About Greenland

Religion

The indigenous Inuit people held to shamanistic and animistic beliefs. In 1721, the Danish Lutheran Missionary, Hans Egede, sailed to Greenland to reach the Norse settlers not knowing he would encounter the Inuit people instead. Lutheranism is now the prevailing religion in Greenland. Greenland is considered an independent diocese in the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church with a bishop appointed by Denmark. Other religions and faiths of beliefs include the Roman Catholic Church, New Apostolic Church, the Evangelic Ebenezer, Bahá’í’s and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although most Inuit would call themselves Lutheran, they do not hold those beliefs but rather they have mixed their old shamanistic beliefs with their new Lutheran religion.

Background

The early indigenous Inuit population called their country “Inuit Nunaat” meaning “land of human beings.” Today the country is called Kalaallit Nunaat –“Land of the Greenlanders”. Greenland, the world’s largest island, is situated on the northern American continent between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada.  85% of the area is covered by an ice cap (this would cover New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas combined)  meaning that only 15% of the costal line is habitable. While banished from Iceland, Viking Erik the Red landed on Greenland. The story is told that Erik named the island Greenland to trick settlers; however, the southern tip of Greenland truly is green and lush in the summer time. Many believe that Erik was impressed with the resources of this new land and thus spread word of a new green land.  Danish colonization began in the 18th century, and Greenland was made an integral part of Denmark in 1953. It joined the European Community (now the EU) with Denmark in 1973 but withdrew in 1985 over a dispute centered on stringent fishing quotas. Greenland was granted self-government in 1979 by the Danish parliament.

The People

Approximately 4,000 years ago the first Eskimo migration took place and people living in Greenland today are descendents from the last migration (the Thule Culture) which took place around year 800 B.C. The Greenlanders call themselves “Kalaallit” and are an indigenous inuit people: Inuit meaning “human being”. They constitute 85 % of the population while the remaining are primarily Danes. During and after colonial times a proportion of the Inuit intermarried with Europeans, this is why many Greenlanders today can number Inuit and Europeans among their ancestors.

Population

The population of Greenland is 56,483 (2016) with approximately 15,000 inhabitants living in the capital Nuuk. The second largest city is Sisimiut (5300), followed by Ilulissat (4500) and Qaqortoq (3200) besides these four growth centers situated on the west coast there are 18 towns and 120 villages in which the rest of the population lives. Greenlandic settlements are defined by having inhabitants between 50 – 500.

Infrastructure

The only way to travel to Greenland is by airplane. Only two airstrips are able to handle the large, inbound, international planes. These runways are Kangerlussuaq in the West and Narsarsuaq in the South both of which are former American air bases. There are no roads between the towns on the coast so in order to get around locally you can travel with fixed wing planes, helicopters or by boat. From Nanortalik in the South to Sisimiut in the North-west you can sail the whole year; however, travel between Sisimiut and the Northern settlements starts, at the earliest, in May because of the frozen sea. The ships sail to towns and settlements along the coast and they carry passengers as well as cargo.

Climate

The average temperature in Greenland during the short summer months does not exceed 50 degrees (F). During the long, hard winters, temperatures in West and South Greenland average 18 degrees. On rare occasions, South Greenland temperatures reach 70 degrees during the summer and -27 in the winter. If the cold is too much to handle, a trip to the hot spring with 100 degree water in South Greenland is recommended.