This is an interview by editorial coordinator Elaina O’ Brien, with local Greenlander Casper Eliassen. Elaina met Casper in Nuuk where she had the pleasure of getting to know him through karate classes, hiking and researching the local fjord for climate and pollution studies.
Can you tell me a little about the traditional hunting in Greenland?
Back in the days, when a boy was to become a man, he had to go out and hunt alone. If the boy survives the hunt, and have an animal with him to his village, the boy will get the ritual that he has become a man.
Today’s hunters are very alike from back in the day. Back in the day, a group used to hunt – depending on the size of the animal they were hunting – as small or big groups. For example, if they were hunting reindeer, a single man could hunt 1 or 3 maybe even more reindeers, but if the hunter isn’t that skilled, he most likely won’t get any catch, or he’ll get a small animal, unless he is hunting with another (that indicates that the hunter is most likely a bad hunter).
Today’s hunters are obligated to hunt with someone, so they won’t hunt alone. So, if someone were to hunt, they at least need to be 2 or 3 people hunting together, just in case someone were to get a bad injury.
Just like back in the day, people hunt in groups, depending on what they are hunting. If they are hunting whales, there would be many boats helping each other catching the whale or whales (bad in the days, there would be many men with their own qajaqs helping each other).
How often do you hunt, and how important is it to you to preserve this cultural activity?
Many people hunt as much as they can through the season, and some people hunts 2 or 3 times throughout the season. We don’t only hunt for reindeer, but also musk oxen. A friend of mine only hunts musk oxen once throughout the season, because of the weight of the musk oxen.
It’s very important to me to preserve the cultural activity, since it is and has always been a big part of Greenlandic culture. Without hunting skills, the people of Greenland would not have been able to survive in Greenland.
Do you and your family rely on hunted meat throughout the year?
My family and I don’t rely on hunted meat as much as some others do. We mostly buy food from the market (imported food) since we don’t hunt because we don’t have a boat.
We sometimes get mattak (whale lard) from some of our families or buy it from the market when we can get it.
Do you believe it’s important to eat locally sourced and ethically produced food?
It’s hard to believe that it is important to eat locally sourced produced food when you live in Greenland, since we only started to produce our own locally produced food for not long ago. For example, Greenlandic salt (Sassuma sea salt) and Greenlandic salad were published a year ago if not a little more.
There are some locally produced potatoes, strawberries, etc. but the locally produced foods are mostly seen and sold in the south, since it won’t pay off to send them to the other cities, because they can’t produce enough to send to other places.
Do you have any sort of honourable ritual that you do after killing an animal?
Old Greenlanders used to do a certain ritual after killing an animal, since it was thought that it would let the animal’s soul pass on to a new animal. All animals have different kind of rituals after being killed (except fishes and maybe birds).
one of the reindeers we caught out of five
What is your favourite local dish?
Personally, I don’t have any favourite local food, I’m really open when it comes to food, as long as there’s meat in it, I’m always interested in trying something new. I like most of the restaurants here in Nuuk, and when I see something new at the menu, I might try it instead of what I originally planned to eat.
What is the most common religion here?
The most common religion in Greenland is Christianity, but there are also many Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many Greenlandic people are Christian on paper, but they don’t really believe in God as some other lands or cities. There are some Jehovah’s Witnesses who sometimes calls others to try and convince them to believe in their beliefs. Some even knocks at other people houses to talk to them about what they believe in, and to try to make them believe in it as well.
You grew up in the South and have family in the north. How different is it from south to north?
The weather difference might be the biggest differences between south and north, since you can grow potatoes and strawberries [in the south], whereas you can’t do anything like that in north. It’s much colder in winter in the north, and it’s much warmer in south at summer times. There’s also a difference between the humidity.
Do you think younger people still enjoy hunting for food, and will they continue to hunt in the future?
It really depends on the parents, and the families. If the families or friends encourage the younger people, they [young people] do get intrigued. Many young people get a rifle for their birthday or confirmation that they can use for hunt. Depending on how big the rifle is, they get to try to hunt different kinds of animal.
Do you want to stay in Greenland and raise a family here, or do you have plans to leave?
For me, Greenland will always be a place I can call home and will always be the place I feel home the most. Not because of my family, but because of nature here in Greenland.
I don’t believe Greenland will be a place I would start a family, but I can see myself coming back to Greenland after I’ve started a family. No matter where I live, Greenland will always be my home.
Has there been much societal change in Greenland, from the time you were a child to these days?
When I came to Nuuk in 2006, the city wasn’t close to as big as it is now. When I first came here, Qinngorput didn’t even have a road to Nuussuaq. You had to drive towards the airport, then the city, to come to Nuussuaq or Nuuk to go to the shops, if you lived in Qinngorput. Now, Qinngorput has to relatively large shops, and is almost a city for itself in the whole town Nuuk.
Social activities have definitely changed a lot, since there are many different kinds of sports or clubs you can join now, whereas when I came here, there weren’t so many clubs or sports clubs you could join.
Personally, I can’t really say anything about the attitudes, since I wasn’t old enough at the time to really understand what or how it was when I just moved here.
Religion has definitely changed throughout the time. When I was younger, there were more people who actually believed in Christianity, compared to nowadays. Like I said before, people don’t really believe in God or so, but still are Christian on paper.
Casper gutting the reindeer after removing the fur.
Casper is a Greenlandic teenager who finished high school this summer (2020). He is interested in traveling, meeting new people, and trying new things. In his free time, he loves to train Karate, playing computer games with his friends, or going for long walks.
Instagram : casper_e3