09 / 08 / 2004
Upaluk Poppel, Inuit from Nuuk (Greenland)
It would be very boring if there were no differences
1.- What is most representative of the Inuit culture?
The Inuit people live in different states such as Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. There are 150,000 of us in total and we are different from one another. I, for example, feel like I have two identities, one from Greenland and one from Denmark, given that Greenland was colonized by Denmark. But Danish people and Inuit people have very different ways of thinking, of seeing the world. We are quieter and more reserved because our country was isolated for a long time and cut off from international relations. In any case, Inuits are Inuits wherever they are from, we all have a culture in common, as well as the language, the same stories, and the need to stay in touch with one another. We meet every four years in a different place, and in 2006 we will meet in Alaska.
2.- What do you consider to be information that is indispensable to pass on to future generations?
Keeping our language intact. It is important to pass it on to young people; just like it is important for them to learn our culture. Although today, with globalization, just like we need to protect, we also need to try to evolve because if you just try to keep what you have, you end up losing it.
3.- What should we learn from your people's non-indigenous societies?
Respect. For example, the Danish people do not speak my language because it is very difficult for them, and because we speak Danish. The problem is that we could end up losing our language. We need to reach a good understanding among the indigenous people and non-indigenous people, and be aware that it would be very boring if there were no differences and we were all the same, because cultural diversity is the most interesting thing we have. How could we live without an identity? If you have an identity you are alive, if you don't, you arenīt.
4.- Do indigenous people have to be linked to nature?
Yes, for us, it is very important because a good part of our people are hunters and nomads, and nature should be preserved and looked after. Currently, in Greenland, many species of animals and fish are disappearing.
5.- Should the indigenous people's fight for their identity be taken to a global, international level?
Yes. On the one hand, keeping one's identity is very difficult because internationally everything is becoming more and more mixed and more uniform; but, on the other hand, it is important for people to know about us to better understand and respect us.
6.- Why do you study human rights?
After WWII, Denmark and the USA reached an agreement to give part of our land to US militaries for research programs without taking our opinion into account, and, with this, many people felt obligated to go live in other places. This is something that had a great impact one me, and I want to help people to defend their rights and live better.
7.- In your language do you have a specific term you use to refer to the non-indigenous people? What does it mean?
Qallunaat, means Danish people
8.- What type of colonialism do you think should be confronted in the 21st century?
Today, it seems like there is no colonization, you don't see it because people use money nowadays, and it is much more subtle. Take us for example, the Inuit of Greenland, we want to be independent and recover our land, but the Danish government doesn't agree with us. Nonetheless, although they deny it, they offer us money to invest and improve our life conditions, and people often accept this money. Money makes people blind.
9.- How can we fight against the danger of losing cultural and human diversity in the world?
I don't think it can be stopped. But, I do think that it is important for there to be books and museums that take in and explain our culture so that they can be passed on and prevented from being lost. We should also defend our richness from leaving Greenland and from letting others make money by putting it on display, like with a large part of the Egyptian heritage, which is not in Egypt.
10.- What do you hope to achieve through this encounter at the Universal Forum of Cultures?
Contacts and relationships with people from all places in the world to reach a better understanding between different cultures.
11.- What is the dream of your people?
Independence to maintain our land and identity.