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Produced and edited by Else Olsvig Length: 39:35 Original language: Greenlandic Consultance: Sabine Hviid This piece was produced as part of the radiofeature/documentary project RANA. RANA is funded through EU´s Lifelong learning program. More information about the RANA project can be found on http://www.this.is/rana
Music Seagull colony, waves, boat-engine, dinghy sailing, wind Hans: Ah, I began doing this in the year of 2000, but I was trained to be a hunter and fisherman since childhood. They took me along from a very early age. I was still a baby drinking from a nursing bottle. So already back then, I was brought up to become a fisherman and a hunter by my grandfathers, my uncles and my father. Niaqornaarsuk Kuunnguaq (streamwater) Choir: “Nunaga aa pinnersutit” (My hometown oh so beautiful.) Julius junior: Already since childhood, I could see that I was not going to become a hunter or a fisherman. I had completely different interests; singing, drawing and I was very fond of books. Already then I realised that I had to move on and get an education instead. Niaqornaarsuk Kuunnguaq (streamwater) Choir: Nunaga aa pinnersutit (My hometown oh so beautiful.) Lyrics: ” My hometown oh so beautiful You beautiful fjord Where the winter ice never reaches Your head so white” Else Olsvig:
It is the summer of 2009. We have just arrived to the settlement of Niaqornaarsuk, after sailing for about 100 miles long way in a small open boat along the west coast of Greenland. Within our luggage is the question that reaches one ear from time to time like an echo, perhaps more often recently. How affordable is it nationally and financially to sustain life in so many small settlements? The summer sun was baking from it’s highest point when we approached the shoreline of those who can answer those questions about life. The two people we have come to meet are descendants of fishermen and hunters; 29 year-old Hans Jeremiassen and his 27 year-old younger brother, Julius Jeremiassen. The two brothers’ lives and paths are just as rich in contrast as their own country, Greenland. But their roots are the same. Kuunnguaq (streamwater) Choir: Nunaga aa pinnersutit (My hometown oh so beautiful) Lyrics: “Eqqaanatit saperpara, eqqaanatit saperpara” ”Can not make it, if I do not think of you. Can not make it, if I do not think of you.” Sea gulls and wind Hans: It looks like the head of a bird, if you look at it from its southern side or side. Julius junior: There are quite a lot of houses in Niaqornaarsuk, and a little over 300 inhabitants. Hans: Our house is situated on the southern side of the highest point on the “head” itself, on the peninsula. Julius junior: Niaqornaarsuk is one of the bigger settlements, so to say, very peaceful, quiet and a safe place to live in.
Hans: If you think about animals, there are fish all year around, many different species of fish are caught in the area, as well as other animals that come and go depending on the season. We just wait for them, I would say. Music Hans: If you think about fauna, there’s a lot of fish in the waters all the year around. Many different species and other animals too, depending on the season. And…but…we are just waiting, despite the many tons of fish, we are depended on the trade regulations and limitations. And if only the fish price was a bit better. And as I have already mentioned previously, if only the prices had been a bit better. The kilo price today is so low, that you sometimes lose motivation. Music, seagulls, engine-stop, dinghy sailing with guests and engine sound Julius senior: It is probably slippery. It is probably very slippery, because the tide is low. The place where we are supposed to berth is probably not so good, it is very slippery. Else: Watch out. Tungutaq: It is ok here. Else: Watch out. Julius senior: Go this way. Tungutaq: It is ok. Julius junior: I grew up in a family of fishermen. When I was a child, my father was a prawn-fisherman, so we did not see him that much. But when he was finally home we were very happy. Julius senior: Look out and don’t push … you’ll fall in …
Julius junior: It has become more difficult to be a fisherman in the last decade; you have to both fish and hunt in order to make ends meet. My grandfather is a fisherman and a hunter, and so are most of my uncles. So far, I am the only person in the family taking an education. Boat engine, waves Hans: We lived in our grandfather’s house the first years of our lives, before my father and mother built their own house. My first memories are from that house. I was maybe 7 years old when my parents got their own house. We moved from dear granddad after that. I still call him dear granddad – “aatakassa”. I was with him a lot when I was small, not least of all because I was so fond of going hunting. If they said no, I’d begin crying and pestering until they took me with them (smiles) to be rid of the pestering. I would say. My grandfather Julius has taken me on his hunts since I was very small. That is how it was. I have talked about it before; it did occur that he came home with me fast asleep with a frozen nursing bottle. Hans, Julius junior and Julius senior small-talking with family and guests Julius junior: It is always so difficult, not working in the summer. Hans: When we have taken the nets up, I sail south. Julius junior: Where? To do what? Hans: I have to get the dinghy fixed. It depends on what time I leave from here, if it’s not too dark, we will not take a break on the way. Julius junior: What if you took a break in Maniitsoq? Julius senior: It must be dark in the evening there.
Hans: Yes, when I get there, they will take the dinghy up and count on spending one day repairing it, the whole day. And then take it out on the third day. Julius senior: You will make it. Hans: I am counting on it. I will take it easy on the trip north. I will wait in Maniitsoq for the opening of the musk-oxen hunt and then sail to Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strønfjord) afterwards. Julius junior: If you were me, you would go seal hunting on the way up north. (laughs) Hans: (laughs along) Sounds from the family kiosk. Julius senior: They are different from each other, of course; these two have been children in my home. They spent their childhood in this house. Hans, who is the eldest, also among my other grandchildren, has been spoiled, because he was the first grandchild; perhaps he was spoilt too much but he is very fond of hunting. No doubt about it. He … It has been in his blood since birth. I have taken him with me hunting, as soon as he was slightly independent. I have taught him all sorts of things about hunting. The other one – Julius – has a goal he fights for on his own. Education has been important to him since the beginning. One could already see at an early stage that he could not be a fisherman or a hunter. When the hunted animals were brought in, he behaved as if he did not like them at times. So, one could already see from the beginning that he had to take an education. I am very grateful for that. Him… Julius. He is named after me. Julius (smiles) Dinghy sailing, engine explodes Julius senior: Why…? Tungutaq through VHF radio: We will say when, when you come …
Nikolaj (Hans and Julius’s father): It got stuck… (tries to restart the engine) Julius senior: It is broken… Nikolaj: It has probably broken… It is probably broken, all the oil is seeping out… it is smoking here, it has probably exploded somewhere, there is a lot of smoke. Miki through VHF radio: Is the engine bad? Julius senior: There is definitely a lot of oil seeping... Nikolaj: Yes, it is probably broken. Miki through VHF radio: It sounded like it. Julius senior: This is too much… It is the first time I... Miki through VHF radio: Tell us if you manage… Nikolaj: I don’t think so, in which case we have to get a new engine – no dinghy. Julius senior: This is too much… Check this… It must have been faulty beforehand. (Nikolaj tries to restart engine) Hans: I have started on a few studies through the years, but never completed them, because of my upbringing – life on the sea always came in the way. I have found it difficult to leave it and it has determined the course of my life today. The place I love to go for reindeer hunting is Nagssuttooq (the fjord with the many antlers). And then there is Isortoq (the dizzy fjord). I rarely enter our own fjord Arfersiorfik (Whalefjord), because the landscape is more exciting in Nagsuttooq; one can explore at the same time. It is always more exciting going to more unknown hunting grounds. Especially if you want a better experience.
Home atmosphere at Jeremiassen´s with classical music in background Julius junior: I guess I got a bit envious sometimes. But I have always been closer to books since childhood. My older brother and younger brother went reindeer hunting, which I have never tried myself. But I went trout fishing with granddad. Once. It was an unforgettable experience. But I could not stand the mosquitoes. That was the first and last time I went trout fishing. I think it was the mosquitoes that scared me off. But it was lovely sailing around. Especially in Arfersiorfik (Whalefjord) with the beautiful surroundings and nature. I still miss it to this day. I took an education because I wanted to move on, I wanted an occupation I can count on in the future, I am on my way to becoming selfemployed. I have lived in cities for many years now, but my identity has always been that of coming from a settlement. Of course, I felt like going home sometimes, but my strength lay in always getting support from my parents. “You have to take an education”. Of course you will feel like going home, no matter where you are. No matter how much you adjust to your surroundings. You will get new friends but you will always long for the place where you grew up in peace and felt safe. Luciano Pavarotti singing opera in the radio in the background Little-sister Lana: Oh, it is such a long time ago since I heard that… A sudden rifle shot puts an end to Pavarotti’s singing. Sea gull colony, waves… Hans: I do not really remember my first seal because I was probably too small. They said I was with my father and uncle when I shot it. But I don’t remember that one. But there are some that I remember, when I was hunting with granddad. The first time I shot a seal on my own. I might call that my first seal. It was before I turned ten. If I should tell it as I remember it; we left early that morning. The weather was really good, it was spring. He wanted to go hunting towards the west, and I went with him. Really good weather. He did not look very well, granddad. He probably had a virus but didn’t want to stay home, the weather was so good. We came to Tunorsuaq during the day, the ice was
already rotting at the edge. We sailed into the thickest part, and when we got there granddad seated himself on the edge of the boat to relieve himself. He had a really bad stomach ache. I took the binoculars and scouted the water. Seals popped up and dived under, and we could not sail out to them until granddad felt better. Then I looked up just in front of the boat, and suddenly there, maybe 1 meter in front of me, a seal showed up. It stood up rank, almost staring straight at me. Granddad sat in such a way that he could not see it. The seal did not make a move, even when I picked up the rifle. Granddad smelled a rat and whispered that now was the time for me to shoot my first seal. Rifle shot Hans: The seal was so close by, and I was just so eager, that I missed. When granddad saw that I missed, he jumped up and began telling me off. How could I miss? And so on… While he was in the midst of his scolding, the seal showed up again, just slightly further away. It had moved maybe 2 meters from us. Rifle shot Hans: But…I missed again! Then, granddad really began to tell me off. In the meantime the seal came up again, just next to the place it had showed up the second time. Then I pulled the trigger… Rifle shot Hans: We had tethered the boat in the very rotten ice. I don’t think that granddad had wiped himself before he jumped over the edge. He would absolutely not let my first catch sink; it was my very first self-shot catch. I don’t even think he pulled up his trousers properly first. He grabbed the chin and jumped out of the boat and into the rotten ice, ran and grabbed the seal and ran back with it without falling. (Smiles). That was my first seal. And then we sailed home quickly, just passing all the other seals, which were only then beginning to show up. We sailed directly home. I had just shot my first seal by myself and that meant something. We sailed to the shore just north of my other grandparents’, on my mum’s side, house. The first people who came to see my catch were my grandmother and grandfather, on my mum’s side. And then the
neighbours came to celebrate my first catch. Some began to sing songs of praise for me; others shouted out, everybody was happy, I remember that, exactly that day. Waves, sea gulls and Nikolaj playing an old sailor melody on his organ Nikolaj: One would have guessed that becoming a fisherman and hunter already ran in his blood, inheriting the family occupation. That was not my goal. On the other hand, it could be good for the family if they had chosen to pass on the traditional family occupation. But in light of the current fishing and hunting situation, the occupation is very limited by quotas and restrictions. I used to say; if you are not secured properly, then it’s a very difficult choice to live by fishing and hunting. Our small fish-factory has been closed for a long time now and there are very strict restrictions on the different species. Not least of all, the climate change plays a role in creating further limitations for the occupation. It has therefore been important to me; if he wishes to live off fishing and hunting that he has an education to fall back on. But in the end, it is the individual’s own choice which counts, and I feel that I must respect that. I have personally experienced that it is difficult to leave the hunting and fishing occupations. I can take myself as a good example; when I was a child I was sent to school in another town, I was 11, but I missed our dogs and sledge so much that only three months passed before I returned home. Therefore our sons don’t have a dog today, because I believe that education is more important than missing one’s dogs and sledge. Radio playing Claude Debussy piano sonnet at Jeremiassen’s Julius Junior: I cannot really recall which day of the week it was, but it was in the beginning of August. It was just after my big brother’s birthday, 1st of August… we awoke early, ate breakfast together, because we wanted to have a peaceful day… As soon as I woke up I wished the ship would be delayed, be delayed, so that we left late. Just so that we could stay home a little longer. We went down to the quay around noon. “Aviaq Ittuk” was the medium-sized passenger ship we were to sail with. When we came to the quay, thankfully we were informed that the ship was booked; therefore we could not sail with it.
There was nothing to do about it, it was full of passengers. I then thought that we probably wouldn’t sail before the following week. What a relief! But then dad said: “I have to sail you to Kangaatsiaq with the boat, some passengers will get off there, and then there’ll be space for you”. I got so depressed. I could feel a lump in my throat. But I had to man up; I couldn’t show mum how unhappy I was because I could see that she was unhappy, too. We then left for Kangaatsiaq in our own boat. We waited for “Aviaq”, it arrived and we boarded. Then when our dad took off and left us behind, I could not help it. I had to fall into the arms of my big brother and cry as I’d been whipped. When we arrived in Aasiaat, I took hold of my big green suitcase and went by foot to the school community home number 1, which was not that far away anyway. We then entered the house; it smelled like a ship, I felt a heavy bout of homesickness. I had to live there the next 1 to 2 years. We walked to the school the first day of school. I was to go to the extended class. They all welcomed us, of course, they were teenagers like us and we presented ourselves, one by one. It sure was a big step. As children we had a Greenlander as Danish teacher, but the rest of the school time at home we had a Dane as Danish teacher. Ah… So of course the others were better at English and Danish than us, but I struggled and got good results in the end. Sound of elementary school students in Niaqornaarsuk Julius junior: Then I got accepted into the high school. I have always looked very much up to the high school students... Man… such intelligent people. So I could hardly believe it myself, when I got accepted in high school. That I would be going to high school, me from a small settlement. But when the school year began, I found out that I was just as capable as the other students. Else: Have you ever felt different from the others? Julius junior: Of course it was noticeable that I was different, especially through our dialect, my special Niaqornaarsuk dialect; maybe people notice sounds most. People look slightly down on our Niaqornaarsuk dialect, the kind of slow and singing way of speaking. I felt very different from the others when we started 10th grade. Sometimes we were bullied for being settlers, “They are settlers; that is probably why they
behave that way!” I used to notice that in the beginning. And of course just when we came to town, we noticed our clothes. Fashionable clothes come to the settlements only when they are out of fashion in the cities. That we were different was also noticeable through our clothes. But, then you just adjust to your surroundings. Having to adjust to your surroundings makes you feel that you are different. But this is a passing feeling if you can adjust, in my opinion. Nature, which I always think about, gives me strength when I left for school. When I felt homesick I went for a walk in the nature, it helped. Then when I was 13, I joined the choir in Niaqornaarsuk. Singing is a very important part of life in Niaqornaarsuk. So I continued singing in the choir, during my school and education time in Aasiaat, Sisimiut and later on in Nuuk. Singing gives me strength wherever I am. Being a settler gives you lots of good things to draw strength from. There is this strong feeling of solidarity home in the settlement. You can always call home and talk with the others, the ones you know, it gives tremendous strength. Sound of Kuunnguaq choir rehearsing in Niaqornaarsuk church. Lyrics: Aaaaah… Naasutummi ittoq paariuk inuunerit... Aaaah… Your life is like a flower, take good care of it... Sound of dinghy sailing at high seas. Smalltalk of the sailors: Niisi: We should probably turn back home soon... haha… Else: I have… Thorvald: Try and sail over to Amaassa and the others… Hans: Was it last year or the year before that we caught a polar bear when we were sailing in our fishing boat along the west coast. We were me, my little brother (Niise) and our cousin. It was in January, just after the ice had gotten thick on the west coast. We were sailing around on the new ice, and I was
steering, while the others were standing on top of the wheelhouse with binoculars looking for Beluga whales. Because I was very sure that there would be Beluga whales in the area, I had my rifle ready loaded with cartridges. Then suddenly the others began to make noise from on top of the wheelhouse. My little brother suddenly jumped down and ran to the front of the boat and back to the wheelhouse. I opened the door, thinking that he had seen a Beluga whale. I took my rifle with me, but when he appeared he said nothing but” Polar bear! It’s right over here.” The polar bear was further away, but we approached it slowly, with my little brother at the steering wheel, as me and our cousin had the heaviest rifles. We could not get closer to it because it was standing in the thickest part of the ice, probably waiting by a seal breathing hole. We had to stop at the ice edge. And when we lay in very slowly it must have heard us, because it suddenly stood straight up. When it stood up I said to our cousin: “It’s going to stand up on both feet, when it does that we shoot.” It was so far away that it would have been hard to hit it even with a calibre 30-06. I did not even finish the sentence when it turned around and galloped off. Rifle shot Hans: We did not even say anything but pulled the trigger at same time. Rifle shot Hans: I quickly loaded a new cartridge in the rifle and shot again, and saw that it fell and rolled over. We screamed with joy because we thought it was dead. But it continued to roll around and got up on its paws and fled. Bleeding. We sailed and sailed slowly towards it and finally we reached it. It had come a way but only trotting. When it turned to the side I shot again. I thought it died this time. We didn’t reach it before it had jumped in the water and was on its way to the real winter ice. I took the harpoon and drove it in before I fired the killing shot. We have just shot our first polar bear! It had just fallen dark and we were quite far out when we hauled it up. And the funny and happy thing about it was that several of us in the family have ended up shooting polar bears. The polar bear is quite rare prey in the area of Niaqornaarsuk. The skins, two of them are still in the freezer, they are to be sent to the tannery in Qaqortoq, and our two
first polar bear skulls are lying in the cellar. They will lie there until they become nicely white. Afterwards they will be used as decorations, as trophies. Sound from dinghy whale-hunt trip One of the hunters: It is somewhere around here, ready to be harpooned, but we cannot find it. What if it sank … Another hunter: The whale… hahaha… It can come up right in front of us, if it wants. Julius senior: I have always believed that it is important to feel sure, when one starts on a new occupation. I have believed when I started to take him hunting with me, that when he became a hunter or fisherman, and if he should secure his future, he should be able to judge for himself whether he can live off it. That was the aim of taking him with me. This meant that I maybe had great influence on Hans within the hunting and fishing occupations, as I often took him with me. But I know that he still has the opportunity to change his life. He could apply for an education, if he wants. I am very open to that today. That he aims at getting a more secure occupation in the future. Sounds from the whale -hunt. Sound of VHF radio: Hunter 1: Where are you? Hunter 2: Just north of Agto Uummannaq. Hunter 1: Have you seen anything? Hunter 2: No, we have not seen anything yet. Where are you? Hunter 3: Just in front of Agto… in front of Agto. Hunter 1: In front of Agto.
Hunter 2: Yes we got it… Hunters amongst themselves: What should we do now? Follow them? We should, shouldn’t we? Maybe there are some porpoises. Hunter 2: I don’t understand you because you are talking so low… Hunters amongst themselves: What? Hehe… Hunter 1: It looks as if we are heading to Agto first…Come; do come with us to Agto Hunter 2: We will see, whether we shouldn’t look around here first, we’ll see what the others do, we should call them. Hunter 1: Ok … We will follow you. Sound of sea gulls and the sailing hunters in the background Hans: This one is quite difficult to answer; the wish to take an education sometimes comes but goes just as quickly again; it probably depends a lot on how the situation is and how one is in the situation. The weather is unpredictable and stormy at times, and when the weather is bad for a long time, one starts thinking other thoughts. But when the weather gets good again, these thoughts lose their presence and one continues from where one left off. Sound of the whale-hunters Niisi: If we turn back now, we might as well go for a hunt in the south point of Niaqornaarsuk… Or sail after seals. (Starts the engine and sails off) Hans: I will say, as I am brought up that way, it has a meaning mentally. But I try to explain it like this; when you are alone out there, on a trip of your own free will, you can go anywhere you want. When you have the freedom not to think so much about time and have the ultimate freedom to do what you feel
like. It then just depends on what you want and whether this occupation pays off. Whether it can pay for itself. Music Else: What do Hans and Julius think about their future? Julius says first: Music Julius junior: I am of course happy that I completed my education and returned home. I greatly respect that Hans chose his own occupation, which has been inherited through generations within the family. Fishing and hunting. Sound of dinghy sailing Hans: It is true that Uka (Julius junior) has just become a teacher and has returned home. And I am very happy about that. And I am grateful that Uka was not brought up to be a fisher and hunter. Even though it is fine to be brought up in the fishing and hunting lifestyle already from childhood – and it has its advantages – but it is the present situation and different other things that makes one question the occupation. Physically, it is a very demanding occupation that requires a lot of energy. And think about the falling and very low prices for fish. Kuunnguaq Choir: Nunaga aa pinnersutit... My hometown oh so beautiful... Julius junior: Since I started on my education, I have dreamed of returning home to help promote the occupation-development in our hometown. Many have said: “Don’t return to the settlement – stay in the city.” But I have always believed that it is important I return home, with all the new knowledge I’ve acquired and help pass it on to those who live here. Especially if you think about language, as I know myself how language can be a problem, if you want to get ahead. I would like to help promote teaching language in the settlement. I am determined to do it, but time will show of course, whether it will be so. As a person one takes so many new steps along the way, and everything changes
continuously, but so far I am set on growing old here in my hometown. It all depends on what we ourselves can do and want to do. Just take Niaqornaarsuk as an example. They made their own committee when the fish-factory was closed, to find new ways to re-open it. Solidarity and cooperation are the keywords, something others can learn from and make more use of. Be more visionary when it comes to being self-sufficient. Today people push away problems and do not contribute to solving them, because the authorities will probably solve them. We have to be more visionary and think about what we can do ourselves and not just wait for help from society and the authorities. We are capable ourselves, and we have to begin thinking in terms of, “What can I do for my own country?” Kuunnguaq Choir: My hometown oh so beautiful… Else: In this programme ”Nunaqarfimmiut” (“The Settlers”) we thank the brothers; Hans and Julius Jeremiassen, their father; Nikolaj Jeremiassen and their head of family and granddad; Julius Jeremiassen for telling us how they live their lives in their settlement of Niaqornaarsuk. Kuunnguaq Choir: Lyrics: Niaqornaarsummi nuna alianaattorsuuvutit Nuannaraakkit ilumut Eqqaanatit saperpara Eqqaanatit saperpara. Niaqornaarsuk you are such a beautiful place I really love you Can not make it, if I do not think of you Can not make it, if I do not think of you The choir members’ laughter
©2009 RANA/Else Olsvig
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