Danish policies of Greenland: We should decolonize our minds

Picture of Mikael Hertig

Mikael Hertig GNU LICENSE




By Mikael Hertig
M. of Sci. Pol.


Ny blok og hav, is

Qinngorput jan 2017

“Take it easy,” said the fox, “it’s just a transition.” It was being ripped off.


Greenland’s politics claims to be moving for independence:
“Decolonization of the minds”

I am Danish. I have repeatedly experienced that my programmed aproach to Greenland into some degree still is colonial, that means dominant. In a latent way, my Danish mindset still seems to be that of the colonizer.

We live all the time in the meantime. Since about 1970 until now, that is the last 50 years, the relationship between Greenland and Denmark has been characterized by the Greenlandic population’s desire for greater independence from Danish dominance. In the international postcolonial literature, the phrase “decolonization of minds” emerges. Here, my point of view is that the former colonial power must undo dominance, but maintain the relationship.

Greenland continues to be dependant  on many joints and edges of having been a Danish colony. Less power and dominance, greater empathy and understanding. It applies to both ways. The journey goes from control to trust.

Up north, the debate about Greenland’s independence has trumphed all agendas. It is felt as if the Greenlanders are thinking: “Let’s free ourselves from Denmark first, then we can always find out what kind of society we want afterwards.”




Denmark as disruptive element

Sundown Nuuk 2017

Sundown Malenesund Nuuk 2017
MH Photo GPL Licns

In Greenland, the overall policy is to raise the economic strength so that the country can become  independent without further loss of. On the one hand, it can be interpreted as a kind of: “It goes well, and what happens if we lose the yearly  grant that fills one-fifth of the gross domestic product?”


Denmark is the elephant in the room. We – the former colonial power – are evidently perceived as a disruptive element. It trumps everything else. Other topics are prioritized. The Greenlanders rarely discuss what kind of society the population now wants, in the meantime or later in the future. The Danes are going straight out first.

We, the Danes  can do something about it. We live for an infinitely long time in the meantime. The question then is what demands should we put in ourselves in Denmark. Here it is about encouraging the continued change in price that Danish Prime minister Mette Frederiksen’s government has already initiated. For example, the survivors of forced adoptions to Denmark are still waiting. They are still waiting for an apology. Let it come.



Called for rebellion


Picture of ship in harbor at Nuuk

Ship at Nussuaq Bay, Nuuk. MH photo GNU license

Greenland and Denmark live in symbiosis. Formally, colonial times are over, but what do we have? The rebellion against danification policy after the formal transition to equality with the 1953 Constitution was necessary. The Greenlanders would not find themselves in need of reform. They want to be themselves, become themselves and find themselves in the midst of the hybrid culture the population is already in.

The time after “danification period 1953-70”

The colonialist character in Danish politics after the 1953. constitution change  called for the rebellion of the Inuit trying to get their prisoner identity into a modern society.  First it. was manifest and then somewhat more latent, it continues to be told that the goal of their personal lives should be to become Danish.

The former Danish governments’ attitude to Greenland has, in addition to the speakers, been characterized by a self-indulgent expectation that the Greenlanders should be grateful for the yearly block grant (= 500 $ million)  and, moreover, worship  Denmark because of the “Danish values”; Hereby the Danes understand ideals of equality, democracy and freedom of speech and so on. Not how Danish society works in the Danish reality, Greenlanders in Denmark are daily discriminated against.

The Greenlanders have not felt fully respected for decades. The irritation has been gathered through years. It is a problem. The consequence is that the desire for formal independence breakes  the much larger question of Greenlandic identity and future.



Southern European dimension of inequality

"Hjorten" Cliff

“The Deer” Cliff

The Greenlandic society is characterized by very large problems with colonial roots. This inequality has many causes, but first and foremost, the fishing industry’s decisions to open and close shopping and factories set the agenda for how life in settlement or settlement unfolds. The capital ownership structure is a mixture of monopolism and state monopolies, and the inequality is of a Southern European scale. There are Danes involved in the ownership of the private part of the production apparatus.

The Danish way of dealing with Greenland has been a barrier for a very long time. Most recently, in 2013, Government of Greenland  invited  the Danish Government to take part in a reconciliation commission. It should look at the sins of the past from  both the Danish and Greenlandic side. There is plenty to address errors in the Danish-Greenlandic relationship.

As the presentation was, the aim was to achieve greater mutual understanding. As a rule, the Greenlanders are accused of having some sort of zero-fault culture. But Helle Thorning-Schmidt (at that time Danish Prime Minister) closed this.

Rebuilding trust – a Danish shift of paradigm


Udsigt til sund Nuuk

Nuuk 2017 GPL Licns Mikael Hertig

The story of Trump’s offer to buy Greenland and later the cancellation of meeting with the Danish Queen Margrethe II and Mette Frederiksen gave rise to the showing that a much-needed Danish paradigm shift in Greenland policy is on the way. Kingdom of Denmark (the name of the regential unity of Denmark, The Faroe Islands and Greenland) is under new orientation. Even before his accession, there were signs of a more respectful, more observant Danish Greenland policy.

The relationship between the Prime minister Mette Frederiksen (DK) and the chairman of the Greenlandic government (Kim Kielsen) seems somewhat more ideal than before. It’s a  beginning. If it continues like this in the coming years, this will be building up trust.

We must hope the good steps continue. The less Danish politics gets in the way of developing Greenland’s own self-understanding and political development, the better.
“Understanding is a journey into another’s land,” reads a Turkish poem. The less reflection on the exercise of power, theless prejudice, themore respect and understanding – the more time the Greenlanders can prioritize their societal vision.

In this way, the people of Greenland will be able to decide what society they want. There is a difference between liberation (liberation) and empowerment (independence).



It happens by decolonizing our minds in both countries.



Mikael Hertig is M of Sci Pol.  He has taught administrative law at the Management Academy in Nuuk and in the Personal Computer at the University of Greenland.

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