Indigenous sustainability – What can the Indigenous of the Arctic and Australia teach the modern world?

Australierin nah

By Kalinda Palmer (18), posted from Greenland



Kal 1      Kal 6

(Uummannaq, North Greenland, Arctic Circle. Photographer: David H Ottosen)


Here I am, Kalinda Palmer, possibly the first Australian Aboriginal to reflect in North Greenland, where the peaceful and inevitable landscape encourages one to do so. For the last four months I have watched and felt the Arctic landscape change and transform. Everyday now the surrounding glaziers spit out new icebergs for the ocean to swallow, while the beloved sun and warm weather brings life to the people and animals. Here, the landscape seems untouchable, mountains too high to climb, and oceans to cold to step foot in. Physical limitations highlight that this landscape is not for us to conquer or control but rather for us to observe and appreciate from a distance. Unfortunately this is not the case; Greenland has been touched forcefully by the impact of industrial production. The climate is rapidly changing, initiating a chain of present environmental and cultural consequences that are seen and felt today. So I quickly ask myself why? Why have we let this happen? Why are we living in a world confronted with nature? And who am I to care about this land so far from my own? In search to answer my questions I want to share with you the cultural collision I have observed between the Indigenous of Australia and the Arctic during my time in North, West and South Greenland.


Kal 2

(Embracing the Boab tree, Derby, Kimberly Western Australia)

Growing up in the Kimberly, Western Australia, I often heard the phase

“Mother nature”, although the phrase is not traditionally articulated I learnt that the concept of respecting and caring for our country is. The land is seen as our parent, someone who nurtures and shares with us. During my time in Greenland I do not heard the words “Mother nature”, rather I hear “Sassuma Arnaa” whom is the mother of the sea. Both cultures express their morals and ideas through story telling, aboriginal culture has many stories related to the ´the dreamtime´ which are stories exploring the spiritual creation and evolution of mankind and the natural world. In Greenland similar stories highlight the relationships with the human world and the spiritual world. I have carried the story of Sassuma Arnaa with me since arriving in Greenland for the first time last September with Youth4Arctic. The mother of the sea is one of the most central sprits in the Greenlandic Inuit culture, she inhabits the bottom of the ocean, watching and judging the human world. When individuals disrespect nature by killing without care or reason the woman is defiled by impurity; her hair becomes tangled around the sea animals capturing and withdrawing them from the surface. Hunters are confronted with the consequences of their communities’ actions as food becomes scarred. In order to free the animals the most powerful shaman must enter her realm and clean her hair. This then releases the animals, allowing hunters to continuing pursuing, although this time with respect and mindfulness towards their actions to ensure their communities survival.

Kal 3

(Sculpture of Sassuma Arnaa, at the colonial harbor, Nuuk)


The morals and values embedded within the story reminded me of the intentions behind totemistic practices. Our elders give us our totems when we are young, they watch us play in the rivers and bush lands and observe us grow among our families and friends. I became aware of the responsibility, rules and consequences regarding totemism when I was nine years old as I was given the fresh water turtle and the black-headed python; it is forbidden for an individual to hurt, kill or eat the given totem. If they do it is believed that their bodies will bleed and they will become sick. Instead of killing and hunting this animal we are told to protect and appreciate its existence. Not only did this practiced teach me to respect and to value the life of animals, it strengthened my sense of individually, teaching me self-love and pride. Through spirituality we avoided having such an extended division between animals and humans. Instead of placing mankind in a superior light, we take pride in our totems, associating the characteristics, strengths and weaknesses that the animals displays in representation with our own identities.


Kal 4Kal 5

(Greenlandic sledge dog, and hunter over looking Uummannaq town)

Comparable to how Aboriginal people see the land, the Inuit’s perceive the ocean as their provider. The story and practices voices the idea that people have to take care and look after the natural world by ensuring that spiritual relationships are maintained. Within these values responsibility, survival and balance are the main theme. The Inuit people feared that food would be limited due to their own actions similar to how the aboriginal people fear that illness would occur if they do not protect their totem. Both cultures understood that their interactions and use of the land would have present and future consequences. In order to avoid those consequences a conscious policy of conservation was embedded through their everyday practices.

Kal 6

(Uunartoq, One of the last old hunters in the North)

Today both cultures are combined with the modern and western world. Advantages and disadvantages of colonization are found almost everywhere including the way people appear to look. Many Greenlandic people have bright blue eyes derived from the Danish while numerous Australian aboriginal people have light brown skin. Those with light skin where once called ´half cast´ although this word is now culturally inappropriate the term of being a ´mix´ is a phrase Greenlandic and aboriginal people are more rapidly taking pride of, not because the idea of being ´western’ is more desirable but because we are shaping a new world, one that combines tradition, modernization and unity.

Kal 11 Australierin nah

Kal 8

(Girls from the Kimberly, they are born into tribes and given bush names)


Although I am so far from home the appearance of being a mixture of indigenous and western has allowed me to fit in. I cannot resist smiling when people approach me speaking their language. Despite the landscape being completely opposite from the surroundings I grew up in, I have found a strong sense of belonging amongst the people here. Many of the conversations I have had with them include exchanging the knowledge and stories of our cultures. Together we have compared our language, hunting methods, and environmental issues. The similarities inspired me to paint two Greenlandic girls with red soil naturally found in South Greenland. In the Kimberly’s red soil covers the land the same way the ice covers Greenland. We call this soil ‘Pindan´. Painting our bodies with colorful mud was used in dancing ceremonies and rituals.

Kal 9

(Red soil collected from Qassiarsuk mixed with water from the river)

Nowadays paint is mainly used when dancing for festivals intended on educating tourist. The designs I have used on the two Greenlandic girls are not traditional patterns but rather the action of applying mud on the body, as art is. The photos highlight the strength and knowledge that I have gained while being in Greenland exchanging cultures. While spending time with the two Greenlandic women I noticed how much strength they gain from their culture and county. It is not a coincidence that they too have so much respect and care towards nature. Being surrounded with people who truly admire and feel connected towards their land and oceans makes it hard to imagine why other people don’t feel responsible or passionate towards the natural world. My conclusion to why or how is that people have allowed themselves to ignore the relationship that mankind and nature can share together. I am aware that a more commonly desirable life of power, wealth and material competes against the notion of being respectful, mindful and connected with the land.

Feeling connected to a particular animal or landscape can allow us to feel compassion and love. It is these strong emotions that inspire and motive myself and other to want to make a change in the way the modern world currently interacts with the natural environment. Understanding that my culture and many others live and lived with nature in a sustainable and respectful manner gives me hope that we can one day reconstruct our methods. Without this connection and relationship the morals are lost and replaced with greed, feeding an economic world that overlooks the simple values of conservation that the indigenous once amplified therefore resulting in a world where resources are exploited, animals are driven to extinction and indigenous cultures are forced to fade.


Kal 10

(Greenlandic woman wearing Australian inspired body paint)


Kal 11

(Greenlandic sisters growing together)

A large population of the world have forgotten and/or never known what it is like to appreciate the natural beauty and peace that can be found amongst forests, glaziers and desserts. Appreciating the beauty of this world is one step closer to understanding that we truly do need the natural world to survive, nearly the same way our ancestors needed trees to produce oxygen, plants to be used as medicine and animals to be eaten.


Kal 12

(Experiencing the intimacy of catching, killing, preparing and eating the animal I will eat. The trout where caught the traditional way; by using nothing but my hands.)

Kal 13

(Mussels collected during low tide, while collecting the shells it is important not to disturb the smaller mussels, as they are slow growing)

Kal 14

(Angelica has been used in Greenland for many years the plant is rich in Vitamin C and other nutrients)

To listen to the wisdom of our ancient cultures, may be far from the instincts of the modern industrialized man but rather then replicating the wisdom we can allow ourselves to be inspired. You do not have to be Aboriginal or Inuit to withhold these ethics. As my Western father showed me, anybody is capable of respecting and cherishing the environment no matter where they come from. Applying this inspiration may lead to a world that combines culture, economics and environment equally.

That leaves me with my final question, why do I care about a land so far from my own? Exploring the similarities between the two cultures has led me to believe that the vast Arctic is also my land and that the Inuit people are also my family, the reason being is because we truly are all indigenous to this planet.


Earth is our home, and our mother. We should nurture her, the same way she nurtures us.

Kal 15

(Malu and Nivi admiring their mother)


Photographer: David H Ottosen

Ummannaq art studio

Childrens music home facebook page

Special thanks to, Aim for the stars foundation, Youth4planet, AIME and Canon Australia.












The Race to Uummannaq, North Greenland


Narrated by Kalinda Palmer

Youth4Arctic has returned to Greenland, although this time I ́m traveling without the rest of the team across vast ice sheets, to a remote location in the north called Uummannaq. Previously being in South Greenland I found myself observing the cultural importance of the natural environment in which is becoming increasingly vulnerable. I return to the country in anticipation to collect knowledge and stories based on the cultural and environmental consequences of climate change while gaining an insight into the unique Inuit culture.

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It has taken me 16,217 kilometers from Australia to reach Uummannaq but I have soon realized I am not the only one here who has travelled extensive measures to reach the island. On the 2nd of April Uummannaq held one of Greenland’s biggest dog sledding races. From all over the county people gathered on the ice dancing, drumming and cheering as eager Greenlandic huskies pulled sleds covered by reindeer skin and Inuit mushers.


The Race to Uummannaq, North Greenland



The action of using dogs as a source of transport evolved in Mongolia between 30,000 to 35,000 years ago. The unique connection between the indigenous people and dogs can still be found in Modern Greenland today. The race reflects history while the initial purpose of training the dogs for a race challenges the tradition of using dogs as transport. While keeping this in mind it is obvious that through multiple generations the ancient skills and wisdom necessary for dog sledding have been passed on from their elders and ancestors


In Greenland a necessary combination of history and modernization is made. I ́ve heard others say that the use of dogs for racing or replacing them with snowmobiles suggests that the culture in Greenland is `melting ́ but it is in fact the ice that is melting rather then the culture. I believe that the culture is adapting and combing two ways; the old and the new. It is important to recognize this as many other cultural aspects in Greenland are preserved and respected.image5

The people of the Arctic have been watching the weather closely for many years. Since being here I have heard many locals talk about the change in the climate. Locals say that this years spring season has arrived sooner and warmer then historically expected.

Throughout the year the ocean surrounding Uummannaq completely freezes, transforming it into a solid sheet of ice. From January until June the ice is used as a highway for dogs and snowmobiles, unifying surrounding communities and settlements, allowing those who live more remotely to have access to the townships resources and supplies.

This year the ice melted in March, two months earlier, melting at a faster rate. Locals are scared that in the near future the ice will not be reliable and dog sledding will be driven to extinction.




The children’s home that I am volunteering for owns 48 dogs. The dogs are used to transport the children to and from surrounding settlements for cultural activities. The children are taught to be mushers and the dogs provide the children with a sense or responsibility and ownership. Through out my time here I will be helping others to establish a long-term project with the children and dogs to ensure that the children have the continuing opportunity to practice their indigenous history.


Post COP 21 – Interview with CNN Indonesia


Back to Indonesia, Just today we were Interview by one of most powerful Senior Journalist in Indonesia, Mrs. Desi Anwar, who was also attending COP21 in Paris last week.

cnn3It is such an opportunity for us to spread the message and tell the people especially the young generation to change their perspective about climate change and start taking action NOW!

We were talking about our Youth4Arctic project and also about the latest COP21 in Paris.

We are trying our best to spread the message about climate crisis in the world now, but what we are doing is just a small step, we need help from every single person in this world to start taking action NOW!

it is not about how big your action is, but it is more important to do a simple and small action but do it RIGHT NOW! 🙂


Kevin interviewed by Heike Janssen from German news Tagesschau


Kevin and I like to be at COP21 in Paris to find so many perspectives here. We are all from different backgrounds but put our attention towards climate change. The solutions are there. Simple actions like saving water, saving electricity, using public transport can be done by everyone. It is a question of mindset: will we do that? We are in a crisis, and the time to get moving is right now.


Interview with Klaus Milke, Chairman of GermanWatch on COP21 expectations and what to do

Nesha sat down with the Chairman of the board for Germanwatch, Klaus Milke to discuss his views on climate change and the role of the future generation in it.

(Apologies for difficult audio situation)

Seeing Climate Change from Faith Perspective

Yesterday I was so impressed with this conference that was talking about climate change from ethic and faith perspective.

people were talking that the way to solve climate change is by changing the system and mindset.

most of the people know what they can do to slow down climate change, but we have to change our mindset and see this as a crisis and have more heart into this case.
take sometime to feel the nature, when you do that, you will love nature, and by loving nature, you will start to take care about our earth.



Yesterday, we attended a very interesting gathering of people from around the world. A mock trial of Exxon vs The people were being held at a warehouse outside Paris. Apparently, having the knowledge of climate change since the 70s and all its effects, Exxon still chose profit over people and went ahead with their operation to extract oil from all over the United states. We had witnesses coming from the far end of Alaska and the Arctic, to the archipelago of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. They were all telling stories of the effects of what climate change and Exxon caused to their homes, family, community and livelihoods. It was devastating to hear livelihoods were being gambled for profit. It made me wonder whether other companies which have been causing a lot of damages to the environment and people, knew about climate change since before they’ve started their operations as well. We all need to simply sit down and remember that the wealth of a country is its air, water, soils, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, biodiversity. And not by how much livelihoods is at stakes.


After the event Kevin and I had the opportunity to have a short interview with Bill McKibben about his expatations from #cop21 and what youth can do…

Amazing Opportunity to Interview Minister Ecology of France, Segolene Royal


it is such an amazing opportunity for me to have a short interview with Segolene Royal, The Minister of Ecology of France.

Finally at COP21


It is absolutely fantastic to be here. I’m still very stunted to see the whole event and everything that are going on at the same time. I wish I could clone myself so I can watch every parallel events that are happening at the venue. To be able to speak and interview world leaders and world experts coming from so many different countries is absolutely amazing and what i would call “brain-gasmic”. Especially for someone who’s still in university, I’m learning so much in a span of several days from just chit-chatting with everyone. And it’s wonderful to hear their response to our project and how they’re completely on board with giving youths the voice we need. I can’t wait to see what the next several days have in stored for us.


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