Sometimes it doesn’t take much time to understand a population. In this way, Robert Peroni, the italian explorer who lives between Italy and Greenland, describes the Inuit – the last descendants of the native inhabitants of the Arctic: “They live hand to mouth, only the present exists for them. If they see three seals, they kill and eat just one of them, even if they remain without food. These people don’t know the occidental concept of accumulation”.
However, this happened ten years ago when, due to ecologists pressure, seal hunting was banished in response to the massacres caused by canadian poachers. This was the final nail in the coffin for the three thousand Inuit who lived in the archipelago of Ammassalik, in west Greenland. Struggled with one of the most inhospitable land in the world, in the middle of ices and fiords, deprived of the possibility of breed and hunt seals, the Inuit started to die. Not for hunger, but for depression. They started committing suicide, when alcohol and drugs were diffused in every level of the population.
If today the Inuit are not dead, it is thanks to Robert Peroni. In the last 20 years, this explorer, born in north Italy, created a foundation for raising money to give it to Inuit and transformed an old building into a small hotel, La casa rossa, in the city of Tasiilaq, with 140 beds for tourists, who are guided in their extreme tours by the Inuit. He also wrote a book, Dove il vento grida più forte, in which Peroni explains why occidental people consider the Inuit rough and archaic people, forced not to accept help from the outside. Peroni has been one of the few, maybe the only white man accepted by Inuit in their community.
In november Peroni, who is now 69 years old and is fighting against a bad disease, came back to Greenland, after having presented his book in Italy. When he is asked if the moment to take a rest has arrived and come back permanently to his place of origin, Bolzano, the answer is: “There is nothing left for me in Italy. It is between icebergs and mountains that I feel like home”. Peroni often remembers when the Inuit were happy, before the past difficult years. In these archive pictures, they have been photographed in the 60′s.
Antonio Leggieri – Image courtesy of the Biblio Archive of Canada