watch this movie about Knud Rasmussens journey and incredible experiences as he travels 20,000 km by dogsled to trace his culture.

Knud Rasmussen

Greenlandic Arctic explorer
Knud Rasmussen

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