Kangerlussuaq, Beyond Science and the Military

Kangerlussuaq seal

After our visit to the Kangerlussuaq museum, we began wondering about the dynamics of the town after the American military airbase was turned over to the Greenlandic government in 1992. On Wednesday, we were able to find out about this and more when we had the fortunate opportunity to interview the mayor and administrator of Kangerlussuaq. The Service Center (or city hall) is located in a nondescript blue and white building directly across from the KISS building. There we met Mayor Albrecht Kreutzmann & Administrator Minanngauq “Mina” Zeeb. Mina moved to Kangerlussuaq in 1979 as an employee with Air Greenland, so she experienced the town both during and after American military occupation. Mayor Kreutzmann moved to Kangerlussuaq in 2008 to begin his 4-year, 1st term as mayor and plans to run for re-election.

Kangerlussuaq service center

Kangerlussuaq is a settlement in the Qeqqata municipality. The administrative center is the town Sisimiut.

Tony w/ Mayor Kreutzmann & Ms. Zeeb

Mayor Kreutzmann is a member of the Forward (Greenlandic: Siumut) party, a social-democratic political party. He is also very environmentally minded. He discussed with us his hopes for keeping the community clean and finding ways to turn waste in to energy. A few of his main goals for the settlement are a focus on senior housing because many in town are aging and don’t want to leave Kangerlussuaq, improving the quality of life for youth, and forming a more effective working-economic relationship with the tourist industry. Ms. Zeeb is responsible for the settlement’s five staff members, manages the town budget and also serves as the administrative assistant to the settlement board (town council).

During our interview we also discussed the operations of the town’s infrastructure. Of interest was the maintenance of the road to the ice sheet; the mayor implied maintenance was an unofficial joint effort, however the tourist industry uses the road daily. Other infrastructure discussed was the long awaited road to Sisimiut. This remains a priority for the Greenland government, but cost remains an issue. A part of the government’s income comes from a 43% income tax rate, paid to Sisimiut, not Kangerlussuaq. In August, politicians from around the Qeqqata municipality meet in Sisimiut to discuss their goals and priorities. From this meeting budgets for the towns and settlements are decided.

History and Culture

Painting of hunting settlement at Lake Ferguson

When you arrive at Kangerlussuaq, tour the town, and see the area the only history is on the military and airlines that have made Kangerlussuaq well known. However, after speaking with Mayor Kreutzmann and Ms. Zeeb, we learned that this area was and still is a seasonal hunting spot for many Inuit. The hunting season was known to start when the harbor would fill-up with visiting hunters from various villages and settlements near Kangerlussuaq. There have been stories depicting over 70 boats and kayaks arriving to start the hunting season. This is true today; however, the transportation methods have changed as some now arrive by plane while some still show up in at the harbor.

Vicky w/ Mayor Kreutzmann & Ms. Zeeb

This is one reason the residents are avid on setting up a cultural museum in Kangerlussuaq. Mayor Kreutzmann and Ms. Zeeb informed us of a rising concern by the local community to communicate their history through a cultural museum.

Mayor Kreutzmann and Ms. Zeeb, informed us of the rising number of people who are continuing to stay in Kangerlussuaq. These residents are aging and increasing the need for facilities that are adequate to care for elders. Alberecht is currently working on a senior center.

Climate Change
The one thing that is concerning to Mayor Kreutzmann, and Ms. Zeeb, and the community of Kangerlussuaq is climate change. They informed us of the changes they have seen in and around Kangerlussuaq and connect it to climate change. The community of Kangerlussuaq is concerned and supportive of the work happening at the KISS Station. However, there is a lack of communication between the researchers and staff at KISS and the community or government of Kangerlussuaq. This is something that Mayor Kreutzmann and Ms. Zeeb expressed concern over and are very enthusiastic to see this change. The director of KISS, Kathy Young, has expressed positive interest in working and communicating more with the community of Kangerlussuaq and Mayor Kreutzmann and Ms. Zeeb. Hopefully, this is the start of a great relationship that will help share information concerning issues such as climate change between the community people and researchers in Greenland.

Ms. Zeeb and Ms. Young chat at C-CHANGE Poster Session

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