hinking back to my childhood and
about all the things that have happened between then and now,
it feels as though I have been watching a revolution in slow
motion. Profound changes have taken place in our lives and our
society. From the almost total isolation from the outside world
of my early years in Resolute Bay in the High Arctic, to the
computer space age when the world is at my fingertips, has been
a journey of sorrow, joy and adventure.
Speaking to a group of young people a while ago, I realized
that some of the things I was saying to them were not connecting.
I then realized that the reason was that I was assuming that
they knew about the experiences of my generation and could easily
understand why we were pursuing land claims and Nunavut. But
I was wrong. Our recent history, the last 30 years, has not been
adequately recorded yet.
It seems like a thousand years ago when we had to struggle
for the very basics of life like food, shelter and clothing.
Today, some kids get very upset when they don't have the television
remote control. It seems like another world when I think back
to Inuit children being taken from their families for their assimilation
into another culture. Today, such government policy would be
unthinkable. The relocations and forced movements of my generation
seem like plots from a movie. Today's children need not worry
about such things.
Living under conditions of colonialism is something our children,
thankfully, will not know. Our fathers experienced a time when
their independence and human rights were stolen from them. Through
the settlement of our land claims and the rebirth of Nunavut,
our generation has won back our right to determine our political
There was a time when many of my generation did not have pride
in our Inuit identity and were not sure if they wanted to be
Canadian citizens. Today, there is a resurgence of Inuit pride
and we have become loyal Canadians. Even though our people have
encountered racial discrimination in the past, we want reconciliation
and we want all to feel welcome in our homeland. Our patience
and our willingness to share continue to be cornerstones of our
There are some important dates in our recent history: 1971,
when the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada was formed. The spring of
1982, when the people of the Northwest Territories voted to divide
the NWT and create Nunavut. 1992, when the boundaries of Nunavut
were established. June of 1993, when the Nunavut Act was passed
by Parliament. February 15, 1999, when we had our first election
for the first Nunavut legislative assembly.
There are other dates that a lot of people may not remember
too well. Like the spring of 1979 when Peter Ittinuar, our first
Inuk member of Parliament, stood up in the House of Commons and
spoke Inuktitut. It may not have seemed like very much at the
time, but to us it was another milestone in our epic journey.