30° W, Greenland

Longitudinal Installation by Xavier Cortada

“They tell us that we must not eat mattak [whale blubber], but this is all we know. Eating Inughuit food makes us who we are, and anyway we have nothing else to eat!”

— Tekummeq, Town of Qaanaaq (Greenland)

Tekummeq is one of over 56,000 citizens that live in Greenland with many generations behind him. These Greenlanders are an old indigenous community called the Inuit which originally migrated from Siberia, crossing over Alaska and North America, and arriving in Greenland in the 13th century. They have lived on Greenland’s enormous ice-cold mass near the north pole with its conditions shaping the Inuit culture to be different from most other cultures we can observe on the planet today. They have a unique diet from Greenland’s fresh food sources that come from wild animals or fish like whales. These traditions, along with clothing attire, performances, and other fascinating cultural norms have shaped the Inuit into a civilization like no other.

Climate change and its effects have impacted their ways of life, in addition to globalization, forcing their traditions to change in order to survive. Global warming is heating the planet, its air, and seas, causing ice in the poles to melt rapidly. This affects the world with sea level rise but also affects smaller communities like the town of Qaanaaq, where Tekummeq belongs to. They are now obligated to search for new ways and sources to feed as they are not able to continue with their usual modest diets and cultural norms.

Now, the Greenlandic diet is composed of a mixture of traditional food and increasingly imported foods. These imported foods tend to be highly processed and more artificial with the addition of saturated fats and chemicals. For cultures like the Inuit, these have consequences in nutrition’s quality, as they have been eating on an indigenous diet for many years. This is not only a big change but creates a lasting impact on their health as they are not accustomed to packaged and processed foods. While the effects climate change can have on our first world countries are well known, many tend to forget about these smaller, but most memorable and less harmful communities like the Inuit.