• Indigenous peoples in Greenland

    Indigenous peoples in Greenland

    The indigenous peoples of Greenland are Inuit and make up a majority of the Greenlandic population. Greenland is a self-governing country within the Danish Realm, and although Denmark has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Greenland’s population continue to face challenges.
  • Peoples

    50,000 out of Greenland’s 56,000 peoples are Inuit
  • Rights

    2007: Denmark adopts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Children's rights

    2010: The Government of Greenland and UNICEF Denmark enter into a partnership agreement to raise awareness of children's rights in Greenland

Greenland cannot be bought as it is not for sale

In August 2019, US President Mr Donald Trump expressed an interest in buying Greenland from Denmark. In an update on Facebook, IWGIA's Board Member and Inuit from Greenland, Sara Olsvig, explains why Greenland cannot be bought, and how Trump's apparent interest in Greenland is based on ignorance of all peoples’, including indigenous peoples' right to self-determination.

You can read Sara Olsvig un-edited update, from 17 August, below:

My [Sara Olsvig] opinion on the #GreenlandPurchase matter:

As astonishingly silly and imperialistic in its core the apparent wish from President Trump to buy #Greenland is, as astonishingly ignorant the media, commentators and some politicians seem to be on the World history, Greenland’s history and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.

The last couple of days articles, commentaries and tweets have focused on the assumingly expressed wish by Trump, and I have stumbled over wordings such as: “Trump wants to buy Greenland, which is currently owned by Denmark” or Danish politicians expressing that it is an interesting thought seen in the light of the Danish 1917 sale of the Virgin Islands to the US while some express that Denmark was not a colonial power as most of Greenland was uninhabited when “we took possession”.

Three facts about Greenland

  • In 1979, Greenland negotiated a Home Rule agreement with Denmark
  • Around 50,000 or 89 % of Greenland’s inhabitants are Inuit’s
  • The Majority of people of Greenland speak the Inuit language, Kalaallisut, which is the official language, while the second language of the country is Danish

This, for me, calls for greater attention to the concepts De-colonization and Self-Determination.

Well, much has happened since 1917. The UN Pact on decolonization from 1945, with the chapter on non-self-governing territories lays a foundation to develop self-government and assist in progressive development of free political institutions for the peoples affected.

Denmark opted for an assimilation process, trying to include Greenland as an integrated part of the State by a change to the Danish constitution in 1953, leaving the “free political institution” to be a council, not a parliament.

Only with the Home Rule agreement from 1979, Greenland established its own parliament and Government, followed by the Self-Government agreement, which in its act recognizes the people of Greenland “as a people pursuant to international law with the right of self-determination, the Act is based on a wish to foster equality and mutual respect in the partnership between Denmark and Greenland”.

Denmark does not “own” Greenland. Greenland is part of a State, which includes three nations; Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Sovereignty and ownership is, in 2019, not the same.

In 2007, Denmark together with 143 other UN member states voted for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

Denmark has been at the forefront advocating together with Greenland for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to be recognized and also in this light, the media attention has revealed worrying little knowledge of these rights, internationally and in Denmark.

So - this fuzz about the #BuyGreenland attention has shown, that we as self-governing peoples and Indigenous Peoples continuously have much to fight for, for our RIGHT to self-determination, and to be fully be recognized by all states, in media and mainstream politics. We are #NotForSale because we cannot be bought.

It also shows, that Greenland and Greenlandic politicians, as well as politicians of other #IndigenousPeoples and self-governing nations, must know and be skilled at international politics, international media handling and diplomatic relations. We must fight even harder, and be even more skilled, as all kinds of agenda’s potentially put us at risk, politically.

Let’s use this opportunity the learn more. Let media and politicians from former colonial powers use this opportunity to ask themselves which agenda and World they want to promote. The case unfortunately shows, that imperialism is not just of the past, its eerily very much of the present.

We have much to stand up for!

Facebook update made by Sara Olsvig, 17 August 2019, at 12:31 CET

Watch video-interview with Sara Olsvig from the international seminar on "Right to Autonomy and Indigenous Self-Government as a manifestation of the Right to Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples" held in March 2019, in Mexico.

Read more about indigenous autonomies and the current trends here >>


Tags: Land rights



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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