Gay Greenland News & Reports

1 Recognition of sexual orientation: The Scandinavian Model

2 Glacial ice is melting across the Arctic Circle 1/07 (non-gay background story)

3 Greenland to introduce discrimination protection for gays 7/08

4 Fondly, Greenland Loosens Danish Rule 6/09


Country information:
Greenland Guide
Wikipedia Greenland

The population of Greenland is predominantly Inuit, a people bearing an affinity and solidarity with the Inuits of Canada, Alaska and Siberia. It is only 140 years since the last immigration from Canada took place. The Greenlandic people are few in number: 55,000 in an enormous country (slightly more than three times the size of Texas). About twenty percent of the population was born outside Greenland.

Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but since the introduction of Home Rule in 1979 Greenland has moved towards relative independence based on parliamentary democracy.

Today fishing is the all-dominating trade and accounts for 95 percent of total exports, but in the hunter districts of the outer areas, the seal and whale catch is of great importance. It actually forms the stable existence for one fifth of the Greenlandic population. For millennia the philosophy has been to live at one with nature. The hunters live with nature and follow the natural seasons. In South Greenland ruins from the norse (viking) settlers 1,000 years ago are well preserved, including the ruins of the first Christian churches on the North America continent.

The symbols of the ancient culture are still alive even in the larger towns. Many people build and use their own kayak as you’ll see in every harbour. The old drum dance is performed by a growing number of artists. The musical and theatrical life is largely based on myths and sagas conveyed in a modern form.

Regarding the term ‘Eskimo’:
“ Although Eskimo is still widely used, it is a pejorative term that was adopted by Europeans (it means, roughly, ‘eaters of raw meat’). The term Inuit (plural, Inuit) is…the recommended alternative. Native peoples of northern Canada, Alaska, eastern Siberia, and Greenland may prefer Inuit (Inuit for plural) to Eskimo. Alaska natives include many groups in addition to Eskimo.”

A profile of HIV-risk behaviours among travellers–a population based study of Danes visiting Greenland

Melbye M, Biggar RJ.
Epidemiology Research Unit, State Serum Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The population of Greenland has behavioural characteristics that indicate a high risk of HIV spread once HIV is introduced into the population. Much depends, however, on the degree of exposure from visitors, particularly in an initial phase. We used a national questionnaire survey of 4,680 randomly selected Danes between 18-59 years to study HIV risk behaviours among Danes with (+travellers) and without (-travellers) travel experience to Greenland. Median number of lifetime sexual partners was more than twice as high among male +travellers (median = 12 partners) compared to -travellers (median = 5; p < 0.0001) and also slightly higher among women (p = 0.03).

Furthermore, a significantly higher percentage of male +travellers than -travellers reported prostitute contact (OR = 2.3 (95% CI: 1.4-3.9)), with a peak of 32.0% among men aged 40-49 years. A history of a sexually transmitted disease was three times (95% CI: 2.0-4.5) as common among +travellers as in -travellers. +Travellers were also significantly more likely to have visited other places outside Europe and Greenland, including HIV endemic areas (OR = 2.9 (2.0-4.1)). Overall, sexual contact with someone considered at high risk of HIV infection (a homo/bisexual man, intravenous drug user, prostitute, or previous or present resident of Sub-Saharan Africa) was reported by 33.5% of male +travellers compared to 15.6% of -travellers and among women by 9.7% and 5.0%, respectively. In conclusion, travellers tend to have more sexual partners and more sexual interaction with high HIV-risk group members than non-travellers.(abstract truncated at 250 words)
PMID: 7846479 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Recognition of sexual orientation: The Scandinavian Model

by Steffen Jensen
This paper will primarily summarize the development of the legal situation for gay men and lesbians in Denmark: penal code development, anti-discrimination laws and the law on registered partnership. The relation to EU regulations will be touched upon and the legal situation in the other Scandinavian countries will be mentioned.

Penal code development in Denmark (including Greenland)
From 1683 to 1866 male homosexual acts were punishable with the death penalty, which also was the case before 1683, but no Dane was ever executed for homosexuality; in all known cases the penalty was changed to imprisonment. From 1866 the penalty was changed to imprisonment. The ban on male homosexuality was repealed as part of a major penal code reform in 1930. The penal code did still distinguish between homosexual and heterosexual relations in e.g. prostitution, age of consent, rape etc. The age of consent was 18 for homosexual relations (21 in case of seduction) and 15 for heterosexual relations (18 in case of seduction).

In 1961 there was a setback in the sense that a law criminalizing the person who pays in a male prostitution relationship, if the other person is under the age of 21 years was introduced. After much public attention and pressure from the gay community the law was repealed in 1965. The main reason for repealing the article was that it constituted a discrimination of homosexual acts.
In 1967 total equality between heterosexuals and homosexuals in the penal code was reached as far as the regulations on prostitution and seduction are concerned.

In 1976 the same age of consent (15 years) was introduced for both hetero- and homosexual relations. And finally in 1981 the same penalty was introduced for sex crimes involving two persons of the same sex as for sex crimes involving persons of the opposite sex and after that there is no more any discriminatory regulations on homosexuality or homosexuals in the penal code – or anywhere else in the legislation.

In 1981 homosexuality was removed from the heath authorities’ list of diseases and in 1984 the Parliament decided to set up a commission on investigating the conditions for homosexuals in the Danish society. The commission published a preliminary report on homosexuals and inheritance tax in 1986, leading to a law on reduced inheritance tax for gay/lesbian couples to the same amount as for married couples. The commissions ‘s final report was published in 1988.

Anti discrimination laws
Denmark has three anti-discrimination laws concerning sexual orientation. The anti-discrimination provision in the penal code was changed in 1987 after recommendation of the above mentioned commission to include sexual orientation, so that it now reads:
” Persons who publicly or deliberately disseminate statements or other reports by which any group of people are threatened, ridiculed or degraded on account of their racial origin, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, beliefs or sexual orientation, are liable to fines, short-term detention or imprisonment for up to two years.”

At the same time the law forbidding discrimination on grounds of race etc. was changed also to include sexual orientation, so that it now reads: ” Any person who within commercial or other activity declines to treat an individual on the same basis as others on ground of racial origin, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, beliefs or sexual orientation, shall be punishable by fines, short-term detention or imprisonment for up to six month.”

These two laws do not, however, cover the private labour market, and it was not until last year before we got a law on anti-discrimination in the private labour market in Denmark. The law now includes sexual orientation as an area of non-discrimination in the private labour market.

The law defines ‘discrimination’ as any direct or indirect form of discrimination based on race, colour, religion, political belief, sexual orientation, national, social or ethnic origin. According to the law it is forbidden for an employer to discriminate an employee – or a person who seeks employment – at hiring, firing, replacement, promotion, salary or other work conditions. Furthermore it is forbidden to discriminate as far as access to education and training and in-service-training is concerned.

The law is not valid for companies with an explicit purpose to promote a specific political or religious purpose.
In the remarks to the bill the inclusion of sexual orientation is motivated by the fact that sexual orientation is included in the rest of the Danish anti-discrimination provisions. The law came into force by July 1st 1996.
Partnership law

The majority of the commission set up by the parliament did not propose regulations for homosexual couples, but a proposal on a registered partnership similar to marriage from a minority of the commission was taken to parliament by a group of parties in the parliament who represented a majority in parliament – in opposition to the then government.

The history of the partnership bill and a description of the political and social environment in Denmark leading up to the worlds first law on homosexual couples is given in an article by two of the leading figures in the process, Bent Hansen and Henning Jørgensen
And thus in 1989 Denmark got a law on registered partnership for two persons of the same sex. The law enables two persons of the same sex to register their partnership and gives them apart from some exception the same rights and responsibilities as a heterosexual married couple.

In 1999 the law was changed so that the provision on citizenship was changed into a provision on citizenship either in Denmark or in a country having similar legislation. And also two foreigners who have lived two years in Denmark can register their partnership.
Furthermore a partner in a registered partnership can now adopt the children of her/his partner.

After these changes the exceptions are
. a registered couple can not adopt foreign children,
. there is no possibility of church wedding and
. one of the partners in a registered partnership must be a Danish citizen or citizen in a country with similar legislation and live in Denmark, or both (foreign) partners must have lived in Denmark for at least two years.

Apart from these exceptions the conditions are exactly the same as for heterosexual marriage. The wedding is the same as for civil marriage and the divorce regulations are the same.

The law is not valid outside Denmark, so the condition that one of the partners must live in Denmark is obviously relevant. The condition about citizenship was not in the original bill, but was introduced during parliamentary debate on initiative of the right wing Progress Party.A committee set up by the Danish bishops released its report in June 1997 recommending to the bishops that gay and lesbians partnerships should have the possibility of some kind of church blessing.

The committee proposed three different ways
. a blessing similar to the one given to heterosexual couples who want a blessing of their civil marriage
. another kind of blessing taking into account that the couple is gay/lesbian
. an intercessory prayer for the couple.

The result has so far been that priests can bless a registered couple in the church, but they may not use the same ritual as for marriage.

Just a few days after the report to the bishops was released the Danish Parliament banned assisted insemination for lesbians.
The bill was originally proposed in a form including no constraints as for who could be treated. During the second hearing in the parliament on the law a change was passed claiming marriage or marriage-like partnership between man and woman in order to obtain assisted insemination.

The National Danish Organisation for Gays and Lesbians made a huge lobbying campaign in the parliament, and in the third and final hearing three amendments were put forward. One would remove the article introduced, whereas another would narrow down its applicability to insemination where the conception is made exterior to the body. This would make it possible to provide artificial insemination to lesbians. A third amendment would make available treatment to lesbians if the identity of the male donor was known. All of the three proposals fell.

Thus from October 1st 1997 assisted insemination in a medical environment is no longer available to lesbians, neither in public hospitals nor in private clinics. Several doctors have already said publicly that they will not ask questions about the private life of women seeking their assistance in insemination. The law does not, however, regulate non-clinical treatment. Thus artificial insemination in private is not criminalized.

This was the first time since 1961 the Danish parliament has voted against the interests of lesbians and gay men.
After the election to the parliament in the spring 1998 some members of parliament tried to amend the law to allow lesbian couples and single women to get assisted insemination in hospitals, but a majority in parliament were still against it.
Greenland and the Faro Islands are independent parts of Denmark, and the local parliament make their own laws or adopt Danish laws. The partnership law is also valid in Greenland, but not in the Faro Islands.

The Other Nordic countries
The legal situation for lesbians and gay men in the other Nordic countries are quite similar to the situation in Denmark.
Norway, Sweden and Iceland do not have any discriminatory measures in their legislation, while Finland still has a prohibition on “promoting” and “encouraging” homosexuality – but the law is in the process of being changed right now.

Finland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden do all have anti-discrimination laws, but the Swedish and the Norwegian do not cover the private labour market and the Swedish law do not cover incitement to hatred.

Norway, Sweden and Iceland have partnership laws similar to the Danish one. The Swedish law includes a clause that means that similar partnerships founded in other countries are automatically recognised in Sweden. The Icelandic law gives the possibility of common custody of children for a registered couple.

The Nordic ministries of justice have agreed that in practice partnerships from one of the countries will be recognised in the other, but as all four laws do have the citizen prerequisite some rather odd situations can occur. E.g. an actual case exists of two Swedish gay men, who have been living together in Norway for 25 years and can not register their partnership either in Norway (because both are non Norwegian citizens) nor in Sweden (because they do not live in Sweden). In all other aspects Nordic citizens are treated exactly as citizens of the country in question. A common Nordic labour market and totally free movement of people within the Nordic countries are the basis of the Nordic co-operation.

As mentioned above a bill to change the Danish partnership law has been forward in the fall of 1998 so that this problem will be solved, and similar legislation is being prepared in Sweden.

Relations to EU treaties and regulations
One of the basic elements in the foundation of The European Union is the free movement of people, and according to the Union treaties discrimination based on nationality is prohibited (where the treaty is applicable).

The citizen clause in the Nordic partnership laws is in contradiction with these fundamental provisions in the European Union treaties. A gay or lesbian couple from another EU country living in Denmark cannot obtain the same rights as if one of the partners was Danish – and that is discrimination based on nationality.

The other way around, a Danish registered couple cannot move to another EC member state and obtain the same rights as a married couple – as they can in Denmark. Even though there is a provision of bringing a spouse with you if you as an EC citizen go to another EC country to have a job, your same sex spouse is not in general permitted to stay in the country. Only one positive exception to this is known: A Danish lesbian who got a job in the Netherlands, was allowed to bring her partner.

When formally registered spouses cannot be brought, then of course other same sex partners can either. This is a main obstacle for the free movement of gay people.

The above mentioned possible change of the law on registered partnership so that the partnership will be open to all resident in Denmark will only solve the problem partly, as the partnership will still not be recognised outside Denmark – or other countries having similar legislation.

However, with the introduction of a Dutch partnership law – and the inclusion of an anti-discrimination clause in the treaty of Amsterdam – the avenue to mutual recognition of gay/lesbian marriage within the EU is opening up.

The concept of family
One of the basic elements of society in all EU member states is the family. And the family is traditionally considered as man, woman and children. Any other grouping of people living together are some places seen as a threat against the concept of family and against society itself.

If full equality shall be obtained and homosexuals be respected and considered as citizens of the society, the concept of family must be challenged. Efforts must be taken to establish a new definition of the family, the homosexual family consisting of man and man or woman and woman with or without children must be introduced.

It is essential that we not only obtain legal recognition of the homosexual family, but also a social and cultural recognition of gay/lesbian families. This is a huge task, and it will demand much work, openness and visibility.

. Homosexuality: A European Community Issue (Ed. Kees Waldijk and Andrew Clapham) , Dordrecht, Boston, London 1993.
. Registreret Partnerskab, Samliv og Velsignelse, Århus 1997 – also available on the Internet at – including summaries in other languages.
. Third Pink Book, New York 1993.
. Homoseksuelle og Arveafgift, Betænkning nr. 1065, Copenhagen 1986
. Homosexuelles Vilkår, Betænkning nr. 1127, Copenhagen 1988
. Wilhelm von Rosen: Månens Kulør, Copenhagen 1993.
. EuroLetter,
. Linda Nielsen: Family Rights and the Registered Partnership in Denmark, International Journal of Law and Family 4, 1990.

January 16, 2007New York Times

Glacial ice is melting across the Arctic Circle
(non-gay background story)

by Jeff Shea
Dennis Schmitt, a 60-year-old explorer, discovered an island in Greenland that had been bound to the mainland. When it had disappeared over the horizon, no sound remained but the howling of the Arctic wind. “ It feels a little like the days of the old explorers, doesn’t it?” Dennis Schmitt said. Mr. Schmitt, a 60-year-old explorer from Berkeley, Calif., had just landed on a newly revealed island 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle in eastern Greenland. It was a moment of triumph: he had discovered the island on an ocean voyage in September 2005. Now, a year later, he and a small expedition team had returned to spend a week climbing peaks, crossing treacherous glaciers and documenting animal and plant life. Despite its remote location, the island would almost certainly have been discovered, named and mapped almost a century ago when explorers like Jean-Baptiste Charcot and Philippe, Duke of Orléans, charted these coastlines. Would have been discovered had it not been bound to the coast by glacial ice.

Maps of the region show a mountainous peninsula covered with glaciers. The island’s distinct shape — like a hand with three bony fingers pointing north — looks like the end of the peninsula. Now, where the maps showed only ice, a band of fast-flowing seawater ran between a newly exposed shoreline and the aquamarine-blue walls of a retreating ice shelf. The water was littered with dozens of icebergs, some as large as half an acre; every hour or so, several more tons of ice fractured off the shelf with a thunderous crack and an earth-shaking rumble. All over Greenland and the Arctic, rising temperatures are not simply melting ice; they are changing the very geography of coastlines. Nunataks — “lonely mountains” in Inuit — that were encased in the margins of Greenland’s ice sheet are being freed of their age-old bonds, exposing a new chain of islands, and a new opportunity for Arctic explorers to write their names on the landscape. “ We are already in a new era of geography,” said the Arctic explorer Will Steger. “This phenomenon — of an island all of a sudden appearing out of nowhere and the ice melting around it — is a real common phenomenon now.”

In August, Mr. Steger discovered his own new island off the coast of the Norwegian island of Svalbard, high in the polar basin. Glaciers that had surrounded it when his ship passed through only two years earlier were gone this year, leaving only a small island alone in the open ocean. “ We saw it ourselves up there, just how fast the ice is going,” he said. With 27,555 miles of coastline and thousands of fjords, inlets, bays and straits, Greenland has always been hard to map. Now its geography is becoming obsolete almost as soon as new maps are created. Hans Jepsen is a cartographer at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, which produces topographical maps for mining and oil companies. (Greenland is a largely self-governing region of Denmark.) Last summer, he spotted several new islands in an area where a massive ice shelf had broken up. Mr. Jepsen was unaware of Mr. Schmitt’s discovery, and an old aerial photograph in his files showed the peninsula intact.

“ Clearly, the new island was detached from the mainland when the connecting glacier-bridge retreated southward,” Mr. Jepsen said, adding that future maps would take note of the change. The sudden appearance of the islands is a symptom of an ice sheet going into retreat, scientists say. Greenland is covered by 630,000 cubic miles of ice, enough water to raise global sea levels by 23 feet.
Carl Egede Boggild, a professor of snow-and-ice physics at the University Center of Svalbard, said Greenland could be losing more than 80 cubic miles of ice per year. “ That corresponds to three times the volume of all the glaciers in the Alps,” Dr. Boggild said. “If you lose that much volume you’d definitely see new islands appear.” He discovered an island himself a year ago while flying over northwestern Greenland. “Suddenly I saw an island with glacial ice on it,” he said. “I looked at the map and it should have been a nunatak, but the present ice margin was about 10 kilometers away. So I can say that within the last five years the ice margin had retreated at least 10 kilometers.”

The abrupt acceleration of melting in Greenland has taken climate scientists by surprise. Tidewater glaciers, which discharge ice into the oceans as they break up in the process called calving, have doubled and tripled in speed all over Greenland. Ice shelves are breaking up, and summertime “glacial earthquakes” have been detected within the ice sheet. “ The general thinking until very recently was that ice sheets don’t react very quickly to climate,” said Martin Truffer, a glaciologist at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. “But that thinking is changing right now, because we’re seeing things that people have thought are impossible.” A study in The Journal of Climate last June observed that Greenland had become the single largest contributor to global sea-level rise. Until recently, the consensus of climate scientists was that the impact of melting polar ice sheets would be negligible over the next 100 years. Ice sheets were thought to be extremely slow in reacting to atmospheric warming. The 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, widely considered to be an authoritative scientific statement on the potential impacts of global warming, based its conclusions about sea-level rise on a computer model that predicted a slow onset of melting in Greenland. “ When you look at the ice sheet, the models didn’t work, which puts us on shaky ground,” said Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University.

There is no consensus on how much Greenland’s ice will melt in the near future, Dr. Alley said, and no computer model that can accurately predict the future of the ice sheet. Yet given the acceleration of tidewater-glacier melting, a sea-level rise of a foot or two in the coming decades is entirely possible, he said. That bodes ill for island nations and those who live near the coast. “ Even a foot rise is a pretty horrible scenario,” said Stephen P. Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University in Miami. On low-lying and gently sloping land like coastal river deltas, a sea-level rise of just one foot would send water thousands of feet inland. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide make their homes in such deltas; virtually all of coastal Bangladesh lies in the delta of the Ganges River. Over the long term, much larger sea-level rises would render the world’s coastlines unrecognizable, creating a whole new series of islands.

“ Here in Miami,” Dr. Leatherman said, “we’re going to have an ocean on both sides of us.” Such ominous implications are not lost on Mr. Schmitt, who says he hopes that the island he discovered in Greenland in September will become an international symbol of the effects of climate change. Mr. Schmitt, who speaks Inuit, has provisionally named it Uunartoq Qeqertoq: the warming island. Global warming has profoundly altered the nature of polar exploration, said Mr. Schmitt, who in 40 years has logged more than 100 Arctic expeditions. Routes once pioneered on a dogsled are routinely paddled in a kayak now; many features, like the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in Greenland’s northwest, have disappeared for good. “ There is a dark side to this,” he said about the new island. “We felt the exhilaration of discovery. We were exploring something new. But of course, there was also something scary about what we did there. We were looking in the face of these changes, and all of us were thinking of the dire consequences.”

July 30, 2008 – PinkNews

Greenland to introduce discrimination protection for gays

by T’Kisha George
A new law that makes it illegal to discriminate against homosexuals is to be introduced in Greenland as it emerged that gay men struggle with homosexuality more than women do. Greenland’s news site Sermitsiak reported that the law, which legal experts said was not necessary until now, is set to take effect in 2010. Homosexuality hasn’t been something that has been important for people,? Søren Volder, chief legal advisor for the Home Rule government told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper.

Greenland, a self-governing Danish province with a population of 56,000, is the only Nordic country without such legislation. Historian Jens Rydstöm believes that while lesbians can fulfil traditional female roles, gay men are often thought of as incapable of performing masculine tasks such as hunting, and are discriminated against. Passing the law has enormous symbolic value,? said Rydstöm. “This is an important message to send to Greenland’s gays and lesbians,” he said. ? He suggested that a combination of the media’s willingness to report about homosexuality and legislation preventing discrimination could help it become more acceptable.

June 22, 2009 – The New York Times

Fondly, Greenland Loosens Danish Rule

by Sarah Lyall
Nuuk, Greenland – The thing about being from Greenland, said Susan Gudmundsdottir Johnsen, is that many outsiders seem to have no clue where it actually is.
“They say, ‘Oh, my God, Greenland?’ It’s like they’ve never heard of it,” said Ms. Johnsen, 36, who was born in Iceland but has lived on this huge, largely frozen northern island for 25 years. “I have to explain: ‘Here you have a map. Here’s Europe. The big white thing is Greenland.’ ”

But Greenland, with 58,000 people and only two traffic lights, both of them here in the capital, is now securing its place in the world. On Sunday, amid solemn ceremony and giddy celebration, it ushered in a new era of self-governance that sets the stage for eventual independence from Denmark, its ruler since 1721. The move, which allows Greenland to gradually take responsibility over areas like criminal justice and oil exploration, follows a referendum last year in which 76 percent of voters said they wanted self-rule. Many of the changes are deeply symbolic. Kalaallisut, a traditional Inuit dialect, is now the country’s official language, and Greenlanders are now recognized under international law as a separate people from Danes.

Thrillingly, the Greenlandic government now gets to call itself by its Inuit name, Naalakkersuisut — the first time in history, officials said, that the word has been used in a Danish government document. “It’s a new relationship based on equality,” said Greenland’s new, charismatic prime minister, Kuupik Kleist, speaking of the balance of power between Greenland and Denmark. He compared the situation to a marriage in which the wife was bossing around her henpecked husband. “From today,” he said, “the man in the house has as much say as the wife.”

But this is a delicate time, full of hope and trepidation in equal measure. Few Greenlanders graduate from college. The country is rife with social problems like alcoholism, unemployment and domestic violence. Infrastructure improvements are punishingly expensive and desperately needed in a place where, for instance, people travel by boat or plane because there are no roads connecting towns. Meanwhile, global warming is rapidly melting the mighty icecap that covers some 80 percent of Greenland’s 840,000 square miles. Although that is destroying traditional hunting livelihoods, it also brings new opportunities for exploring and exploiting what could be vast reserves of oil and minerals deep beneath Greenland’s surface and in the waters around it.

Under the new self-government agreement, Greenland will get half of any proceeds from oil or minerals. The other half will go to Denmark, to be deducted from the grant of 3.4 billion kroner, or $637 million, that it gives Greenland each year. The hope is that eventually the subsidy can cease altogether and Greenland will be ready for independence. The prospect of Greenland’s benefiting from what may be a lucrative oil and mineral business raises an obvious question: What’s in it for Denmark?

“It’s not a question about money,” the Danish prime minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, said in an interview here. “This is a question of respecting Greenlandic people and giving them the right to decide their own destiny.” The right to self-determination, particularly for indigenous people like Greenland’s Inuit, more commonly known as Eskimos, was a recurring theme this weekend. Two exotically dressed visitors from Norway’s Sami Parliament, which represents the country’s reindeer herders, appeared at a trade exposition here on Saturday, marveling at how far the Greenlanders had come.

“They’re many steps farther along than we are,” said Marianne Balto, Parliament’s vice president. “It gives hope to the Sami people.” Iceland’s president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, was there, looking at it from the other side, recalling how his country ended hundreds of years of Danish rule with independence in 1944.

Bent Liisberg, a lawyer from Norway, which was owned for hundreds of years by Denmark and then by Sweden, had much the same perspective. On Sunday, he was carrying a backpack from which protruded a little Greenlandic flag, its red-and-white design representing the sea, sky and sun. “This is a great day for small nations,” he said. Nuuk is a curious city, where old, brightly colored wooden houses built by the original Danish settlers coexist with rows of down-on-their-heels apartment buildings that are almost Soviet in their soullessness. Its harbor is impossibly quaint and its views breathtakingly beautiful; its center is indifferently maintained and virtually paralyzed by traffic at 8 o’clock every morning, when the workday begins.

It has 15,000 residents, and many seemed to be out and about at 7:30 a.m., when the procession down to the harbor for the self-government celebrations began. It snowed the day before — giving a strange feeling at a time of year when there is virtually no darkness — but on Sunday the sun blazed across the water. Representatives from 17 countries and territories, including the United States and the Faroe Islands (also owned by Denmark), were there. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, wearing a traditional Inuit costume with shorts made of seal fur and a short, beaded shawl, solemnly handed over the official self-government document to the chairman of Greenland’s Parliament.

For Greenlanders, who can feel like second-class citizens in Denmark, the new arrangement bolsters a national pride they almost didn’t know they had.

“It is nothing that we will feel on a day-to-day basis, but the symbolic value of this gives people so much more confidence,” said Peter Lovstrom, 28, who works at the national art museum in Nuuk. He said it was impossible to feel rancor toward Denmark, given all of the intermarriage and connections between the countries. “We all get along. We have to get along,” Mr. Lovstrom said. “But I feel a bit more Greenlandic now.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: June 24, 2009
An article on Monday about Greenland’s moves toward eventual independence from Denmark misstated the Danish currency equivalent of the $637 million annual subsidy that Denmark gives to Greenland. It is 3.4 billion kroner, not 3.4 million.