The Forced Relocation of Indigenous Peoples in Greenland: Repercussions in Tort Law and Beyond

Publikation: Working paperForskning


In 1953, the US wished to establish a military base in the Dundas area of Greenland. Greenland was at the time a Danish colony. The Danish authorities granted the American request. The establishment of the military base meant that the over 100 members of the Thule tribe was forcibly relocated to another areas in a matter of very few days. Until then, the Thule tribe had been seminomadic catchers in that specific area for millennials. Only decades later, the Thule Tribe’s claim for damages was tried before the Courts of Denmark. The Thule tribe especially claimed damages for serious interference with their rights as well as loss of hunting opportunities. Stating it was a law measure of legal and valid expropriation, the Supreme Court did award damages, but only amounting to a fraction of the amount claimed by the Thule Tribe. The motivation for the judgment is not quite clear, and seemingly national expropriation rules are at the core of both the lower and the higher courts’ reasoning, perhaps at the expense of international law. Another overlooked aspect is that the courts in several (at least European) countries may seem biased, when the defendant in a tort case is a public authority; in certain legal areas one may even talk of a lenient standard of negligence. Relocation is a removal of a people from their home to another place. It may not always involve violence, direct threats or force, but coercion or other tactics against the removed people, who are not in a position to challenge the relocation. Forced relocations of tribal and indigenous peoples may seem a thing of the past as few still defend colonialism and it is therefore generally seen as a historical trait that has reached its conclusion. Nevertheless, forced relocations of peoples may happen again; in the Arctic for instance several superpowers of this world express much interest in a strategic presence in this specific area. There has been a number of examples of forced relocations of indigenous peoples all over the world, not only in the Artic with the Thule tribe, but also the Canadian First Nations, Native Americans in the US, black citizens of South Africa.
UdgiverCopenhagen Business School [wp]
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - 2019
NavnCBS LAW Research Paper


  • Forced relocation
  • Greenland
  • Damages
  • Expropriation