egede and the inuit

EGEDE SAILED FOR Greenland in his ship Haabet out of Bergen, Denmark-Norway, with his wife, children, and 40 nervy colonists in May 1721, and they were trapped in the ice in late June, from which they were spared death by only prayers and providence. The pastor was convinced that there still existed Norse on these shores who were still Catholic and had not yet been converted to Lutheranism, a great tragedy. After landing at Nuup Kangerlua, this crew settled at Hope Island, then later began to explore the Inuit settlements in search of their kinsmen, whom the Inuit knew of and called kablunak in their own polysynthetic tongue. The Inuit had not yet accepted Christianity, and instead still placed their faith in spirits, charmed amulets, and shamans. Egede tried to convert them to Christ, but his vocabulary was lacking. “Give us this day our daily bread” meant nothing to the Inuit, who had neither bread, nor grains. In his journal, Egede called the Inuit’s faith “monkey games.” He sojourned on, finding the remains of the ancient settlements at Vestribygð and Eystribygð. The Inuit in short time did take to Egede’s brandy, which they believed healed diseases and all wounds. The Inuit also believed brandy helped women in childbirth. And so a new generation of Inuit arose, one succored on Egede’s 18th century sweet and healthy Norwegian spirits.

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