The first time I walked through Ilimmarfik, the building that houses part of Ilisimatusarfik, or the University of Greenland, I immediately felt at home – although the physical environment is very different from the Dartmouth campus (and the views are much more spectacular), the atmosphere in the library and classrooms was just the same. I also felt at home because of the warm welcome we received from everyone we met; all were eager to meet us, share their knowledge, and strengthen the connection between Dartmouth and Ilisimatusarfik.
On Wednesday, we walked up to Ilimmarfik for a public talk by Dr. Minik Rosing, a well-known Greenlandic geologist and the chair of the University Board of Directors. In an overflowing room full of students, professors, and community members, Dr. Rosing presented a talk entitled “Greenland in our hearts and minds:” while the intellectual pursuit of science is what technically brings us to Greenland, it is the connection we carry in our hearts that keeps pulling us back. Dr. Rosing spoke specifically about an expedition to Northeast Greenland that included both scientists and artists. Without any specific goals, both groups were able to take in the beauty of the landscape, trying, in Dr. Rosing’s words, “to make a picture of the world that someone else can read.”
At the end of the week we were invited back to Ilimmarfik for a full day of lectures about Greenlandic culture, history, and language. For me, the most inspiring part of the day was to hear from two PhD students about their research. While waiting for the fog to clear so she could head out for fieldwork, Ann Eileen Lennert told us about an impressive interdisciplinary project looking at past use of the fjord system around Nuuk. By combining archaeology, marine geology, and anthropology, Ann Eileen will investigate how the ice conditions in the fjord system have changed over the past few thousand years.
Axel Jeremiassen, a PhD student in the Department of Cultural and Social History, gave us a detailed account of Greenland’s history from the arrival of the Saqqaq people in 2500 BCE through WWII. Unlike many indigenous peoples, Greenlanders have had the fortune to have a long history of written language. Axel’s PhD project takes advantage of this rich history by looking at letters to the editor in the two longest running Greenlandic newspapers, Atuagagdliutit and Avangnamiok, to see the opinions and thoughts of Greenlanders over time.
Our experience at Ilisimatusarfik was both educational and enjoyable. Many thanks to all for the warm welcome and the willingness to share knowledge with us. We look forward strengthening our ties with Ilisimatusarfik in the future.