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Settlement Closure or Persistence: A Comparison of Kangeq and Kapisillit, Greenland

Anthony J. DZIK1
1 Shawnee State University, Department of Social Science, Portsmouth, Ohio, USA
Pages: 99-112

Abstract. The founding and later persistence or demise of a settlement is often due to aspects of site and situation and their interplay. Historically, settlements in Greenland were located based on site characteristics, particularly animal resource exploitation possibilities, but fluctuations in the resource base often would impel people to relocate to places with better prospects. Settlements would be abandoned and new ones developed. In modern times the vagaries of nature have been accompanied by governmental directives which influenced settlement survival, growth, or closure. Kangeq and Kapisillit are two places where the interplays between site and situation eventually led to the closure of one and the survival of the other. This paper demonstrates that both locales shared some early history as well as some site traits and situational factors. The demise of Kangeq is shown to be mainly the result of a change in sea temperature and the Danish colonial government’s G50 and G60 initiatives. Kapisillit persisted through environmental change and population decline, and benefitted somewhat from certain government programs although cultural attitudes impeded the reindeer domestication experiment. Greenland Self-rule in the 21st Century meant better government understanding of Inuit sensibilities, and now there is the possibility that Kapisillit will remain a viable settlement and that Kangeq might have some kind of modest reemergence.

K e y w o r d s:  Greenland, site and situation, settlements, demographic change, resettlement program