KINGSTON – Volunteers and staff from the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization welcomed back a group of disadvantaged indigenous youth traveling from Greenland. Their 10-day trip culminated in a sing-along event held Monday at the Kingston home port on the Rondout marina.
The kids hail from Ummannaq Children’s Home, located on a remote island off the northwest coast of Greenland, almost 370 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The visitors from Greenland brought examples of their culture
The group first came to New York in 2008, sailing on the Clearwater and meeting with legendary folk singer and environmentalist, the late Pete Seeger.
They’ve been returning to the area ever since, on a yearly basis, forming a bond between Clearwater and the Ummannaq community. Members of the Clearwater organization also visit Greenland.
“Where we live, it’s not green, just rocks and ice,” explained Ann Andreasen, director of the Children’s Home. The island of Ummannaq has about 1,200 inhabitants, mostly involved in hunting, fishing and canning.
The native culture has been mostly wiped out, due to western influences and climate changes, Andreasen noted. However, a strong musical tradition remains, which facilitated the affinity with Seeger’s work, she said.
“We are very fond about Pete Seeger’s way of thinking, environment and music together, that’s great also peace, actually” Andreasen indicated.
“There is this story of connection between places far away from the Hudson as Greenland is,” said David Conover, education director for Clearwater. “A lot of the people who live in the Arctic are exposed to higher levels of chemical pollutants.”
Ummannaq is the last ferry terminal heading north along the Greenland coast. Most land past there is uninhabited. Not surprisingly, this is where Santa Claus allegedly keeps his home. Danish legend speculates that SantaClaus lives in Spraglebugten Bay in the west of the island. A turf hut was built there for a Danish television program and remains Santa’s home in the popular imagination.