The Republic of Tartupaluk began with what this Inuk Ranger heard on the radio: “What would you do if you found foreigners illegally hunting polar bears in the Canadian High Arctic?” “I would ask how the family is doing.” As a Greenlandic Canadian, I have located my political leanings toward love, peace, decolonization and unity on the surreal and tiny Tartupaluk, thumbing my nose at southern ownership. This story is a film project in the making.
I come to you this evening as the newly inaugurated President of the Republic of Hans Island, otherwise known as Tartupaluk ("looks like a kidney").
Tonight I would like to introduce you to my beloved homeland and extend my arms in solidarity, as we have many things to do together to change this world for the better.
Tartupaluk lies closest to the centre of the world—nunarsuup qalasia—the world’s belly button, known in English as the North Pole. People from other nations should be so lucky as us to have access to all the time zones of the world. To the south of us, we have the strong thighs of Greenland and Canada, to the north of us and back over to the south of us, the mountainous breasts of the Kola Peninsula and Novaja Semlja.
You will find Hans Island in the slim strait between northernmost Ellesmere Island and northernmost Greenland, like a tiny egg travelling infinitely slowly down a magnificently large fallopian tube.
Our state-of-the-art aviation system has us eating at the most delicious restaurants of Muskva, Nuuk, Reykjavik, Iqaluit, Tromsø and Ulaan Bataar within hours of leaving home.
In our short burst of summer, the waters of Nares Strait smash against our rocky shores while the sun spins her circles high above our heads all around the clock. The air is replete with birds dipping and turning, while in paradox, the ocean is deep with the flip and peak of fish and seals. In the fall, ice pans form with mesmerizing speed.
They push together to make unity with such a tinkle and slush that your ears cannot imagine a time when there was no such sound. In the winter, the moon takes his place in the sky, and our island congeals with the rest of the Arctic, and therein lies one of our most fundamental values: that of oneness.
You see, to us, for whom winter is the norm and summer the phenomenon, ice completes the horizon in every direction. There is no barrier between one piece of land and another. Ice binds us physically, emotionally and spiritually. For many thousands of years, our ancestors travelled over the ice to hunt, to visit, to communicate and to commune. In Tartupaluk, we like to say, “Travel is but a step away from home.” To us, Greenland is quite physically inseparable from Canada; these two politically separate countries are bridged by nature. Therefore nature dictates that there is no conflict when we say we are one people and we are many people.
“Who are Tartupalummiut?” you might ask. “What do they stand for?” “What do they do?”
Well I can tell you. We are a peaceful nation.
We are love, we stand for love and we make love. All Greenlandic-Canadians, such as myself, are automatic citizens of Hans Island. All Greenlanders who have, or have had Canadian lovers are Tartupalummiut, as are all Canadians who have or have had Greenlandic lovers. Those who wish to have Greenlandic-Canadian lovers can apply for landed immigrant status. You can well understand that as these unrequited lovers have not yet committed this beloved act of making love, they must be held in some sort of probationary position until they have shown their true mettle. I can assure you, most landed immigrants integrate quickly, and issues of citizenship are resolved without much friction.
As we are a nation of many origins, our citizens live all over the world. Tartupalummiut are internationally renowned artists, scholars, mothers, fathers, hunters, recounters of history, observers of life. Tartupalummiut know the stories of Kivioq as well as they know the intricacies of the law of international waters.
Naturally as a nation of lovers, we are quite unabashedly left wing. Even our most right-wing faction is abhorrent to citizens paying for their own medical care and education. We love each other and therefore we believe in each other. We look after each other from birth to death. Our land is not an easy place to live in, but it encourages us to take responsibility for ourselves, to determine our own path and to continuously search for soul-enriching knowledge.
Our many hued eyes have witnessed seething social inequality, the kind that makes so many of our people slaves to horrific memories, slaves to chemical escapes from poverty, slaves to hunger, anger and violence. How many times have any of us—and in this regard I mean all Arctic people—looked into the faces of the beautiful children in our communities and seen that darting gaze of painful shyness. That gaze of those who have watched drunken chaos, protected themselves and their companions like miniature warriors in a fight against incredible darkness. That darting gaze of those whose very cores have been disrupted by vengeful touching fingers. We all know those people who have inflicted pain and hide in plain sight.
All of us can feel the outlined figures of our kin who could not bear life anymore. In this life we live where personal decisions are inextricably related to political conditions, Tartupalummiut see that the personal is political. Suicide is a political act. Suicide is the nightmarish tug the government must resist at all costs in order to provide a good life for its people.
Tartupalummiut have made a conscious effort to rise against this fearful pull. The Government of Hans Island does not just believe in providing medical care, housing and education for its people. It
believes in people wanting good health, wanting safe places to live in and moreover wanting education. We believe in the want for a good life. The more together we are, the more we can believe in each other and the more we can make life worth living for our beautiful children.
My final words this evening are a small gift that the people of Tartupaluk have asked me to give to each one of you. It is simply that I believe in you. I believe in the insight each one of you possess. I believe in the beauty you notice around you every day. I believe in the will pressing deep inside you to live a good life. As the president of Hans Island, I extent my hand out in solidarity to each one of you.
Many of you did not realize that you are actually citizens of Hans Island. Come, make a pilgrimage to your homeland. As for the rest of you, please do apply for landed immigrant status. Qujannamiik, Nakurmiik, Matna, Quana, Qujanarsuaq.