An Inuk content creator from Greenland is showing the world what it really means to live in the Arctic on Earth’s largest island – a place she says many people have misconceptions about.
“There’s even people who don’t know that there are people living in Greenland,” says Qupanuk Olsen, host of the educational social media channel Q’s Greenland.
Born and raised in a country of roughly 57,000, Olsen says she has the same issue every time she goes somewhere new.
“[I’ve] been travelling to many countries around the world. I’ve studied in the U.S., I’ve studied in Australia, I’ve done mountaineering in South America and Africa… Every time I go to new places I just realize that people have no idea about anything about Greenland.”
She decided to take things into her own hands and utilize video-sharing platforms like Tiktok and YouTube to get the word out about Greenland and her Inuit culture, and has amassed over half a million followers across platforms in the process.
Her videos cover topics like arctic cuisine, landscapes, the Greenlandic language and what it means to be an Indigenous person living in a country that was colonized by the Kingdom of Denmark.
“We want our voice to be heard as well, “ says Olsen, “When you’ve been in a colony, it’s like you feel under pressure and we’ve been industrialized so fast that it’s like our culture [hasn’t] been able to keep up.
“I think that it’s important to show our culture, to tell our own story, and change the law regarding to our own needs instead of the European or Danish law requirements because the cultures are so different from each other.”
In her videos, Olsen is vocal about her support for Greenland’s full independence from Denmark, which still has control over the external affairs and defense of the now self-ruled, autonomous territory.
“[W]e are not European, or we definitely don’t feel European, so maybe it’s time for our independence,” she says in one of her videos.
Similar to Canada’s own genocidal tactics, the 20th century saw the Danish enact a cultural assimilation strategy on Greenlanders – the term for Indigenous people in Greenland who currently make up around 89 per cent of the country’s population.
This assimilation included boarding schools for children who would inevitably lose ties to their culture.
“It’s important for every nation to live after your own cultures so that’s just what we’re trying to do, to be heard, to be understood the right way and to be respected as we deserve it,” says Olsen.
Though politically considered European, the Inuit ancestors of Greenlanders migrated to the island through northern Canada and Alaska and share many similarities with modern-day Inuit in North America.
“We have the same way of hunting, the same way of understanding the nature, being one with the nature – we have so much in common and our languages are almost the same because it comes from the same root,” says Olsen.
Inuit in Canada have flocked to the Tiktok star’s videos, celebrating the ways their cultures interact.
“It’s always such a great pleasure to meet someone from the northern part of Canada or Alaska and just recognize yourself in them,” says Olsen, “I really feel a connection and they also really feel a connection when I show my videos, especially when I say something in Greenlandic, they’re often commenting ‘We say it like this.’”
Her videos have garnered millions of likes and views leading to quite the fame in her current city of Nuuk, the capital of Greenland with a population of just under 20,000.
“I’ve become really, really famous in Greenland. That is a bit annoying at the moment. I can’t go out my door without being recognized so I’m actually thinking to buy some caps today so I can just hide a little bit more. I’m getting so much attention at the moment that it’s getting a bit difficult,” says Olsen.
But Olsen says she tries not to let her new-found celebrity change her, as the 38-year-old still works as a mining engineer by day and is a mother to four children.
“I’m trying to be the same person anywhere I go. If I go to conferences, if I’m home with my kids, if I’m on social media,” says Olsen, “It’s really important to be yourself anywhere you go instead of putting different masks on all the time.”
No matter where her fame or videos may take her next, Olsen says Greenland will always be special.
“I’ve travelled to so many places around the world and realized how lucky I actually am because our nature is so beautiful. We can go out hunting, we can feel like the original feeling we all are supposed to have as human beings out in the wild,” says Olsen.
“I just feel so lucky that I live in this so beautiful country that is stunning everywhere we go. I’m just so proud of it.”