Nunavut helps Greenland celebrate home rule

Festivities marked by royal visit, fireworks and a day in the park



NUUK – Queen Margrethe of Denmark and her husband, Prince Henrik, were greeted by 27 cannon volleys as they disembarked from their yacht to celebrate the 25th anniversary of home rule in Greenland this past Monday.

Members of Nunavut’s political elite were among a group of 320 foreign dignitaries who traveled to Nuuk to commemorate the Home Rule Act passed by Danish parliament on May 1, 1979.

Greenland’s Inuit-run home rule parliament was a major inspiration for many of the Canadian Inuit leaders in the 1970s and 1980s who worked on the Nunavut project.

Six skilled kayakers entertained a crowd of 3,000 by demonstrating rolls in traditional kayaks in the cold, sparkling water, before forming an escort for the Queen’s trip into Colonial Harbour.

The neat row of officials lining the red carpet fell apart as people strained to watch Queen Margrethe ascend the wharf in the long red sealskin kamiks, colorful beaded collar and red silk traditionally worn by married Greenlandic women on ceremonial occasions. Prince Henrik wore his admiral’s uniform, laden with medals.

Premier Paul Okalik, and Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, joined the procession to the historic cathedral overlooking Colonial Harbour for a brief church ceremony.

Also attending were Environment Minster Olayuk Akesuk; CLEY Minister Louis Tapardjuk; Jobie Nutarak, speaker of the Legislative Assembly; Pita Aatami, president of Makivik Corp.; and Paul Kaludjak, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Jose Kusugak, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, had to cancel at the last minute.

Brian Herman, counsellor for political and cultural affairs at the Canadian Embassy in Denmark, attended in lieu of a Canadian ambassador. That post has been vacant since Alfonso Gagliano was recalled from Copenhagen in February.

After the early morning royal frenzy, the Queen spent most of the day behind closed doors with dignitaries from Greenland and other countries, while other Greenlanders enjoyed a day on the tundra, newly green after weeks of rainy weather, under a bright, clear sky.

Kids and adults played tug of war and held sack races. A group of musicians played lively accordion music, followed by a choir lead by two elders in traditional dress. Children waded into the calm sea, or played on the smooth, round rocks on the beach.

The smell of the sea was in the air as picnickers feasted on sun-dried halibut, muktuk, whale blubber, and Greenland raisin cake.

Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa, or Radio Greenland, later broadcast similar events happening simultaneously in the communities that dot the shores of the island.

At the gala dinner that evening in Katuaq, Nuuk’s cultural centre, Okalik joined the Queen’s table, along with the premier of Greenland, Hans Enoksen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Premier Jóannes Eidesgaard of the Faroe Islands.

In a speech, the Queen commented on the dignity and pride on display.

Enoksen and Fogh Rasmussen spoke on the theme of the celebration, “Tamatta akuusa,” or “let us all participate.” Each called on the Greenlandic people to take their future into their own hands, take an interest in their country, and participate in creating the potential for greater self-reliance.

Earlier, the two signed an agreement creating the Danish-Greenland Independence Commission, which will map out a new partnership between the two governments.

The longest day of the year went long into the night for many people. Fireworks exploded in the bay while younger people attended a concert headlined by Chilly Friday, a Greenland rock band.

About 600 young people arrived early to see Pamyua, a group made up of Alaskans, Greenlanders and Danes, and which combines funk music with traditional singing and dancing.

Iqaluit throat-singers Sylvia Watt-Cloutier and Madeleine Allakariallak, performing together as Aqsarniik, joined the group on stage for an encore.

The events made an impression on the Canadian delegates.

“We all started off all together at some point in history, and that’s very obvious when we come some place like here,” said Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

Interest in the celebrations was not limited to Greenland. The Danish Broadcast Corporation provided live coverage over the lunch hour in Denmark. Journalists followed the Queen throughout the day.

On Tuesday morning, another excited crowd gathered at the airport for a glimpse of the handsome Crown Prince Frederik and his new bride, Crown Princess Mary. One young Greenlander in traditional dress waved an Australian flag, in honour of the princess’s home land of Tasmania, Australia.

The pair visited the island for the first time since their much-celebrated wedding in May.

Since 1979, the Greenland Home Rule Government, Inatsisartut, has been responsible for almost all legislative matters except for foreign policy, mineral rights, the police and judicial system, and the Greenland military authority.

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