01 MAY 1978
to the Inaugural Meeting
of the Greenland Landsting
Your Majesty, Mr. Chemnitz, Mr. Motzfeldt, it was an honor for me to be invited to participate in this inaugural of Greenland’s home rule government, and to speak to this Landsting about my hopes and aspirations for home rule in Greenland, and for all Inuit.
As we celebrate this inauguration, we can take pride and satisfaction in beginning here an important new chapter in North American democratic constitutional development. Greenland has become a symbol of new world democratic unity with the old world, and Denmark has become an important part of our North American community. I know Denmark is not often viewed in these terms, but it may be useful to know how Greenland’s home rule within the Danish realm is viewed from Alaska.
As we have watched Greenland’s home rule movement progress from our view in Alaska, it has reminded us of our own struggle for statehood. We wondered in 1959 if we could actually rise to meet the level of our own high expectations under home rule, just as many of you might wonder today. Twenty years later, we Alaskans know democratic political self-determination made all the difference in Alaska’s social and economic progress.
So, with benefit of this hindsight, I know Greenland will flourish under home rule, and you will exceed your most hopeful expectations.
There are many parallels between us. Twenty years since statehood, Alaska has become the hope for America’s economic security. So will Greenland become the future of Denmark. Both Denmark and Alaska share a common Arctic destiny with the Inuit. The quality of cooperation this sharing requires is being achieved through the political and economic power of home rule.
Home rule is new to the North American Arctic. The cooperative relationships of sharing jurisdiction are under development in both Alaska and Greenland. The home rule governments of both Greenland and the North Slope Borough share common problems, one of the most difficult of these is the problem of large areas of the North American Arctic not yet under the safe administration of local home rule government both in Canada and Alaska. This should be understood as a mutual problem of Arctic environmental security, for I believe nothing less than home rule can be trusted to protect our entire Inuit circumpolar homeland from environmental harm both on shore and offshore.
Faced with the benefits and rewards of Arctic resource development, we must also deal effectively with the environmental dangers this development will bring. And we must fairly share in this development. It was these commonly-shared responsibilities that led to the organization of the Siumut in Greenland. Siumut leadership led to the Arctic peoples conference in Copenhagen in 1973; was important to the organization of the World Council of Indigenous People, Port Alberni, 1975; was key to the successful organization of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in arrow in 1977; and now has organized Greenland’s new home rule government in Nuk in 1979. This kind of leadership is important to the Arctic. It must continue.
Over the coming weeks and months you will be negotiating new political and administrative relationships with Copenhagen. I hope Greenland will play a strong role in helping to determine Denmark’s foreign policy toward other Arctic nations. As Danish you enjoy high international esteem which translates into great national diplomatic strength. My hope is for Greenland to persuade the Danish government to enlist this strength in the defense of our common Inuit homeland.
We have watched the growing diplomatic and economic cooperation between Denmark and Alaska. I’m hoping these ties can be used to begin discussing badly-needed Arctic environmental policy agreements between the United States, Denmark, and Canada.
It was this kind of cooperation we had in mind when many of Greenland’s Siumut leadership traveled to Barrow two years ago to the work of such Greenlanders as Robert Petersen, Moses Olsen, Carl Christian Olsen, Ove Rosing Olsen, Jens Lyberth, and others. We have come to the point where this week our ICC executive committee will try to make a final draft of an international charter for the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. Moses Olsen will represent Greenland in this work. We hope to complete this work by this coming August, and to begin circulating the draft for comment and review.
It has been suggested to me by Siumut leaders that Greenland may host the second General Assembly of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in July 1980. I hope this is possible. If so, I foresee this second General Assembly working to adopt the ICC charter pending its ratification by our people on a village-by-village basis all across our homeland, from Greenland to Siberia. Once ratified, our Inuit Circumpolar Conference will bring satisfaction and credit to all Inuit, and to Denmark, Canada, the United States, and the USSR — all nations of which we are loyal and patriotic citizens.
Until three or four years ago, the only Greenlanders we had met in Alaska was Knud Rasmussen and his party. His visit created quite a stir in our region, for most of my life Greenland has been a largely unknown and far-away land. But we are whalers, and it is good we have drawn closer and are working together again. Speaking for all of our people, I want to thank Greenland for her help with our trouble with the International Whaling Commission.
You are now a home rule government, a tremendous positive move. Guard it with your life, and make it work for all of us.