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The future of the sled dog


By Manumina Lund Jensen, Pipaluk Lykke, Ulunnguaq Markussen and Morten Meldgaard, the Qimmeq project, Ilisimatusarfik

In the nearest future, Inatsisartut will address the new law on protection of Greenlandic sled dogs. The law covers topics such as the import and export of sled dogs, feeding, vaccination, kennel operation and sled dog racing.

The Qimmeq project from Ilisimatusarfik has - together with associations and authorities - been a consultative party in drafting the law. In our response to the Greenlandic government, on 03 February we wrote (among other things):

"A balance has to be found, in which both the values that lie in the sled dog culture and the sled dog itself get the best living conditions. An excessively detailed and controlling legislation that complicates daily life does not support the survival of the culture".

We hope the politicians succeed in finding this balance.

But is it enough to pass a law to preserve the sled dog?

No, of course not!

Strong initiatives must be taken in order to help the sled dog and the sled dog culture.

Pipaluk Lykke passionately organized two workshops in December 2016 in Sisimiut, and in December 2019 in Nuuk. Sled dog drivers, tourists and other people from Qaanaaq, Tasiilaq, Sisimiut and other places in Greenland participated in these workshops - as well as people from Chukotka, Alaska and Nunavut. They made a number of recommendations to politicians and authorities - with small and large proposals on how to develop a sustainable sled dog culture.

The recommendations can be summarized in some key points: 

  • Training the next generation of sled dog drivers. Many children and young people in Greenland are growing up today without the possibility of dog training and sledding. In Greenland, there are few schools, workshops and other good initiatives that need extra support.
  • Protection of the sled dog as a means of transport against competition from snowmobiles. Slowly, trophy hunting with sled dogs, transport of halibut with sled dogs and so on are suffocated by the competition. Positive discrimination of the sled dog is necessary.
  • Establishing a sled dog council, among other things, with the participation of experienced local voices who can advise politicians and others on all the small details that are so important for the future sled dog culture.
  • The existing lacking veterinary coverage in Greenland and inadequate supply of dog medicine to rural and urban areas must be remedied - for example through telemedicine and the use of existing medicine distribution systems.
  • Establishing a sled dog center or sled dog school, where the sled dog can be praised and where knowledge can be created and disseminated.

A possible sled dog center has already been mentioned on May 1 in a KNR radio broadcast. Naalakersuisut suggests the establishment of a sled dog center at the Ice Fjord Center in Ilulissat:

"A place focused on learning, exchange of knowledge and research, which is communicated through school services to children, museum activities and education, where the goal is value creation and preservation of the Greenlandic sled dog".

The center is important. But it is crucial that it is rooted in the traditional Greenlandic sled dog culture. It is therefore an open question whether the Ilulissat Ice Fjord Center is the right framework.

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