Many people don’t know about this but for decades Canada and Denmark have been “fighting” over a tiny island off the coast of Greenland. Denmark owns Greenland. Donald Trump tried to purchase Greenland but Denmark refused to sell. He should have made an offer for Hans Island instead, but probably did not want to tangle with Canada.
Hans Island is a tiny uninhabited island—no more than a big rock really—in the center of Kennedy Channel of Nares Strait off the coast of Greenland. Like Hans Neufeld the writer of this blog, Hans Island has no apparent natural resources and is essentially worthless. Yet astonishingly there has been a decades long dispute between Canada and Norway over ownership of this tiny island that no one with any sense would want. It has no oil and is located precisely on the agreed border between Canada and Greenland, but sort of by accident this little island was left out of the boundary agreement. The island has no apparent natural resources of mineral, oil or natural gas, but still, there is an ongoing territorial dispute between Denmark and Canada over who owns the half-squared mile of the rock.
This “war” between Denmark and Canada has been one of the most unusual in the history of warfare. For the past 3 decades each country has repeatedly placed a flag on the island claiming ownership and yet welcomes the other country to the island with a bottle of hootch. I kid you not. Canada leaves whiskey and Denmark schnapps. This is exactly how two friendly countries should fight a war and Hans Neufeld is enormously proud of the fact that this is how the battle has been fought over his namesake island.
In 2006 a student got into the act. He was a Carleton University student who announced he had set up the Government of Tartupaluk and declared himself “The Reigning Prince of Tartupaluk.” Since no one inhabits the island there was no one to challenge his claim or oppose it, but his claims sadly seem to have been forgotten. As well recently there were some self-declared “Indigenous” Hans Islanders, called Hans who claimed ownership. These people said they wanted other to come to live on the unpopulated island. I wish I had been consulted by these two Hans as I would like to have a chance to put forward my case for this island. I could be “President for life of Hans Island.” Or perhaps I could be Emperor of Hans Island.
Recently I heard the two countries have agreed to share jurisdiction over the island. I don’t know what it means, but I guess this means war has been averted. It could easily have led to World War III so that is a very good thing. History would have been very different if world wars had been fought like this. I say, let ‘Let Hans show the way.’
This is particularly important on September 11 20 years after 9/11 which led to the longest war in American history for no apparent purpose. There is a better way. Hans Island proves it.