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Hunter-fishermen never stop working


Karl Timas Kajussen is born and raised in Saqqarliit, the fishing settlement that was abandoned in 1961 due to unsustainable trading conditions – meaning the settlement had no economic foundation. Currently he lives in Sarfannguit, the closest settlement to his childhood home.

When he was young, he clearly remembers his family bought a used boat for their fishing and hunting lifestyle. Suddenly everything was so much closer, now that they had a motorized water vessel it was much easier to go to Sarfannguit and sell their catch as well as buy groceries.

He explains that back then, there would be Qajaq (traditional Greenlandic kayak) that came by from settlements in the Kangerlussuaq fjord on their way to Sarfannguit to buy luxury necessities, like coffee, sugar, tobacco and cartridges. By following the streams connecting the lakes in the landscape, where they switched between rowing and carrying the Qajaq, they travelled from Kangerlussuaq fjord to Ikertooq fjord. The merchandise was storaged in the hollow Qajaq in a way that kept the balance of the thin vessel.

His first day at school is a very memorable day for Karl Timas, because that turned out to be his only schoolday all the way to his confirmation in his teenage-years. All he remembers having done all his life is go hunting and fishing. Since the hunting seasons for the different animals in the sea and land are right after each other, he accompanied his grandfather on hunting and fishing trips all year round. He got the traditional Greenlandic upbringing instead of the new Danish education. As he says himself: “Imaakkamali ministerinngunngippunga” (Because I am like this, I’m not the one that became a minister in the government) with a laugh.

There is a mountain surrounding Saqqarliit, meaning they had to hike the mountain when going inland and hunting. When Karl Timas went caribou hunting with his grandfather in the summer they had three routes across the mountain they chose from, after which they followed the south side of Tasersuaq (Big Lake) and turned north when they had passed it. His grandfathers preferred Aasivik (summer camp during hunting trip) was on a plain north of Tasersuaq.

 

Karl Timas Kajussen holding Qajaq tools.

In the summer, groups of family and friends spend around two months inland to hunt caribou and prepare food for the winter. This is the norm for families with the occupation of hunter-fisher, which is also the case with Karl Timas who have changed hunting grounds several times during his lifetime. It’s popular to hunt while travelling to the campsite, because if a prime specimen shows up they can just create a meat cache to coolly storage it until they come back again and can bring it with them.

Karl Timas established a family of wife and children, and while the kids were small they lived for four years by Itinnerup river to take advantage of the good income in selling trout. There is a place in the area named Eqalugaarniarfik (the place to catch trout), and in the fjord south of that, Akulleq, there is also a place named like that. In the 80’s, when they were living there, trout was a very lucrative commodity, and with his cutter he could sail his catch to Sarfannguit. They were all alone in the inland living off the land, but they had each other and could buy anything necessary in Sarfannguit.

They did end up moving to Sarfannguit, where the kids could go to school instead of their mother homeschooling them. His son is today also a hunter-fisher that is following the trend of the occupation. With the popular turist attraction of trophy hunting the son, Ani Kajussen, travels with foreign hunters to show them how to catch a muskox and caribou. With his knowledge of the landscape he ensures that the trophy hunter always goes home with a worthy trophy.

Beside the land animals, Karl Timas also has great experience in fishing using a cutter. He has fond memories of the many halibut and small shrimps him and his colleagues caught when they sailed back and forth in the bottom of Ikertooq fjord. They dragged a net below to catch them but unfortunately sometimes the mud would give them a hard time. This was a long time ago, because today the main catch is cod, and Karl Timas jokes that maybe it’s because him and his colleagues emptied the waters for shrimp and halibut cause they really caught a lot back then.

During the summer hunting trips, Karl Timas and his family used to have camp in Umiivik, which is at the end of Tasersuaq where it runs through Itinneq and out into Ikertooq. It is still a popular area for other locals to dry a summer catch of caribou meat, but Karl Timas have moved to the other end of the lake and build a hut where his family can leave all necessary equipment. This means that they don’t have to bring matresses, covers, heaters or anything heavy every time they go to stay in the hut. His son-in-law, Suulut Olsen, is also a hunter-fisher that grew up in Sarfannguit and knows the area. They are a big family that help each other during the different hunting/fishing seasons, and the next generation is already coming along on the trips into nature.

Tuukkaq (spear point with no knife) held by Karl Timas Kajussen.

Even though some things continue through generations, other things change. Karl Timas reminisce about the time when muskox where imported to Kangerlussuaq and let loose in nature. As soon as the government started the first hunting season for muskox, Karl Timas was among the many that with dogsleds went inland to bring home load after load of muskox meat and skins on his sled. They had no problem learning to hunt them back then, and the animals thrive so well in the landscape that the hunters are given enough work. The younger generations still hunt them today but Karl Timas himself have become too old for the strainous job of hunting such big animals.

Another thing that has changed in the landscape during his lifetime is the ATV-road, constructed as a connection between Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq. This has led himself and family to prefer hunting caribou on the southern side of Tasersuaq instead of the northern side as they used to do. Even though there is no drastic change in animal population, there is now more local hobby-hunters that hunt in the vicinity of the road. He has also observed that the road is frequently used to get from Tasersuaq to Kangerlussuaq or vice versa.

It was also common for Karl Timas to go through Aasivissuit during his hunting trips, for its good camping location and opportunity to socialize with other hunting groups. But since the many ruins have been categorized as protected cultural heritage he goes around the campsite, and is aware that it’s one of the locations that has motivated the nomination of the World Heritage Site Aasivissuit – Nipisat.

Karl Timas is an old hunter-fisher now but he has only slowed down his work instead of thinking of retirement. It appears he is unable to stop himself from doing the hunting and fishing he has been doing his whole life. He has had 3 heart attacks and therefore heart operations. His family keeps telling him to stop working, but he thinks it’s simply part of life, and when he sits down to not do his work he gets bored and starts working for the sake of the activity. Now he takes pills morning and evening, goes fishing in good weather, helps his family if they need something or themselves transported somewhere, enjoys the summer hunting trips and reminisces about the good old times with his last pal from those good old times.

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