Fun news. Narsarsuaq Museum bought a collection of photos on ebay from an American soldier who was stationed at Kangerlussuaq in World War II and they include one of Marlene Dietrich on her visit to the airbase.
Greenland’s World War II history is odd and a bit bad as far as imperialism, as it was in the rest of the Realm. After Denmark was occupied Eske Brun, the Danish ‘governor’ of Greenland, declared Greenland seceded from Denmark and worked with the Danish ambassador to the USA, Henrik Kauffmann, who signed an agreement allowing American troops to be placed in Greenland. There were good things that came from it - reliable food and other resources which Greenland would have previously received from Denmark that would be cut off, and the American troops stopped the Germans creating monitoring stations in the east. But after the war and with the start of the Cold War this meant the US had a mostly unrestricted right to set up bases where it wanted and at the high point there were about 15 US bases in Greenland. As everywhere there are military bases but especially of foreign military, there were many ‘mild’ cases of exploitation of the land, Greenlandic workers and so on, and of course there was the hydrogen bomb plane disaster at Thule. Besides that there is the argument to be made against militarism, abuse and the risking of a foreign nation in a war it is not involved in, and Denmark’s abuse of the US presence making Greenland highly strategic, allowing Denmark to advance in world politics (notably NATO) without ever using that authority to benefit Greenland. After the fall of the Soviet Union all but the base in Thule have closed and the US still cites the World War II agreement as its ‘right’ for keeping the base whenever objection arises.
But anyway it is good the museum can collect some daily life photos of this time period.
An important read. The issues discussed here are not the only ones. Mercury poisoning of water and fish and animals in Nunavut, from southern Canadian industry, has been and continues to be extremely destructive. As I discussed here four US nuclear weapons at Thule Airbase crashed and it was Greenlanders who were brought in to clean up the damage. This all comes from the conception southerners have of the north as a place ‘no one’ lives, or even so few that to big industry and government, it doesn’t matter how they are affected. It is the same mentality that says it is not worth the cost to bring Tuberculosis vaccines up to Upernavik.
In Alaska, hundreds of sites are contaminated by toxic waste by the military alone. From the cold war to the present-day, military operations including Distant Early Warning sites (DEW line sites) are polluted with PCB’s and other contaminants. In the United States history, the largest underground…
Another photo from my Highlights of an Arctic Revolution book. Here Greenlandic politicians and Ussarqaq Qujaakitsoq a dancer arrive in Iqaluit in Canada on their way to Ottawa to speak out against allowing large tankers to travel through the ecologically-sensitive Davis Strait between north of Greenland and Nunavut. This was the first instance where Greenland (if only ‘informally’) negotiated its own foreign policy. Its success later led the home rule government to request permission from the Danish government to negotiate with America over its airbase in Thule, and by gradually being ‘granted’ that permission more over time, Greenland has showed its competence in standing up to foreign nations and was granted explicit permission to negotiate foreign policy when does not relate to the rest of the realm in the self rule act.
From the book Highlights of an Arctic Revolution: The First 120 Months of Greenlandic Home Rule, produced by the homerule government of 1989 highlighting an event from each month of the first decade since the homerule act. This one showing Greenlanders’ anger towards Greenpeace during an official visit after Greenland was lumped into the anti-seal hunting campaign. Apparently the people of Greenpeace were unaware that Greenlanders who hunted seals did so for subsistence unlike the commercial Canadian “baby seal clubbers” who were the real targets. And also that the variety of seals that Greenlanders hunted were not endangered.
Appologies were made by Greenpeace after this incident but of course Greenland has come under their criticism again after infrastructure has been put in place for deepsea oil drilling. Just recently Jon Burgwald of Greenpeace blogged about Cairn Energy’s supposed risky cleanup plan. It is of course a highly controversial topic, as the mineral wealth Greenland could gain would mean a greater chance at independence from Denmark, and more importantly the ability for Greenland to develop its education system and economy, allowing for social advances that would over time make a reliance on ‘dirty’ energy unnecessary and much more.
Paamiut. There was a shooting incident here a few days ago. Neighbors called the police when they heard a man physically abusing his wife and when the police arrived he shot his rifle and ran into the mountains. A group of police from Nuuk was brought in the next day and he was caught.
Domestic violence is a big issue in Greenland, but sometimes it is not examined by politicians and in the public because when it is discussed outside of Greenland it encourages the colonial idea that Greenlanders are ‘primitive, alcoholic freeloaders.’ The Greenlandic post-colonial mindset is extraordinarily marked by inhibition and fear of outside judgment, stemming from a feeling of being inadequate, so often leads to hesitation and leaving issues like this unresolved.
The main idea of the Unionist Party [was] this: close ties with Denmark, politically and culturally. The underlying idea was as follows: we Faroese cannot stand on our own feet, economically speaking. Patursson’s plans for autonomy will lead to increased taxation and duties for the Faroese people. We must stick close to Denmark and let the Treasury pay the costs of telephone, harbour and road installations as are necessary, thus allowing us to get off more lightly. In order to enjoy all of these advantages, we must in the meantime show our gratitude and consider ourselves as Danes; for Denmark has no reason to help a foreign people. The Unionists forgot only one thing: that the Faroese were NOT Danes and would never be able to feel themselves as true Danes.
J.F. Jacobsen, Danmark og Færøerne, 1927 (author’s emphasis).
Identity and the desire for self-determination and independence are issues that illustrate how the rise of nationalism is symptomatic of a need for mental de-colonization, since the greater self determination since 1979 has not had the effect of mental de-colonization…we should allow ourselves to be misunderstood and judged as nationalists or racists, because we finally want to talk about the dark taboos of history.
From Aviâja Egede Lynge’s article “The Best Colony in the World”, part of the exhibition Rethinking Nordic Colonialism.