The Polar Eskimos or Inuit (big people) as they call themselves, is the northernmost human society in the world.
There territory stretched out from Steenstrup Glacier in the south to Humboldt Glacier
600 km further to the north.
The land and sea was exclusive hunting ground in Inuit possession. Not without risk for your life could you cross the invisible border between Inuit in the north and Kalaallit (Western Greenlander) in the south.
The population lived in many small settlements, especially around the two fjords systems Kangerlussuaq (Ingle field bank) and Uummannap Kangerlua (Wolstenholme Fjord) and in the northern part of Qimuseriaruaq (Melville Bay).
Inuit categorized the three districts as:
Oqqorliit: Those who live in shelter of the Southwestern wind (Northern district)
Akunnaarmiut: The middle population (the middle district)
Nigerliit: Those who live closest to the Southwestern wind (South district)
Northern of Oqqorliit lived Avannarliit: Those who live closest to the Northern wind.
This area was seldom populated, and when it was, only by a few.
Like with other Inuit peoples, it was the occurrence of natural resources, which decided how the Inuit lived, and to avoid overloading the different resources, Inuit moved to a different settlement when winter came.
The first documented contact with European civilization was in 1818 at Cape York. When John Ross with his two English warships followed by whaling ships, met with a small group Eskimos. They used dog sleds but didn't know kayaks. Since that day it was mainly
Cape York and Saunders Island that served as port of call for whaling boats and expeditions.
The Inuit was a bit reserved in the beginning and it was not until Robert Peary arrived in 1892 and in the following years that there were changes in their way of life. They got modern rifles and good knifes, and sledges with iron replaced their sledges of whalebones runners
Robert Peary was dependent on the Inuit for his expeditions in this area, and he reached his final goal (The North Pole) in 1909, that was his last trip to the arctic.
Denmark had not explored the area north of Upernavik and there were no relations between the Inuit and the Greenlandic population south of Melville Bay.
In 1902 "The literature Expedition" was outfitted, a expedition who's main objective was to study the cultural history of the West Greenlandic populations .
The members were:
Author, Ludvig Mylius-Eriksen
Artist, Lieutenant, Count Harald Moltke
Bachelor of Medicine Alfred Bertelsen
Jørgen Brønlund joined in after the arrival on Greenland.
The expedition had decided trying to get in contact with the Polar Eskimo population north of Melville Bay. The plan was to cross the bay with dogsleds and stay one month with the Eskimos and then carry on with the cultural studies along the coast.
The visit lasted almost 10 months, due to Harald Moltke's illness. This time was used to its fullest by Knud Rasmussen, who fell in love with the Inuit culture and this changed his life and the future of the Inuit.
When they returned over Melville Bay to Upernavik in January / February 1904, they were followed by some Inuit from Uummannaq, who for the first time visited their countrymen in western Greenland.
With this visit a relationship was formed, and every year since (until domestic flight was introduced) dog sledges have crossed Melville Bay.
In 1910 Knud Rasmussen established a partnership with Peter Freuchen a business company "Cape York Stationen Thule" at "North Star Bay" at the settlement Uummannaq, which was already at that time a popular settlement due to its central location.
The reason for the business company was in part the need for supply and in part that Knud Rasmussen knew of Norwegian and American plans on building there own business company on the spot.
When the Danish government would not run the place decided Knud Rasmussen to by private financing to establish and run the place with the following reasons:
1. To secure this part of Greenland to Denmark.
2.To outfit and help, both geographical and economic, expeditions to study Eskimo culture.
3. By running the Business Company to give the Eskimos those goods they were already dependent on (Liquor and Tobacco) through trade with Scottish whale hunters and American polar expeditions and to bring back and sell the products
Knud Rasmussen were careful when he tried to "civilize" the Eskimos
Knud Rasmussen was the leader of the business company to his dead in 1933 and he has several memorials in Thule.
When Denmark sold the "Dansk Vestindiske ÃƒÂ¸er" (US Virgin Islands) to USA in 1916, the US Government recognized the Danish sovereignty over the entire Greenland in a separate statement, but the Danish government didn't do much until it took over in 1937, they only confirm the "Cape York Station Thule law of 7th June 1929" in 1931.
This Thule law was prepared through establishment of a sealer council in 1927; "All the clans members is the society and the society speaks through the sealer council".
The sealer council consists of six members, the Inspector, the Chaplain and the Doctor was permanent members and then one member from each of the three districts.
In accordance with Thule law §5 it was the council's job to make laws about the populations way of life, there way of doing business and to sentence.
The council was a quorum when 4 people were present.
The Thule law was in effect until 1963 where the Greenlandic municipal government was stretched to cover northern and eastern Greenland.
In 1917 the United States raised its claim for land in northern Greenland, based on the explorer Robert Edwin Peary's expeditions.
In May 1921 Denmark declared Greenland Danish territory. This declaration caused a dispute with Norway because of the fishing rights.
The German occupation of Denmark on April 9. 1940 brought Greenland back into public attention.
Negotiations between the U.S. Government and the Danish Minister to Washington resulted in an agreement on April 9, 1941, granting the United States of America the right "to construct, maintain and operate such landing fields, seaplane facilities and radio and meteorological installations as may be necessary" to protect the status quo in the Western Hemisphere; the United States also assumed protective custody over Greenland for the duration of world war ll., although recognizing Danish sovereignty.
Due to the location, Greenland is the source of many weather changes in the Northern Hemisphere, and knowledge of Greenland weather is of prime importance in order to predict the coming weather in the north Atlantic Ocean and in Europe. Due to this, the Germans tried several times to build a weather base on Greenland, but every time it was destroyed by the U.S. Coast Guard.
In May 1947, Denmark requested that the US ended the 1941 agreement, instead a new agreement was signed, forming a jointly operated defense area.
By the terms in the agreement, the armed forces in NATO were authorized to use all naval, air and military b ases on the island.
This agreement was the foundation for the construction of Thule Air Base.