Greenlandic MP Aki-Matilda Høegh-Dam has refused to speak Danish during a debate about relations between the two countries, held in the Danish parliament in Copenhagen, and instead spoke in her native Inuit language, highlighting strained relations between Denmark and Greenland. When the speaker of the parliament encouraged Høegh-Dam to repeat her speech in Danish, she refused.
Greenland, a Danish colony until 1953, when it became a formal part of the Kingdom of Denmark, has its own official Inuit language, but Danish is taught as a second language from the first year of primary school. Relations between Denmark and Greenland have soured over the decades: in 2009, Greenland was granted broad self-governing autonomy, including the right to declare independence from Denmark, and last week Greenland’s government presented its first draft constitution to its parliament.
“We are no longer afraid to speak out. We are not afraid to use our voice and our language. The spirit of change is here, and the next step in the right direction would be state formation,” said Høegh-Dam, after the debate.
In the Danish general election on 5 June 2019, Aki-Matilda Høegh-Dam was one of two Greenlanders who succeeded in become members of the Folketing. Expressing strong support for Mette Frederiksen, head of the Social Democrats, she campaigned on the basis that Denmark should take more care of its responsibilities for Greenlanders. She also supports independence for Greenland.
Born on 17 October 1996 in Hillerød, she is the daughter of Kim Høegh-Dam, a fisherman and seaman, and Bitten Høegh-Dam, a schoolteacher. The youngest child in the family, she has two brothers and two half-sisters on her father’s side. Brought up in Sisimiut on Greenland’s west coast, she is half Danish and half Greenlandic with two Danish and two ethnically Greenlandic grandparents.
When she was 15, as a volunteer in Nakuusa (UNICEF’s project in support of Greenlandic children), she went on a trip around Greenland’s coast during which she discussed politics with a friend. As a result, she decided to join Siumut, a social democratic political party. After joining the party’s youth organization, her interest in politics continued to grow. After graduating from high school, in 2014 she began studying political science at the University of Copenhagen and graduated in 2019. In 2015, she participated in the Miss Denmark competition. Although she finished in sixth place, the event did much to draw attention to her in Greenland.