“Give me winter and dogs – then you can keep the rest.”
Knud Rasmussen in his diary from The Literary Expedition.
Knud Rasmussen is one of Greenland's greatest polar heroes. He was born right here in Ilulissat to a Danish father and an Inuit-Danish mother. He spent his childhood growing up with Kalaallit, or Greenlandic Inuit, friends and learned to speak Kalaallisut, hunt, drive dog sleds and live in harsh Arctic conditions. It is reported that by the age of 7, Knud Rasmussen had his own team of dogs. He used teams of sled dogs on all polar expeditions in Greenland. He led The Thule Expeditions which were a series of polar exploration and research expeditions, that went on in the early 20th century. Some focused on geographical issues, while others were dedicated to the ethnographic and archaeological study of Greenlandic Inuit culture. A very important part of the culture are the sled dogs which can be seen all over Ilulissat.
Do You Hear That?
As most of you know, I like to run in the mornings. It is pretty common to hear the sound of dogs waking up and howling. At first it startled me and stopped me dead in my tracks as things like that do when navigating places I am not familiar with. Although the dogs are close to the trail and some of them will run along side of me, it is not advised to reach out to pet them or engage them. Owners prefer people to leave them alone as it is important for training purposes that they do not have too much contact with numerous people. They are working dogs, providing the muscle for transportation and racing which is huge here.
The Greenlandic Sled Dog was brought to Greenland over 5,000 years ago. They enabled Greenlandic Inuit peoples to explore and survive the harsh conditions of the polar environment. Traditionally, dog sledding was used for hunting and to transport fish from the day's catch. Even today dog sledding is one of the modes of transportation during the winter taking people from town to town across frozen land and ice. The need for sled dogs has markedly decreased however over the years due to warming temperatures and disappearing ice. There are less sled dogs and use of sledging (another term for sledding) to reach hunting grounds and transportation routes.
Greenlandic sled dogs can only be found North of the Arctic Circle and on the East Coast. It is prohibited to bring another breed of dog into these areas and if a Greenlandic sled dog leaves this restricted zone, it is not allowed to return. This is to protect the purity of Greenland's dogs in terms of breeding.
How has transportation changed over time on the ancestral and contemporary land of the Abenaki and Wabanaki people here in Maine and what environmental factors were responsible for it?