Dorthe Nathanielsen was born in Qeqartarsuatsiaat in Nuuk district, led a traditional life in a Greenland village full of children, involving tough, physical labour and with no knowledge of a foreign language. Although she had no formal education, she taught for many years on a casual basis at the village school.
She learned her stories from her mother’s sister, the talented story-teller Bibiane Mikkelsen, who took care of Dorthe Nathanielsen after her mother died when she was eight, and she committed the stories to paper to pass them on to a blind and bed-ridden old woman. Her daughter sent them to the Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation, and they were published under the title Ujuânse Avalak, 1982.
Structured and ordered chronologically, these genealogical accounts, which stretch so far back that the oldest tribal mother is said to have seen the missionary Hans Egede in the flesh, do, nevertheless, bear the marks of literary adaptation. After her next book, Aani, 1986, which developed into a novel, Dorthe Nathanielsen wrote both short stories and poems.