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Greenland Renewed

© Kiliii Yuyan

For one week each summer, Greenlanders don sealskin parkas, seal themselves into traditional kayaks, and paddle out to sea for the Greenland National Kayaking Championships. Greenlanders have kayaked for millennia, but in this post-subsistence economy, kayaking signifies a new national identity.

The National Championships are one of the most visible efforts by Greenlanders to renew their identities after centuries of colonization. Colonization by Denmark officially ended in 1979 after Greenlanders voted for self-governance and home rule. After decades of forced and rapid modernization, Greenlanders have embraced going back to their Inuit roots as they seek to reinvent themselves.

Today Greenland is composed of a population mixed between ethnic Inuit and ethnic Danes. Across Greenland, the influence of Danish culture is evident, from primary-colored Scandinavian architecture to the transformation of hunting and fishing from subsistence to a market economy.

In the face of increasing globalization, it’s no surprise that Greenland has embraced a revival of aboriginal Inuit traditions. Even as Greenland moves away from extractive industry, tourists have increased, drawn by the allure of the natural beauty of icebergs and dogsleds. It’s a far cry from the eighties and nineties, when it seemed that alcoholism and suicide would consume this nation of recent hunter-gatherers. Greenland today has a different energy—modern, unique, and full of hope.

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