Greenland's Policy in the Seventies

  • Claus Bornemann
Keywords: Arctic medicine, Biochemistry, Ethnobotany, Medicines, Native peoples, Plants (Biology), Traditional knowledge


The year 1971 marked the beginning of an epoch in Greenland's policy. The colonial status of the island had been abolished a couple of decades before, and efforts had been initiated to introduce comprehensive reforms. The goal to be achieved was a rapid improvement of the population's standard of living .... At the election of the Provincial Council in Greenland in 1971 a new generation came to the fore, and several young politicians were elected whose attitude to the policy so far pursued was very critical. ... Insofar as the Greenlanders are concerned it is recognized that the political reforms have resulted in a considerable improvement in the material conditions of life, but it is maintained that the price has been too high. Serious social problems have followed in the wake of the rapid development, and the cultural life of Greenland has been endangered by the concentrated Danish humanitarian effort. The young people want a continuation of the policy of development, but at a slower pace, and with more consideration for the needs of the villages and the hunting districts. They want the political agencies in Greenland to be given added power, and think that the educational policy should be changed. More weight should be attached to Greenlandic within the schools, and the educational program should be planned to meet requirements in Greenland rather than just being a copy of the educational system in Denmark. The Danish influence making itself so heavily felt within the sector of private business in Greenland should be limited .... Greenlanders want to be allowed to decide their own affairs. ... It is expected that by the end of the 1970s the local administration, roads, power plants, schools, etc. will have been taken over entirely by the Greenlanders themselves. The role of the central government will be limited to the granting of subsidies in amounts which, on the whole, will be based on the number of inhabitants in each municipality. These proposed reforms, however, apparently do not satisfy the young politicians ... whose ultimate goal is Home Rule. ... One of the most difficult questions in connection with Home Rule for Greenland is how to combine any such system with the subsidy arrangement under which the Danish Government at the moment contributes Dkr. 700 million a year to Greenland. Normally, Home Rule would involve economic independence, but it is a serious question whether the economic resources of Greenland would be sufficient to finance the community in the process of development. The principal industry of Greenland - the fisheries - has during recent years been faced with considerable difficulties owing to an unfavourable climatic change, over-fishing and international restrictions. ... In connection with the Home Rule issue no desire has been expressed for complete severance from Denmark. ... The development of Greenland's policy during the coming years will be exciting. Quite a few Greenlanders are opposed to the out-spokenness of the new politicians and find their views too radical. It is now a question, of whether the young politicians can manage to stick together and whether they will be able to win the sympathy of the general public in Greenland for their views before the election of the Provincial Council in 1975.