Historians appointed to study of Greenland-Denmark relationship

Ilisimatusarfik, the University of Greenland. Denmark is providing 45 million DMK ($8.9 million CDN) to the Government of Greenland for the research project, which will be carried out by the University of Greenland. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Greenland and Denmark are moving forward on the joint study into their countries’ past relationship with the appointment of two historians to the research leadership team this month.

Daniel Thorleifsen, who has served as the director of Greenland’s National Museum & Archives since 2005, previously held the position of head of institute at Ilisimatusarfik, the University of Greenland.

Tenna Jensen has headed the University of Greenland’s Centre for Arctic Welfare since 2021 and been a senior researcher at the Center for Public Health in Greenland and University of Southern Denmark since 2022.

“We look forward to the launch of the historical study with the appointment of the research leadership team,” Vivian Motzfeldt, Greenland’s Minister of Independence and Foreign Affairs, said in a statement Feb. 20.

Historians Daniel Thorleifsen and Tenna Jensen will head the research leadership team into Greenland-Denmark relations. (Ilisimatusarfik, the University of Greenland)

The knowledge of our language, our history and research is present in the research leadership team and has been a part of our society during the period that the study will shed light on.”

Study areas include settlement shutdowns, foster family experiment 

The investigation into the historical relations between Denmark and Greenland was first announced by Greenland’s Prime Minister Múte Bourup Egede  and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in 2022. 

The study will span from World War II to the present day, and examine the key political decisions, events, and actions that affected the Greenlandic population, shaped Greenland’s development, and influenced its relationship with Denmark.

Areas the researchers will explore include the shutting down of Inuit settlements and the relocation of Greenlandic children to foster families in Denmark during the 1950s

Múte Bourup Egede, Greenland’s Prime Minister, and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, sign a joint declaration in 2022 on the need for a report into the history of the relationship between their two nations. (Government of Greenland)

Denmark is providing 45 million DMK ($8.9 million CDN) to the Government of Greenland for the research project, which will be carried out by the University of Greenland.

“With Daniel Thorleifsen and Tenna Jensen, we have a strong team with solid roots in Greenland and broad experience in managing major research projects and research dissemination,” Christina Egelund, Greenland’s Minister of Education & Research, said.

“I look forward to the important work of the study now getting underway”.

The study will last five years and the final report will be available in Greenlandic and Danish.

The project’s start date is still to be determined.

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: “We still have a lot of healing to do with our fellow Canadians” – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation observed September 30, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Sami Parliament in Finland agrees more time needed for Truth and Reconciliation Commission preparation, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Danish PM apologizes to Greenlanders taken to Denmark as children in 1950s, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Can cross-border cooperation help decolonize Sami-language education, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: New chairman appointed to Sweden’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Eye on the Arctic

United States: “This isn’t just about Native people, this is about America,” say truth commission advocates, Eye on the Arctic

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