The clothing of the Inuit is adapted to the cold climate and the life of the hunter. The design is carefully conceived, such that moisture and sweat did not become an obstacle to the hunting work. In some ways the traditional clothes signal the spiritual and religious life.
Changes in the Greenlanders’ dress tradition have several causes. The changes in society had an influence on ways of making clothes, especially if people could afford new clothes.
After the beginning of colonization the Inuit became more settled. Before this they lived during winter in sod houses built with turf, stones and driftwood. When the Europeans arrived in Greenland with new building customs and construction materials, this had an unfortunate effect on the health of the Greenlanders, since the houses were not adapted to the cold climate.
Before European food was introduced to Greenland, Inuit were self-sufficient. The food for the coming winter was buried in the ground, dried, smoked and salted. Plants and berries as well as seaweed were also part of the vitamin-rich diet. The diet was very nutritious and adapted to the cold climate and the hunting life.
Health and illness
In the old days
In the pre-Christian society among the Inuit the shamans believed that illness in human beings happened because the soul had left the body, or because something alien had entered it. It was then the function of the shaman to go in and investigate the soul of the sick person, and if possible to bring it back.
The healing methods of the shamans were not compatible with European, Christian thinking, and in time the customs of the shamans had to yield to western, scientific healing methods.
At the beginning of colonization
Around 1838 Greenland had a population of c. 8000. The number of people rose steadily, but at times there was decline or stagnation, due to among other things new diseases that came with the foreigners, and therefore took their toll of the population. An example is the smallpox epidemic that ravaged the country in the 1730s. There was also a high infant mortality rate.
Tuberculosis was a widespread social and health problem, and ravaged the Greenlandic population greatly up to the beginning of the 1950s.
With the modernization of the country came new medical knowledge, new treatment methods, an intensification of the battle against disease and better housing, which mean that tuberculosis was almost eradicated. Infant mortality fell, and the population grew appreciably by 1960 and reached>
c. 32,00 individuals (2007: 57.151).
Today Greenland, for better and for worse, is a modern society. Centuries of colonization and the mixing of two different cultures have left their marks. It has brought good things, but the Inuit culture has also suffered losses. Among other things there have been costs in the form of substance abuse and social problems. The changed living conditions have altered the disease situation, so that lifestyle illnesses have become more common.