Inuit lifestyle ‘to be wiped out’

An academic who spent a year living with an Inuit tribe in Greenland says their traditional way of life could be completely eroded in just 25 years.

Stephen Leonard, an anthropological linguist at Cambridge University in the UK, said he witnessed first-hand the declining culture of the Inugguit tribe, one of the Polar North’s last hunter-gatherer communities.

Dr Leonard studied and recorded the songs, folklore, stories and myths of the 770-strong clan, who speak a unique language made up of sighs and groans. Having lived in Greenland’s remote Thule region for centuries, the Inugguit have now started to become influenced by both consumerism and global warming, according to Leonard.

“The Inugguit way of life centres upon the sea ice, which is rapidly disappearing. Traditionally they would be able to hunt on the ice from September to July but, when I was there, the ice did not appear until December,” he told AFP.

The community has so far managed by hunting narwhals and seals with harpoons, but the doctor believes many will leave the settlement in search of a more modern existence in southwest Greenland.

“The movements of the sea mammals, which they traditionally rely upon for their livelihoods, have become less predictable. Some are replacing hunting with fishing, but this has never been part of their culture,” Leonard said.

“Some of the younger people are extremely angry that their way of life is being threatened by a problem they did not cause. The elders accept it as part of a natural cycle and do not accept it is a consequence of man-made global warming. It is my view that within 25 years this way of life could cease to exist completely,” he concluded.