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