Greenland Christianity -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 052:205 (Jan 1895)
Article: Greenland Christianity
Author: G. Frederick Wright


Greenland Christianity

G. Frederick Wright

The race of men commonly known as “Eskimo” presents more points of interest to the anthropologist than does almost any other people. A small colony of them lives in Northeastern Asia, west of Bering Strait, hut the largest proportion, about 20,000, is found in Northwestern Alaska. From there they extend, in inconsiderable numbers, eastward along the northern coast of British America, to Baffin Bay, and down the coast of Labrador to the Straits of Belle Isle. The western coast of Greenland, however, affords support to the great bulk of the race in Eastern America, about 10,000 of them being at the present time found there.

The name Eskimo is not of the people’s choosing. It is supposed to mean “eaters of flesh”—a descriptive designation of which they are not proud. They prefer the name Innuit,—a term meaning “the people,” and implying that they are the only people worthy of consideration. But such egotism is pardonable on account of their isolation, and of their ability to endure conditions of life to which all other races would succumb.

Through the efforts of Lutheran and Moravian missionaries, the natives of Greenland were converted to Christianity more than a century ago (Hans Egede began his work there in 1721); yet by the force of circumstances, the people are compelled to live in nearly the same stage of outward civilization as that which originally characterized their condition. Indeed no other civilization would seem to be possible in their present environment. If Greenland is inhabited at all it must be by people who make the most of its advantages, and the least of its disadvantages. In some countries the degree to which Christianity prevails may be determined approximately by the increase of their commerce. But this sign entirely fails among the Greenlanders, since it is scarcely possible for them to have any extensive commerce which is not to their disadvantage. Almost without exception their products have, to them, a much higher value in use than they can have in exchange.

As is well-known, the interior of Greenland is a vast ice-field, thousands of feet in depth, covering an area of more than 320,000 square miles. Around this central ice-field there is a fringe of mountainous country free from ice, upon the western side varying in width from five to eighty

miles, and still less upon the eastern side, with occasional interruptions where the glaciers come down to the very margin of the sea. Altogether, this fringe measures something less than 200,000 square miles and presents a peculiarly barren aspect. There are no trees in Greenland. The wood employed in making frames for boats a...

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