The front page of Nunatsiaq News, from May 4, 1990. (File photo)

Yesterday’s News: Historic land claim agreement signed in Igloolik

Deal between Tunngavik Federation and federal, N.W.T. governments important step toward territory status for Nunavut

By Nunatsiaq News

Fourteen years in the making and nine years before Nunavut would attain territory status, the signing of the first-ever land-claim agreement between Inuit and the federal government was big news 33 years ago.

The deal, signed April 30, 1990, gave Inuit title to about 350,000 square kilometres of land — roughly one-third the size of Nunavut now — as well as support for “social and political development,” the article notes, and rights to renewable resources.

Among its other provisions, it also gave Inuit the right to harvest wildlife on land and water throughout the settlement area.

Talks went on for a long time prior to the signing, beginning in 1976 led by the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut (the predecessor to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.), the Northwest Territories government and the federal government.

The agreement wouldn’t actually be ratified until 1993, capping the 17-year process. It was the largest Indigenous land-claim agreement in Canadian history, supporting the division of Northwest Territories and providing for a plebiscite on boundaries.

Nunatsiaq News is looking back through some old front pages as the paper celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, after starting out as a community newsletter called Inukshuk in 1973.

The front-page photo from May 4, 1990, shows the signing of the agreement, done in Igloolik over a weekend of festivities that marked the event.

Signatories included Dennis Patterson, who at the time was territorial government leader and is currently the senator for Nunavut and Tunngavik federation president Paul Quassa, who would go on to serve as a Nunavut premier, speaker of the legislative assembly and MLA. Quassa is currently a member of Iqaluit city council.

The third person pictured signing is Tom Siddon, a member of then-prime minister Brian Mulroney’s cabinet responsible for what at the time was known as the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

As an aside, Siddon was the man Mulroney turned to in 1985 to take over the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to clean up the so-called tunagate scandal, where large quantities of tuna deemed unfit for human consumption were somehow approved for sale.

Other noteworthy events that happened in May 1990: The Hubble space telescope sends its first photographs from space, and the Toronto Maple Leafs do not go on to win the Stanley Cup.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by snapshot on

    The day we gave ourselves away. We had all that land, gold, diamonds, oils and we gave it away for a mere penny.

  2. Posted by Paul on

    It’s completely different than what we had hoped for, we had wanted our own territory our own government, not the cookie cutter same southern government full of bureaucrats red tape that do not represent Nunavut.
    The spirit of Nunavut has been removed and the cut and paste government put in its place.

    This has been a great disappointment and our government has put more energy and work to not be new, representative, open, revolutionary, just another southern government placed in Nunavut.

    What I don’t understand is our Inuit leaders who knew all the shortcomings and issues with our government when they become a mla they just become part of the problem, they become silent and just go for all the photo ops, don’t make the changes needed to improve things but just become part of the GN system.

    It was such a great opportunity to create a government for Nunavut that would actually represent Nunavut, unfortunately that was not to be and we have this cut and paste government that does not represent Nunavut.

    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      I think the reality is many peoples expectations were not well aligned with reality from the start. This idea that the GN does “not representing Nunavut” is a lament that the ideals you hoped for did not come true. We hear this kind of thing often.

      Can you tell us what the ideal ‘Government of Nunavut’ should have looked from your perspective?

      • Posted by Samantha on

        Yes you hear it often and yet you don’t understand it and ask a question where the answer is right in front of your face.
        Truly amazing how anyone would not understand what Nunavut was supposed to be to what it is today and I wouldn’t be surprised if you worked for the GN.

        I agree this is not the Nunavut we wanted. But there is still time to work on having our Nunavut.

        • Posted by Pork Pie on

          “the answer is right in front of your face”

          “Truly amazing how anyone would not understand”

          This response contributes absolutely nothing to anyone’s understanding. I suspect you don’t have an answer, just vague feelings that seem obvious to you as long as you never have to articulate them.

    • Posted by lol on

      Was the idea to make the GN have a president selected by 17% of the population like NTI?

      • Posted by LOL on

        It sure wasn’t the idea of having southern inexperienced workforce coming up here for a few years and leaving.
        Not the Nunavut we wanted that’s for sure, how is that working out so far? Lol

        • Posted by lol on

          So they expected a different result for staffing than Yukon and NWT that had been operating for 100 years? That they thought that 18000 Inuit would assume the mantle of their own destiny and fully staff all government positions is incredible! I wonder how it could have all gone so wrong 20 years later and we still need to fly up those terrible southerners to nurse us, keep the power on and fix our water supply and fly the planes.


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