Sunday, September 27, 2020

The People of Qaanaaq

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Culture

Edward Hessler

There are sequences in this video from The New Yorker (5m 07s) that reminded me of a still photograph that was used on the cover of Richard K. Nelson's Hunters of the Northern Ice. Both show hunters in boats, one hunting in open water for narwhal, the other for seals at the edges of sea ice. Both images leave me with a sense of their scale (small) compared with the enormous proportions of their hunting range.

The book is based on Nelson's Ph.D. (University of California--Santa Barbara) in which he lived with sea ice hunters. The Wiki entry provides a short biography--he spent many years Following his Ph.D., living with indigenous people of the North. Nelson was a fine writer about the links between nature and culture.

The New Yorker video could almost stand alone to be viewed in silence; it is so contemplative but I'm glad it is narrated and that a transcript is attached. The people of Qaanaaq experience a quarantine of nearly 4 months each year during which there is no sun at all. Narwaal supply them Vitamin C and is also an important ingredient for ritual communion with each other and nature. Communion includes not only the making and sharing of food, but the mending of clothes, the feeding of the dogs and the narrator speculates on lessons that the hunters of Qaanaaq may know very deeply, leaving the viewers to consider the possibility of what we can learn from the pandemic, a time of great upheaval in our personal and social lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment