Pita Aatami says he wants to create unity and prosperity among Nunavimmiut if re-elected as Makivik Corp. president. (Photo courtesy of P. Aatami)

Past Makivik president Pita Aatami pushes unity in run for old job

“I feel like Inuit have been left behind,” says former CEO of Air Inuit

By Sarah Rogers

Nunatsiaq News is publishing profiles this week of the three candidates running for the position of president of Makivik Corp.: Pita Aatami, Noah Cain and Charlie Watt.

 Makivik Corp. is the birthright organization of Inuit in Nunavik. Its main role is to administer the region’s land claim, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

Makivik’s president serves as the corporation’s chief executive officer and chairman of its board of directors, exercising general supervision over the organization’s affairs. The president serves a three-year term.

The election will be held Feb. 4. Polls will be open in Nunavik’s communities from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Advance polls will be held Jan. 28.

Pita Aatami wants another run leading Makivik Corp., with the goal of creating unity and prosperity among Nunavimmiut.

Aatami’s history with Nunavik’s Inuit birthright organization goes back more than 30 years; he was first elected as a Makivik board member in 1987. Aatami was then elected as the organization’s treasurer from 1993 until 1998, at which point he ran in a by-election for president. He served in that role until 2012.

In 2013, Aatami became president and CEO of Makivik’s subsidiary airline company, Air Inuit. He recently resigned from that role in order to run in this election.

“Why did I decide to run? What I’m hearing is that there’s no more unity in Nunavik,” said Aatami, 60.

“Organizations are telling me [that] there’s no more collaboration. Before, we spoke as one; now, we’re scattered. I feel like Inuit have been left behind.”

Makivik has signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government to negotiate Inuit self-government for Nunavik, but Aatami fears the Quebec government is not on board.

“I do want [Nunavimmiut] to have our own government,” he said. “But it’s not clear that either government wants to reopen any agreement. If that’s the case, there is nothing guaranteed.”

Aatami said he hopes instead to refocus Makivik’s work on grassroots initiatives that support Inuit and community-building across Nunavik.

First, Aatami said that he hopes to add a youth representative to Makivik’s executive council.

“We have a very young population – 60 per cent are under the age of 35,” he said. “To ensure that youth have a bigger voice, I want to bring them in to have decision-making power.”

Infrastructure also ranks high on Aatami’s list of priorities. He believes Makivik has a role to play in lobbying for airport renovations — specifically, to see airstrips extended to allow larger aircraft to land in Nunavik communities.

Currently, only the airstrips in Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq are long enough for jets to land, and occasionally at Kuujjuaraapik’s airport.

“We can’t land anything bigger than a Dash 8-300 at this point,” Aatami said. “Once these airplanes reach their lifespan, what are we going to replace them with?”

As well, Aatami wants to lower the cost of shipping materials to the region by expanding use of Makivik’s subsidiaries and joint ventures. For example, he says, Makivik’s shipping firm NEAS Group could offer a program wherein Nunavimmiut can ship up vehicles and harvesting equipment like canoes or snowmobiles at a subsidized rate.

He also sees potential in reviving programs once offered under the Kativik Regional Government’s hunter support program, through which Nunavimmiut could sell their sewed goods or other handmade tools.

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by KUUJJUAMIUK on

    George is back , Pita is trying to come back , does that mean Johnny and Anthony are going to try to come back too. Sure would be nice to see the old gang back together

  2. Posted by Looks like it’s Pita on

    Looks good Pita. One of my concerns though is this representative of youth. Yes youth are our future, but two points here: 1. This under 35 should be not. That range in age is not appropriate. 35 year old is not a youth, and I got my doubts even not a 25 year old. Straighten out that youth age range. It’s just not right. 2. Before having youth on the makivik boards, please ensure they have fully finished their school, not just finished half, poorly designed program whereby they count as not qualified in the provincial aspects of jobs, and behind in Canada standards. If you took the time to really look at youth committees at this time , you’ll find exactly what I’m talking about. Youth are therefore encouraged to not complete their education, due to leadership trying to put them in unqualified positions. Otherwise it looks like Pita.

  3. Posted by Beneficiary of Nunavik on

    You have my vote Pita!

  4. Posted by Yet another Beneficiary of Nunavik on

    You don’t have my vote Pita.

  5. Posted by A man amongst men on

    Yes, it’s Pita. A man amongst real women and real men. Beneficiaries are his priority. None of this nonsense you must be inuk speaker. I lost my language because my parents were cowards to stand up for me. Allowed the government of the day to just take me, and I hear stories of brave among non Inuit. Thank you Pita. I know this is another issue, but it’s important to me. Charlie watt needs to double checked his ancestry line too. Be kind Charlie in your older days,!you are part white too,

  6. Posted by monty sling on

    I wish someone would give us an idea how much these top guys earn annually. Either at nunavik and nunavut. I know in nunavut, top regional inuit orgs bosses are like saudi princes. Goodness; egos. If old monty is ever elected as regional top man or to nti first eskimo. I would allocate 50% of royalties to five baffin communities, to rankin inlet, baker lake and to cambay and gjoa. Communities most impacted. How does nunavik fare?

  7. Posted by Ron Ralph on

    Greetings Residents & students of Nunavik and students who are now old enough to vote….
    Remember it was Pita Aatami who brought the Space Contact Program A.R.I.S.S. Amateur Radio International Space Station program for the students of Nunavik and Nunavut. Students talking to Astronauts on the Space Station. It was individuals from First Air that ended the program…Not the virus. I always told Pita that most people in the south could care less about educating Inuit students in the north. Even your own Dr. David Saint- Jacques, Astronaut David Saint-Jacques is involved with the ARISS program. There are 26 countries involved with the space contact program. This program costs millions of dollars and is all paid for by NASA.

    Food for thought! Vote for Pita!

    • Posted by David on

      It’s untrue that Southerners could care less about educating Inuit in the north. But I’m sure if you asked them their opinion with the same arrogant yet ignorant mindset the north has become so well known for, you’d get the following response:
      “Southerners are more interested in educating Inuit in the north than Inuit are interested in educating southerners in the south.”
      Afrer all, it is the South’s money that’s being handed out all over the north for things like education, so it’s natural that they would care more than the self-characterized population receiving it.

      • Posted by Wait.. what? on

        It is the south’s money that pays for education? Tahaha! You do realize that the government made an agreement with the people of Nunavik for the land? We paid with our land. Education is just basically a royalty upon several royalties within that agreement that the government has to pay. You really think that Quebec has an economy without James bay and northern Quebec? LOL then why wouldn’t southerners lay off and leave us with our land? Smh

        • Posted by Land and education on

          Inuit own the land in Nunavik. Or at least the land is used as a commodity develop by the Quebec government and thereby funding education and infrastructure for Nunavik. The thing is: education don’t seem to be as important in Nunavik as it’s potential. You have to remember this also: you can own all the land on earth, but if you can’t develop or use it to make your economy, it’s useless. Land has been fought after in wars traditionally in history. We need to be thankful that no war has come on to Nunavik to take the land, for we don’t have resources to protect that from happening. But in a silent way, there’s been a war, and the government has won, as it’s the government who controls development. You could say we have the land in Nunavik, we walk and drive on it everyday, but that’s it. Compared to other areas of the country we have very little, other then the misery of social deterioration. Look at what little we little we produce. All comes from the land in the south. Everything.

          • Posted by yet Quebec Government were not the first ones that came to Nunavik! on

            Where was Quebec Government when Americans created air base of Fort Chimo now called Kuujjuaq?

            There was no French men/women never existed just Americans, they even had Inuit workers helping them out, once you enter the range road pass the airport, if you can focus on old telephone poles, those were installed by Inuit workers hired by Americans during 1940’s, Quebec Government only came after 1970’s.

            1949 to 1978 Federal Schools were teaching Inuit first! Learn your history where your ancestors came from _ France-Paris_

      • Posted by Wait.. what? #2 on

        Is that why KIs policies in one particular subject benefit only non beneficiaries when it comes to homeschooling? Even Inuit are not entitled to most of the services in homeschooling in nunavik or even in the south, where Inuit usually move to escape the oppression. Inuktitut is not a recognized language in any southern educational curriculum. Meanwhile, they teach only Inuktitut up to grade three.. which means for those young ones who move with their parents, that they were set up for failure if they had planned to move within the first four years of school!

        So yes! They can care less to educate the children in the north.. or anywhere they reside, as long as they’re Inuit.

  8. Posted by Heard the campaign on

    I heard all three campaigns. I tried to be opened minded. Liked all three really. But as I weigh the argument, I liked Pita best. His tone, was politically and a person with the people for the people. Can’t wait to get that pencil and paper to check his name.

    • Posted by Observer on

      I liked Charlie’s better.

  9. Posted by R Mesher on

    “I feel like Inuit have been left behind,” says former CEO of Air Inuit

    What a comment to make!

    That’s how a lot of the beneficiaries felt when YOU (& the “executives!) helped YOURSELF to 6 figure “bonuses” on top of the perks & salary you [all] were already receiving!

    • Posted by Also a Mesher on

      Notice the Watt name being thrown around the office more times than ever before. Charlie basically used makivik as a family business, which isn’t much different when it comes to benefitting ones self and using a political position to obtain the benefit.

      When it comes to giving credit where credit is due, I honestly think that pita did a better job than Charlie did, aside from the bonuses.. but he can’t do that considering that air Inuit and Canadian north are selling their own shares to keep operating.

      I’d suggest we sell the airline and invest in a highway (with help of the govt ofc) with talks of a shipping company.. sounds like FCNQ and northmarts will be buying their own freighters soon, which will put the airlines out of business, or at least cripple it until there is nothing left.

      If they’re able to invest in a highway and make their own shipping company, make it mandatory that anything that comes for resale is brought by that said shipping company that makivik creates. Monopolize it like they did with the airlines.

      But hey, that’s just me..


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