Greenland profile - Timeline


A chronology of key events:

982 - Greenland discovered by the Norwegian Erik the Red, who had been banished from Iceland. He returns to Iceland in 985 and calls his discovery "Greenland" to make it more attractive. In 986 he returns to Greenland with settlers.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The capital Nuuk was founded by a Danish missionary

1000 - Leif Eriksson, the son of Erik the Red, departs from Greenland on the last stage of a voyage which is to take him to the north-east coast of North America, 500 years before Christopher Columbus. Christianity established in Greenland.

1600 - By this time all Norse settlements in Greenland have vanished. The only inhabitants are Inuit.

Danish colony

1721 - New Danish settlement established near present-day Nuuk. Beginning of Greenland's colonial era.

1776 - Danish government assumes a full monopoly of trade with Greenland.

1940 - Denmark is occupied by Germany during World War II. The United States assumes protective custody over Greenland for the duration of the war.

1945 - Greenland returned to Denmark, but negotiations on the continued military use of the island by the US and its subsequent NATO allies are not concluded until 1951.

1953 - Greenland becomes an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark and obtains representation in the Danish parliament.

1953 - The Danish authorities expel Inuit hunters from their ancestral lands in the far north of the island to expand US airbase at Thule.

1968 - An American B-52 bomber with four nuclear weapons on board crashes near Thule. Concern is still being expressed that not all the weapons were recovered from the crash site.


1972 - Denmark and Greenland join the European Community.

1979 - Greenland attains home rule following a referendum. The parliament decides upon and administers internal matters, but Denmark retains control over constitutional affairs, foreign relations and defence.

1982 - Greenlanders vote to leave the European Community - the withdrawal is completed in 1985.

1989 - An extensive deposit of gold is discovered on Greenland, but natural conditions make exploitation extremely difficult.

1999 February - General election sees Jonathan Motzfeldt re-elected as prime minister.

1999 August - Danish High Court rules that Inuit were illegally exiled from their land in northern Greenland in 1953, but denies them right of return.

2000 - Greenland celebrates the 1000-year anniversary of Leif Eriksson's voyage to North America. Queen Margrethe of Denmark attends along with several Nordic heads of state.

2002 December - Siumut party enters independence-minded coalition with Inuit Brotherhood following general elections. Siumut leader Hans Enoksen becomes prime minister.

2003 January - Coalition between Siumut and Inuit Brotherhood collapses in row involving corruption allegations and the use of a faith healer. Coalition with Atassut resumes.

2003 September - Coalition between Siumut and Atassut collapses in row over budget. Siumut re-enters coalition with Inuit Brotherhood.

2003 November - Danish Supreme Court rejects Inuit appeal against 1999 ruling denying them right of return to ancestral lands in northern Greenland.

2004 August - US and Denmark sign deal to modernise Thule air base.

The meltdown of Greenland's ice sheet has accelerated since 2004, according to a US team writing in Science journal.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Climate change is affecting temperatures and fishing in Greenland

2005 November - Hans Enoksen continues as prime minister in a coalition involving his Siumut party, the Inuit Brotherhood and Atassut. Elections had been called early amid row over budget and allegations of misuse of public funds.

2007 March - Denmark agrees to pay for Greenland to build its first secure prison, allowing those sentenced for serious crimes to be jailed close to home rather than in Denmark.

Greater autonomy

2008 November - Greenlanders vote in referendum for more autonomy, greater control over energy resources and granting Kalaallisut or Western Greenlandic status of official language in place of Danish.

2009 June - The left-wing opposition Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community of the People - IA) party wins parliamentary elections and is the first party to govern under the expanded autonomy agreement.

2010 November - Greenland's ice sheet is shrinking faster and making a bigger contribution to rising sea levels, a study in the journal Science confirms.

2010 August - Greenpeace protesters occupy oil exploration drilling rig off Greenland to highlight environmental concerns, following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

2013 April - Siumut party regains power after parliamentary elections, Aleqa Hammond becomes Greenland's first woman prime minister. She seeks greater power from Denmark to exploit the country's mineral resources.

2013 October - Greenland parliament votes to end the territory's 25-year ban on the mining of radioactive materials such as uranium, opening the door to a boom in mineral resource exports.

2014 May - Government announces inquiry into abuses by former colonial ruler Denmark, including removing children from Inuit families in the 1950s for better integration into Danish society.

2014 October - Prime Minister Hammond steps down over spending scandal, succeeded on acting basis by new Siumit Party leader Kim Kielsen.

2014 November - Snap elections leave hung parliament, with Siumit seeking to form coalition.

2014 December - Siumit strikes coalition deal and party leader Kim Kielsen assumes office as prime minister.

2021 April - Left-wing Inuit Ataqatigiit party wins parliamentary elections on a platform of halting a rare metals mining project on environmental grounds.