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”
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.