Greenlandic hunting grounds at stake in Hans Island dispute

“If Canadians want to move the border again, our hunting area will be even more limited”



NUUK, GREENLAND – In recent years, Canada has barred hunters who live in the northernmost Greenlandic community of Qaanaaq from hunting polar bears near Ellesmere Island.

Uusaqaaq Qujaukitsoq, a politician and hunter from Qaanaaq, is questioning the motives behind Canada’s move to stop this traditional hunt.

“This had always been our hunting area,” Uusaqaaq told Nuuk’s AG newspaper.

Uusaqaaq said hunters from Qaanaaq always hunted on both sides of the Nares Strait

“Some of the elders here in Qaanaaq were born on Ellesmere Island,” he said.

When Uusaqaaq was a member of Greenland’s legislature, he tried to renew hunting rights for his community on the Canadian side of the border.

Uusaqaaq made an application to Canada through the Danish foreign ministry.

“They had never answered. If we start talking about those elders who were born at the Canadian side, then I think they would start to listen to us.”

Uusaqaaq said Hans Island, also considered Greenlandic territory by his people, is called Tartupaluk because the island resembles a kidney.

Like many in his community, however, he has never visited Hans Island.

That’s because the strong current around the island causes tremendous ice packs to form, blocking access. During the roughest winters, the current even makes cracks in the ice.

Uusaqaaq told AG that Hans Island is a dangerous destination.

Hunters don’t regularly visit Hans Island, Uusaqaaq said, but he’s worried about the dispute over who owns the island: “if Canadians want to move the border again, our hunting area will be even more limited.”

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