In memory of Robert Petersen
Saturday 6th of November 2021
Robert Petersen, Rôba
The Greenlandic professor and initiator of the establishment of the Inuit Institute in Nuuk and Greenland’s University’s first rector Robert Petersen has passed away October 23rd 2021 in Odense, Denmark 93 years old.
During his time at the Copenhagen University, Robert Petersen inspired young Greenlandic students
about his writings about the Inuit language, culture and our spiritual connection to land and its resources. Especially his piece about the collective ownership of land taught us about what was at stake in the industrialised worlds hunt for our resources.
In May 1973, Robert Petersen joined by Moses Olsen, Angmalortoq Olsen and Aqqaluk Lynge to attend the first Arctic conference on oil and gas development in Le Havre, France. At that meeting the leaders of the newly founded Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) Jose Kusugak and Tagaq Curly participated. This meeting resulted in another conference the First International Arctic Peoples Conference at the Parliament building, Christiansborg, Copenhagen in November 1973, thus paving the way to Greenland’s participation at the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, Canada. It was there Billy Neakok Alaska, working for the Mayor of the North Slope Borough Eben Hopson, introduced the idea of forming an international Inuit cooperation.
In 1977 the first Inuit Circumpolar Conference took place in Uqiagvik and Robert Petersen became a member of the interim committee that organised the 1980 inaugural conference in Nuuk and officially formed the ICC.
Robert Petersen had a tremendous influence in the academic world and his importance in the international cooperation among the indigenous people are felt in the daily work. When in 1988 for the very first time, the ICC leadership visited and connected to the Inuit of Chukotka it was obvious that Robert Petersen participated in that historic trip.
Robert was a kind man, with warm Inuit humor, although small in stature, his influence in our own world looms larger than life.
Robert Petersen Mag.Art University of Copenhagen, 1967
Honorary Doctor, Laval University 1992 and University of Greenland, Ilisimatusarfik 2010.
Dalee Sambo Dorough, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council
Hjalmar Dahl, President of Inuit Circumpolar Council Greenland