Nunatsiaq News
COMMENTARY: Nunavut April 07, 2018 - 12:45 pm

Required reading: new owners in our own land!

“To build a Nunavut economy on one of our greatest strengths—minerals and the mining of them”

Geologist Robert McPherson was hired by the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut to help them pick lands rich in mineral potential to be designated as Inuit-owned within the Nunavut land claims agreement. Inuit negotiators did this so that mining would create an economic foundation for Nunavut. McPherson's book, New Owners In Their Own Land: Minerals and Inuit Land Claims, describes in detail how they did that. (FILE PHOTO)
Geologist Robert McPherson was hired by the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut to help them pick lands rich in mineral potential to be designated as Inuit-owned within the Nunavut land claims agreement. Inuit negotiators did this so that mining would create an economic foundation for Nunavut. McPherson's book, New Owners In Their Own Land: Minerals and Inuit Land Claims, describes in detail how they did that. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut Vice President
Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines

A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts with readers from a presentation I gave at the Northern Lights Conference in Ottawa. I reminded the largely southern audience that it was 25 years ago this year that we Inuit signed our land claim with Canada; and that our claim made us the largest private land owners in the world.

I believe it also made us the largest subsurface land owners as well, meaning we are owners of lots of great mineral potential.

Our land claim negotiators—like our new Premier Paul Quassa—had a deliberate purpose in claiming mineral resources in their negotiations, and that was to build a Nunavut economy on one of our greatest strengths—minerals and the mining of them.

Now is a good time to remind ourselves of this, because it’s the 25th anniversary of that great land claim signing.

There is an excellent book titled “New Owners in Their Own Land,” which describes in very accurate detail our land claim negotiation process. The book was written by Robert McPherson, who was a geologist that our own Inuit land claim organization, the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut, hired to identify mineral rich lands that we would eventually select.

Those lands that we selected are starting to pay dividends today, with millions of dollars in royalties going into our Inuit government—Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s—coffers.

These royalties are just the bonus benefits, on top of the training, high-paying jobs, and Inuit business that we are reaping. Our negotiations of 25 years ago are starting to really pay off.

Another important aspect of our land claim was to successfully negotiate the right to share with the government the management of resource development in all of Nunavut.

This was a very new and unique concept then, for the government to share resource management with us. And it’s not the case in most of Canada today.

So we are leading the country in that aspect too. That co-management has given us a strong environmental protection system, to ensure that any developments, not just mining, are done responsibly and in such a way that Inuit knowledge is considered in ensuring that our land and waters and wildlife are protected.

It’s important that we teach our youth about their history, and there is no better time to start than now, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Nunavut Agreement. It is very important for them to understand what our elder negotiators did for them, why they did it, and how.

A good first step would be to make Mr. McPherson’s book required reading for all Nunavummiut, from youth to politicians.

Perhaps with this approach, we can look forward 25 years from now to a home-grown Inuk geologist to give us a written account of how we have been able to use our mineral wealth to realize the self-reliance, social and cultural well-being of Inuit that we have sought for so long?

We definitely are new owners in our own land.

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(22) Comments:

#1. Posted by Knockout Ned on April 07, 2018

You keep saying “our”.

It’s not yours Alex.

#2. Posted by Oscar on April 07, 2018

Hey #1, Alex is a Inuk frm the Kitikmeot so when he says its “Our Land”, he means it.

#3. Posted by Former Insider on April 07, 2018

#1, can you explain why an Inuk from Nunavut like Mr. Buchan cannot refer to Inuit land as “our land?”

I would really like to know your thinking on that point.

Anyway, I know that environmentalists are a largely bourgeois, exclusionary group dominated by upper-middle white males, with very few brown people or women. We all know this. But do you really have to express your contempt for brown people so blatantly?

#4. Posted by Ours not yours on April 07, 2018

A benefit of “owning” that land is that it is ours to develop as we please. Not at the rate that the chamber feels is beneficial for them, at a rate that is beneficial for us.

#5. Posted by Another rock on the tundra on April 07, 2018

Oh, this was a pleasure to read for sure. The book is a bit of heavy but has some interesting insights and was especially interesting when considering the push last year for land ownership within municipalities. Inuit collectively are the largest land owners in the territory. Period.

But what struck me today the most was knockout neds assumption that Alex Buchan was a southern carpet bagger.

Perhaps Alex should have stated his qualifications for commenting early on in his article, which primarily centre around his mothers bloodline, but that would have robbed me the pleasure of noting that the face of Inuit is changing, and the relationship with the land is changing too. How is it is used, and by whom still matters. But remember Ned, you should not judge a book by its cover, but thanks for letting me write that with a smile.

#6. Posted by This land was made for you and me ... as the song on April 07, 2018

Inuit-owned land is a small but important part of our landscape in Nunavut, Canada’s newest jurisdiction that adopted a public government over a claims-based one.

All together now

#7. Posted by Jobi on April 07, 2018

Good suggestion A. Buchan. Hope this book is in NU school libraries. Maybe NTI and RIO’s could send a copy of it to every Inuit in Canada. Be good to read this book.

#8. Posted by Carver on April 07, 2018

Minerals as a source of wealth, yes.

But real wealth comes from using minerals in value-added processes.  Doing that requires skill, time and capital. 

Who would sell carving stone, rather than use it to make carvings and sell them? Only someone with no carving ability, or who is starving, or has no carving tools, or has no access to a market for carvings, or who is being forced to do so.

Who would sell char? Only someone without the opportunity to operate a seafood restaurant.

Who would sell iron ore? Only someone without the opportunity to use it to make steel. Who would sell steel? Only someone without the opportunity to make cars, boats, buildings, knives, or a thousand other things.

If the money from the first few sales is used to buy the knowledge, training and tools to do value added with the minerals of future mines, then the result is very great wealth.

If the money from the first few sales is used to buy addictions, you and your descendents remain poor forever.

#9. Posted by Nutty Ned on April 07, 2018

There are many Inuit in the Kitikmeot and Nunavut with European names.
So go knock yourself out knackered Ned, go back to bed!!

#10. Posted by Traditionalist on April 07, 2018

Colonialism at its finest.  Ignore traditional values, ignore a life style that defines a certain a group of people that solely rely on land/animals/know a different life style.  For a select few.  Only a hand full of colonialist benefit from mining.  Protecting the Inuit tradition should always be first and foremost, exploration mine development at a dangerous rate is not required.  Minerals will always be there.  Slow down.

#11. Posted by Ours not yours on April 07, 2018

@ #7 maybe NTI and the Ria’s should listen to their people and learn from other jurisdictions. The Chamber is trying to butter people up about “access issues” because Inuit are standing up to them. They act like meliadine is going to shut down in 2032 but fail to mention what will be their “satellite” claims around meliadine that will magically be discovered in a couple years and will say it’s necessary to mitigate job loss etc.

#12. Posted by W. Kydd, Ottawa on April 07, 2018

Under the Nunavut land claims agreement, Canada owns 80% and the
Inuit people own 20%.
Is this true ? Are families to get $90,000. each?
Does anyone know? Please advise.

#13. Posted by public questions for Alex Buchanan on April 08, 2018

Alex Buchanan, can you also tell us now, of your own personal thoughts on what you see in 25 years on the land, what will life be for caribou, polar bear, marine and for the people, over the amount of wealth mining will take out from Nunavut?  Millions sound like crumbs compared to the massive tons of mineral wealth mining companies will reap.

What is your opinion for mining to build main corridor roads and railways as inclusive for the go ahead to mine in Nunavut?

Can you take a side or do you have to remain neutral?

#14. Posted by Knockout Ned on April 08, 2018

#2 That may be, but when he pens the letter as VP of the Chamber of Mines, he gets to stop speaking on behalf of Inuit.

#3 See my response to number 2. Also, since you appear to be a glutton for punishment, let’s all thank you for sitting on the board of one of these exclusionary, white male dominated environmentalist boards on our behalf.

#5 No problem. See my response to #2 above.

#10 The term you’re looking for is “Comprador”.

And generally, remember when Baffinland promised to pay Billions to the GN in Corporate taxes? I wonder how that boon has benefitted Nunavut. Why don’t we find out, shall we?

#15. Posted by kitikmeot on April 08, 2018

I have said before to Alex that if you start training immediately you may possibly have a born in Nunavut geologist or a skilled person that can operate the mine’s as a supervisor and not just a labourer in 4 to 5 years rather that 25 years from now where there is a potential of closure of the mine’s that we operate in Nunavut.

#16. Posted by Huckleberry Claims on April 08, 2018

In the winter of 2015 I read as much as I can all the mineral deposits and high potential grounds most within Kivalliq Region. I am inuk and have been a hunter and provider all my life.

But as Bookkeeper for 15 years I have noticed we need to create more jobs. I had the privilege of prospecting old mine sites within the past two summers. Spectacular visible gold rarely exist they say but that is what I saw, claimed the ground hoping this will boost our economy. I have had a good paying job most of my life to which I purchased all hunting equipment and supplies which today has been the only way. Buying atv, snowmachine and kamutik to got get meat.

If we do not create jobs with these minerals and limit the jobs with GN positions or other organization we limit the hunting equipment providers. These grounds were selected for us in trust. I notice these deposits sit mostly within Inuit Owned Land. - Inuk Prospector, Kivalliq Region

#17. Posted by Hmmmmmm on April 08, 2018

Knock out Ned raises a very good point. If you do not agree, does that make Alex Buchan not Inuit? He is writing as the Vp of something that does not include an acronym, like, nti, kia, qia, kia, itk, so, does that mean he is no longer inuit because he wants people to have jobs?

Knock out ned, do you have a job? Do your children have access to jobs? Did your parents ever have jobs? I am just curious as to what you deem an appropriate job for Inuit people to have before they are not allowed to be inuit, perhaps they should hunt on the land, oh, wait, Alex can do that.

Or maybe they should only be geologists, oh, his son might be. But can his inuit son get a job in Nunavut. No. So, is he still Inuit? What a great question! I am glad Ned that you have more insight into this than the negotiaters of the Land claim agreement.

#18. Posted by connect to a main road on April 08, 2018

Building a long road or railway connecting to a main road and the rest of Canada is using the investing mine company money wisely.  This “well-designed” right of way will create jobs that build the connecting road or railway and create businesses along that route for travelers going to major centres, visiting family, going camping or a Sunday drive.  Communities will grow with the connecting main route to Nunavut and new businesses will offer repairs, replacements, upgrades and new supplies of all kinds.  What type of economy will grow in Nunavut, in comparison with one short distance railway from the mines to the water and for how long will the mines stay open?  Modern mining can take all the minerals and be ready to pull up stakes in less time than was 25 years ago.  See ahead for when the minerals are emptied from the breast of Mother Earth within the next 25 years.

#19. Posted by Ours not yours on April 08, 2018

@16 the only reason you have access to those areas is because you’re an Inuk. The industry is using you and your name to gain access to areas which the kivalliq want closed to development.

#20. Posted by Knockout Ned on April 09, 2018

#17 - It’s not about agreeing, as much as you want to twist my words to fit your limited narrative. It’s about who he is representing when he says “our”.

Yes, I have a job. Yes, my children have access to jobs. Yes, my parents have always had jobs. Anything else?

I never said he would cease to be Inuk. I said he can stop speaking on behalf of Inuit. See the difference?

I’m glad your requirement for insight ended 25 years ago. Mine persists, thank you very much.

#21. Posted by Northern Guy on April 09, 2018

#17 Ned has a point. While Mr. Buchan is an Inuk he penned the letter as the VP for the NWT and Nu Chamber of Mines. As a result his use of the word “our” brings into question exactly who Mr. Buchan is speaking for in the letter. Had he written the letter as an Inuk or even as a mine employee then there is no issue with the use of the term.

#22. Posted by Jobi on April 09, 2018

#21 and others are right. A. Buchan is writing as VP of mining organizaion. If he wants to say something as an Inuk then should write different letter.

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