The Need to Belong: Social Connectedness and Spatial Attachment in Polar Eskimo Settlements

Peer Reviewed

Leonard, SP

Polar Record 50, Issue 2, pages 138-146, 2013, 10.1017/S003224741200085X .

Climate and environmental change places a variety of different pressures on remote, indigenous Arctic communities. The sea ice is the platform on which the Inugguit culture of northwest Greenland is based and thus it is inevitable that its retreat will have implications for the indigenous notion of place and for the manner in which the Inugguit articulate their sense of belonging with respect to the natural environment. With the demise of story-telling, the traditional vehicle for knowledge transmission, and the squeeze on hunting by consumer society and the Greenland Self Rule imposed quota system, it is apparent that some younger people are now engaging with more western ontologies of place. The relationship between man and nature is for some beginning to be expressed in terms of detachment and not extension. Whilst the way the Inugguit relate to their immediate natural environment might be in flux, other social practices of belonging such as naming and visiting are unchanged and still characterise these communities. In northwest Greenland, the need to ‘belong’ remains the social imperative that it has always been and the mechanisms used to reinforce this remain intact.

Keywords: Greenland, Indigenous Arctic communities, Inugguit
Categories: Arctic, Social Science