Looking Back
The Early Years
The Road to Nunavut
What Price Nunavut?
The Next Generation
Inuit and The Land As One
Living with Change

Our Language, Our Selves
Inuit Art: The New Reality
Hunters and High Finance
The Subsistence Economy
A Public Government
The First MLAs
The World Looks North
What's In A Name?

Map of Nunavut

Inuktitut - Nunavut 99

 

"The wildlife issue (Article 5) was very important. This is the article that
relates to our lifestyle up here in Nunavut. We're so close to the wildlife."

— David Aglukark, a co-chief negotiator for Inuit on the land claim
INUIT AND
THE LAND
AS ONE

The bond between Inuit and the land
and wildlife was weakened when settlements replaced their nomadic lifestyle.
The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement
aims to change that


By Brian Aglukark

[Then and now] [Sharing and the land claim] [Co-management bodies]

he snow was melting on the streets of Arviat. I got excited whenever the school bell rang, in hopes that my father was preparing the sleds for a goose hunt. Sometimes, through the window of your classroom, you would watch the geese sailing through the clear, blue sky. As usual, the teacher couldn't understand your love for the season at hand, or your inner voice screaming at you to be out on the land as the geese cried out, flying in perfect formation in their annual migration north for the summer.

An unexpected visitor walked into our classroom. Looking behind me, I recognized my father speaking ever so quietly to the teacher. To my surprise, the teacher excused me from class for the rest of the day. I raced back to my desk, cleaned up, and rushed to our little house at the end of town to prepare for the hunt. This wasn't an unusual turn of events. Many of my classmates had not attended school for the last week because they were out on the land, enjoying the spring weather with their whole family. This was, and still is, a yearly spring tradition.

The next morning I woke up to the hum of wings flapping and the ever distinct sound of the geese as they flew over our tent.

"Like a newborn to her mother"

Historically, the survival of Inuit depended solely on the land and waters and the wildlife that they provide. The relationship between the Inuit and the land was one, like a newborn baby to her mother. Inuit lived as nomads, moving from place to place in order to follow the migration routes of caribou, seals, fish and birds. The land also offered shelter from freezing winter temperatures of -30° C to -40° C with igluit (igloos) built from snow, or from summer rains by way of caribou-skin tents or huts constructed either from stone, or stone and dirt.

In this century, the white man has ushered in a new lifestyle in which Inuit must not only live away from the land, but also in comfort and ease, having been introduced to instant foods, rifles, snowmobiles, wooden houses and formal education. Today, the connection between Inuit and the land has weakened, and Inuit struggle with their identity: the Inuit's latest challenge in a land that has always been challenging.

Nunavut — "our land" — is divided into three administrative regions: Kitikmeot, Kivalliq (also known by its former name, Keewatin) and Baffin (Qikiqtaaluk). The Inuit in each region faced different hunting challenges, because each region includes several distinct ecosystems in which certain animals played a key role in the survival of the Inuit.

In the west Kitikmeot Region, the Inuit depended on the migration of the caribou. The Inuit in the east Kitikmeot (the Nattilingmiut) depended on the seal. In coastal areas of the Kivalliq, Inuit relied mainly on seal, caribou and arctic char, whereas Inuit on the mainland hunted caribou, geese and ptarmigan, and fished lake trout. In the northern tip of the Kivalliq Region, walruses were also hunted. The people of Baffin Island sought walruses, seals and arctic char. Caribou, Canada geese, ptarmigan, seals, whales and arctic char are all found throughout Nunavut and are part of the diet of all Inuit.

Sharing in order to survive

Inuit have always turned to one another to help achieve a goal. When food was scarce, the men would get together and hunt as a team. It is through this connection to the land, to wildlife and to each other, that Inuit have survived for centuries. Today, however, where camp members once achieved goals through oneness, competitiveness now drives our society. The wage economy takes precedence over the traditional hunting lifestyle, and individuals compete with each other for jobs, education, business ventures and so on.

It is evident today that Inuit are still connected to their roots, though. When the opportunity arises, Inuit leave their communities and live out on the land for a time. It is because of this lifestyle and this recognition of the importance of our land and wildlife that Inuit have come together over many years to create the territory of Nunavut.

 John Kaunak  
 

   James Taipana fishes with a traditional kakivak on the Thelon River 

man with kakivik
John Kaunak provides a maktaaq (whale skin) snack in Repulse Bay

In the early 1970s, a group of young Inuit formed the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC) to represent all Inuit, and to voice concerns over the welfare of the land and wildlife as a growing number of mining, oil and gas companies and governments expressed interest in using the land. Once again Inuit, in a time of struggle, banded together, this time in the form of an interest group rather than nomadic encampments. They successfully negotiated a land claim agreement with one of the most powerful governments in the world, paving the way for the new territory of Nunavut.

Not only did the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) lead to the Nunavut Act — the legislation that created the new territory of Nunavut — it also gave the Inuit five lands and resources co-management bodies, and considerable control in areas normally handled by the federal government. The co-management bodies (or Institutions of Public Government, as they are also termed) are the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB), the Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC), the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB), the Nunavut Water Board (NWB), and the Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal (NSRT). Under the direction of the Inuit in Nunavut, they oversee how the land and water are used, and how wildlife is managed and preserved in the Nunavut Settlement Area, the land mass traditionally occupied and used by Inuit, and defined in the NLCA.

Nunavut's lands and resources co-management bodies

The NWMB, NPC, NIRB, NWB, and NSRT have Inuit members who are appointed according to region by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI). This ensures that each region within Nunavut has proper Inuit representation. The co-management bodies also have appointees from the federal and territorial governments, and these members may or may not be Inuit.

The NWMB is the main regulator of access to wildlife resources. With an eye to sustainable wildlife populations, it manages the way wildlife is used by Inuit and other residents in the Nunavut Settlement Area. The NWMB is unique because it works closely with Nunavut's three regional wildlife organizations and the territory's 27 local hunters and trappers organizations.

The NPC's mandate is to create land-use plans within the Nunavut Settlement Area. The land-use plans give guidance and direction to mining, oil and gas companies, or any company or organization that wishes to use the land. The NPC is challenged by the distinct and differing lifestyles of Inuit throughout Nunavut's regions, so it has created six planning regions and allowed for community representation throughout Nunavut to better represent each region.

The NIRB examines project proposals for their cultural, socio-economic and environmental impacts on land, air and water, taking into consideration the effects on people and wildlife within the Nunavut Settlement Area. Not only does NIRB use recognized scientific methods, it also uses Inuit traditional knowledge when reviewing proposals for possible impacts.

The NWB manages the use and regulation of water in the Nunavut Settlement Area. This includes all lakes, rivers and coastal waters. NWB also uses traditional Inuit knowledge as well as proven technical skills to determine whether water-use applications should proceed to development.

In Nunavut, there are three Regional Inuit Associations (RIAs) — the Kivalliq Inuit Association, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (for the Baffin Region). Part of their role involves working with NTI in implementing the land claim and managing Inuit-owned land. If a developer wants to use Inuit land, but the developer and the RIA don't agree on conditions for accessing the land, then the matter is settled by the NSRT. This tribunal can require developers to pay a fee, based on impact and determined by the NSRT, before they use Inuit land.

In Inuit hands now

The creation of these co-management bodies through the implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement puts the future well-being of our land and wildlife in the hands of Inuit. With our history of survival, strength, unity, and our love for the environment, Inuit can be assured that, like that morning years ago when I walked out of the tent and saw not only the geese flying over, but also saw the sheer beauty of the land, future generations will know this same experience.


Brian Aglukark heads the Iqaluit regional office of the Nunavut Planning Commission, working as a liaison officer and mapping co-ordinator. Aglukark, who hails from Arviat, goes out on the land to hunt whenever he can.

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