thisisbossi / Flickr Kulusuk, Ostgronland, Greenland, June 9, 2011.

Can Greenland Race Ahead?

Letter From Nuuk

Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond arrived at the opening ceremony for this fall’s session of the Greenlandic parliament smiling and waving to the people. Everything seemed to be going according to tradition. Hammond and the other female members of parliament were dressed in high boots made of sealskin and anoraks decorated with pearl collars and pieces of dyed seal leather. Except for the minister of finance, decked in trousers made of polar bear fur, the men sported more modest black pants and white anoraks. All in all, the group made for quite a scene as it gathered in the Church of Our Savior in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland.

During the service, Hammond, who headed Siumut (Forward), the social democratic party, could finally enjoy a quiet moment in her home country. She had just returned from a busy schedule in the United States, where she was the keynote speaker at the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and at the Climate Summit in New York. Right after that, she had flown to Washington to deliver a speech at the Brookings Institution on the status of Greenland’s underground mineral riches and to open Greenland's first diplomatic office in the United States.

But for Hammond, the respite was short-lived. Sitting in church, the assembled leaders strained to hear their own voices, their hymns drowned out by a cacophony outside. After the service, as the doors opened, the politicians were confronted with the source of the noise: a crowd of more than 1,000 disgruntled Greenlanders roaring, “Enough, Aleqa! Bye, bye!” Later, Hammond would write on Facebook that she feared for her life.

Just a year and a half ago, the 49-year-old Hammond had achieved a record electoral success when she won 22.6 percent of all votes in the general election, paving the way for Siumut to regain power after four years in opposition. Her popularity was partly due to her promise to work toward winning Greenland’s independence from Denmark. But lofty goals were soon

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