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Will Santa Claus be a Danish citizen?
May 18, 2011 - Stephen Browne
In a report leaked to the press and reportedly confirmed by Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen, the Kingdom of Denmark is going to ask the United Nations to be recognized as the owner of the North Pole.
The Copenhagen Press reports, "The kingdom is expected to make a demand for the continental shelf in five areas around the Faroe Islands and Greenland, including the North Pole itself."
There are five countries with coasts along the Arctic Ocean: Denmark, Russia, Canada, Norway, and the United States. But none of the others are pressing claims, or seem to have any plans to object to Denmark's claim, even though the U.S. could press a claim based on prior right of discovery. Either Matthew Peary or Frederick Cook got to the Pole first, or maybe neither of them hit the Big Nail exactly, but in any case Americans have been going up there by dogsled and nuclear submarine for a while now.
Denmark qualifies through it's ownership of Greenland, which they owned as a colony from 1814 until 1953, when Greenland officially became an equal part of the Danish kingdom. In 1979 Greenland gained home rule as part of a federal union in which Greenland exercises autonomy in a number of areas, while Denmark handles defense, laws, courts, international relations. Not to mention a subsidy of $633 million, or about $11,300 per inhabitant per year.
Greenland has an area of about 836,000 square miles, most of it covered by ice, and a population of about 56,000, 88 percent of whom are native Inuit, the now-preferred term for the people we used to call Eskimos. Danes make up most of the other 12 percent, and pretty much run things by all accounts.
In case you wondered, that's a population about one-hundredth that of Denmark, living on an island fifty times the size of that country. That's three times the size of Texas, or the size of Sweden, Germany, France, Spain and Great Britain put together. The capitol city Nuuk, is a little bigger than Marshall and is not known as a happening place.
One wonders why the Danes bother with Greenland, seeing as how it's a money-losing proposition for them. The U.S. offered to buy Greenland in 1946, but the Danes said no. Perhaps they're still kicking themselves for selling the Virgin Islands to the U.S. back in 1917. It does seem bad judgment to let a tropical paradise go and keep the big icebox.
The Danes may be hoping to tap oil and mineral resources below the continental shelves.
Well good for them I say. Because it's not likely anybody else could get away with it.
Consider, the U.S. government makes oil companies jump through expensive hoops to drill offshore and/or in the arctic to the point it's just not worth it for most companies. But the U.S. would fight any Russian claim tooth and nail, Norway has offshore oil closer to home, and Canada just doesn't seem interested.
Plus, there is that imperialism thing. Greenland's overwhelmingly native population is to all intents and purposes ruled by a European governing class. What other European country could get away with that these days? We certainly couldn't.
The Danes are just too gosh-darned nice to picture as imperial oppressors, and their near-monopoly of government in Greenland seems to stem more from the Inuit people's indifference to government than any evil designs on the part of the Danes.
But the important question is, would Danish ownership of the North Pole make Santa Claus a Danish citizen?
There has long been a strong claim Santa is Sami. That's the now-preferred term for the indigenous peoples of the European arctic previously called Lapps. They're the pale, blond, blue-eyed people who get such funny looks whenever they show up at international conferences of indigenous peoples.
But maybe Santa is Danish. After all, he traditionally wears the Danish national colors.
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