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 amount of effort it
took to make progress took
its toll on Inuit leaders.

By John Amagoalik

he last 30 years have seen incredible changes for the Inuit of Nunavut. These changes, mostly for the better, have been the result of pioneering work by Inuit leaders who were determined to improve the lives of their people. This work has demanded the dedication and sacrifice of these people as they struggled to secure land and political rights for their children.

In the early 1970s, being an Inuk leader working in land claims was sometimes a lonely feeling. Explaining to the older generation why it was necessary to "claim" our homeland was not an easy task. Trying to explain what a modern treaty might contain was just as difficult.

The Inuit leadership also had to face hostile governments and a Canadian population largely ignorant of Inuit, their homeland, and their history. Inuit negotiators also had to break new ground in their land claim talks. Governments did not have any policy in many areas that Inuit felt had to be part of any final deal. The negotiations were stalled many times as governments struggled with things like royalties, offshore rights, self-government institutions with real legal powers, and new political entities. The process was grindingly slow and frustrating.

The weight of responsibility and the amount of effort it took to make progress took its toll on Inuit leaders. Many experienced burnout under the pressure of intense negotiations, long periods of absence from family and community, and unfamiliar environments in big cities. Alcohol abuse became a serious problem that contributed to other problems, like family breakups and run-ins with the law. It was the demand by ordinary Inuit that their leaders clean up their acts that has resulted in a more stable leadership in recent years.

To all those who sacrificed for the benefit of future generations, your loneliness and struggle will not go unrecognized.

John Amagoalik is chief commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission. Involved in negotiations to secure a land claim agreement and territory for Nunavut since 1975, he served as the negotiator for the Inuit of Nunavut on the political accord for the creation of Nunavut.

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