Suppose you’re a linguistic anthropologist and that you’re job is to study the language and lifestyle of a remote northern Inuit community – a community whose way of life is threatened by climate change.
“It’s a community that’s dependent on the hunting of sea mammals because of global warming there are fewer animals to kill and its increasingly dangerous to do so using these ancient traditional techniques that they use and so it looks like now this entire community could be moved further south within 10-15 years and if that happens the language culture the way of life will all go will all disappear.”
So where would you find this community? That’s our question.
It’s on the shore of a huge island that’s almost completely covered in ice, a large chunk of which broke off this week.
and our Geo Quiz takes us to northern Greenland where linguistic anthropologist Stephen Pax Leonard is headed this weekend.
“What I’m doing I think is unusual I’m going to be living their way of life with this community for a whole year, learning their language.”
The community he’s talking about is the town of Qaanaaag, population 600 or so Inuits. It’s one of the northern most towns in the world.
It’s also considered to be at risk due to global warming. So Pax Leonard’s mission is to document the local traditions… and the local dialect, called Iniktun, before they disappear:
“I can’t save this language, I’m not going there to save protect Iniktun forever, but I do think if this culture disappears within a short period of time it is well worth having a record of it because although this is a remote corner of Greenland this is really the basis of Greenlandic culture and narrative.”
Pax Leonard says adapting to life in Greenland’s far north…will take some fortitude. Winter temperatures hover around minus 40 F and the sun doesn’t rise from October till March.