INUIT PEOPLE WHO WERE FORCIBLY REMOVED TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE U.S. THULE AIR BASE IN NORTHERN GREENLAND DEMAND THEIR LAND BACK ;
NEWS HEADLINES FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD: THE INUIT PEOPLE WHO WERE FORCIBLY REMOVED TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE U.S. THULE AIR BASE IN NORTHERN GREENLAND DEMAND THEIR LAND BACK AND OPPOSE BUSH'S PLANS TO TURN IT INTO A STAR WARS STATION 56 years ago this week, the U.S. dropped the first two atomic bombs and the nuclear age was born. Now, we are witnessing the birth of the militarization of space, the military's space age. On Monday, the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Democracy Now! began a series on the nuclear and space age which culminates tomorrow with the anniversary of Nagasaki. So far, we have heard from a survivor of the atomic attack on Hiroshima, a Native American woman whose mother died of cancer after working in the uranium mines in New Mexico, a prominent MIT physicist who says the Pentagon is trying to silence him for arguing that the missile defense system doesn't work, and Professor Noam Chomsky, who argued that what supporters call "national missile defense" is actually an offensive weapon that could lead to a new global arms race. Today, we go to the top of the world, to the Arctic, to the Thule Air Base on the Northwestern Coast of Greenland. The base is a United States 1500-person military space command station. If President Bush has his way, it will become one of two bases outside the US - the other is in Yorkshire, England - that will play a key role in his "Son of Star Wars" scheme. But the military personnel aren't the only ones living in the area. The Inuit people - who we know better as the Eskimos -- lived in Greenland long before the Americans ever arrived. In the 1950s, a group of Inuit were forcibly evicted to make room for the base. In the 1960s, a U.S. B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs crashed on the ice, spewing radioactive debris across the snow. Despite clean-up attempts, the Americans and Danes have admitted that enough plutonium for a whole bomb was never recovered. Now, the Inuit are demanding that the Americans and the Danes clean up the land, and are suing the Danish government to reclaim their sacred hunting grounds. We will speak with one of the Inuit leaders in a few moments. But we start now with Dan Hindsgaul, who is a disarmament campaigner for Greenpeace, and Steve Boggan, the chief reporter for the Independent. They are speaking to us from the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, which is anchored just off the coast of Greenland, across from Thule. Currently, three Greenpeace activists are trying to break into the base. Guests: Steve Boggan, chief reporter for the The Independent. Dan Hindsgaul, disarmament campaigner for Greenpeace. Related links: The Independent Stop Star Wars Story: AN INUIT LEADER SPEAKS FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER ON AMERICAN RADIO, ABOUT HIS REMOVAL FROM HIS NATIVE LANDS BY THE US MILITARY AND ABOUT THE RISKS HIS PEOPLE FACE FROM BUSH'S STAR WARS PLANS Yesterday we were able to reach by telephone one of the Inuit who was forcibly removed by the Americans in 1953. His name is Uusaqqak Qujaukitsoq. He is now the president of a group called Hingitaq '53, which is translated either as The Organization of the Relocated People from Thule, or simply as The Abandoneds. This is his first interview for American radio. He is translated by his son, Vittus. Tape: Uusaqqak Qujaukitsoq, president Hingitaq '53 (The Organization of the Relocated People from Thule, or simply, The Abandoneds); his son, Vittus Qujaukitsoq, translates. THE STORY OF MINIK, THE INUIT BOY TAKEN FROM HIS HOME AND PUT ON DISPLAY IN NEW YORK'S MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY The U.S. military was not the first to impact the lives of the Inuit. From the age of polar exploration comes the story of Minik, a young Inuit (or Eskimo) boy from northwestern Greenland. In 1897, the American explorer Robert Peary brought Minik, his father and four others to New York and presented them to the American Museum of Natural History as one of six Eskimo "specimens." Four members of the group, including Minik's father, quickly died of exposure to strains of influenza to which they had little resistance. Another survived and returned to Greenland. During his twelve years as the only Inuit in New York City, Minik was stared at by the paying public, examined by doctors and scientists, and doted on by society ladies. Minik's life was truly shattered when he discovered his father's skeleton on display in the Museum. We will turn now to Kenn Harper, who is the author of the incredible book, Give Me My Father's Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo. Kenn Harper has lived in the Arctic for over thirty years in Inuit communities in the Baffin Region and in Qaanaaq, Greenland (from where Uusaqqak Qujaukitsoq spoke to us earlier). He speaks Inuktitut, the Eskimo language of the stern Canadian Arctic, and has written extensively on the northern history and the Inuktitut language. I interviewed him when the book was published. Tape: Kenn Harper, author of Give Me My Father's Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo (Steerforth Press, 2000).