History of Nunavut

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The region now known as Nunavut has supported a continuous population for approximately 4000 years. Most historians also identify the coast of Baffin Island with the Helluland described in Norse sagas, so it is possible that the inhabitants of the region had occasional contact with Norse sailors.

Beginning of recorded history[edit]

In September 2008, researchers reported on the evaluation of existing and newly excavated archaeological remains, including yarn spun from a hare, rats, tally sticks, a carved wooden face mask depicting Caucasian features, and possible architectural material. The materials were collected in five seasons of excavation at Cape Banfield. Scholars have determined these are evidence of European traders and possibly settlers on Baffin Island not later than 1000 CE. They seem to indicate prolonged contact, possibly up to 1450. The origin of the Old World contact is unclear; the article states: "Dating of some yarn and other artifacts, presumed to be left by Vikings on Baffin Island, have produced an age that predates the Vikings by several hundred years. So [...] you have to consider the possibility that as remote as it may seem, these finds may represent evidence of contact with Europeans prior to the Vikings' arrival in Greenland."[1]

The written historical accounts of Nunavut begin in 1576, with an account by an English explorer. Martin Frobisher, while leading an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, thought he had discovered gold ore around the body of water now known as Frobisher Bay on the coast of Baffin Island.[2] The ore turned out to be worthless, but Frobisher made the first recorded European contact with the Inuit. Other explorers in search of the elusive Northwest Passage followed in the 17th century, including Henry Hudson, William Baffin and Robert Bylot.

Cold War forced relocations[edit]

Cornwallis and Ellesmere Islands feature in the history of the Cold War in the 1950s. Efforts to assert sovereignty in the High Arctic during the Cold War, i.e. the area's strategic geopolitical position, were part of the reason the federal government decided to forcibly relocate Inuit from northern Quebec to Resolute and Grise Fiord. The first group of people were relocated in 1953 from Inukjuak, Quebec (then known as Port Harrison ) and from Pond Inlet, Nunavut. They were promised homes and game to hunt, but the relocated people discovered no buildings and very little familiar wildlife.[3] They also had to endure weeks of 24-hour darkness during the winter, and 24-hour sunlight during the summer, something that does not occur in northern Quebec. They were told that they would be returned home after a year if they wished, but this offer was later withdrawn as it would damage Canada's claims to sovereignty in the area and the Inuit were forced to stay. Eventually, the Inuit learned the local beluga whale migration routes and were able to survive in the area, hunting over a range of 18,000 km² (6,950 mi²) each year.[4]

In 1993, the Canadian government held hearings to investigate the relocation program. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples issued a report entitled The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953-55 Relocation.[5] The government paid $10 million CAD to the survivors and their families, but as of 2007 has yet to apologize.[6]

Having lost most traditional skills and purpose, its Inuit residents are now to a large degree dependent on government support. The whole story is told in Melanie McGrath's The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic.[7]

Towards autonomy[edit]

Leading up to the 1970s, there was some discussion of splitting the Northwest Territories into two separate jurisdictions in order to better reflect the demographic character of the territory. In 1966, a public commission of inquiry on Northwest Territories government reported, recommending against division of the Northwest Territories at the time.

In 1976 as part of the land claims negotiations between the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (then called the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada) and the federal government, the division of the Northwest Territories was discussed. On April 14, 1982, a plebiscite on division was held throughout the Northwest Territories with a majority of the residents voting in favour and the federal government gave a conditional agreement seven months later. The land claims agreement was decided in September 1992 and ratified by nearly 85% of the voters in Nunavut in a referendum. On July 9, 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act were passed by the Canadian Parliament, and the transition was completed on April 1, 1999.[8]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jane George, "Kimmirut site suggests early European contact: Hare fur yarn, wooden tally sticks may mean visitors arrived 1,000 years ago" Archived 2009-08-19 at the Wayback Machine., Nunatsiaq News, 12 September 2008, accessed 5 October 2009
  2. ^ "Nunavut: The Story of Canada's Inuit People" Archived 2007-10-03 at the Wayback Machine., Maple Leaf Web
  3. ^ Grise Fiord: History Archived 2008-12-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ McGrath, Melanie. The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006 (268 pages) Hardcover: ISBN 0-00-715796-7 Paperback: ISBN 0-00-715797-5
  5. ^ The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953-55 Relocation by René Dussault and George Erasmus, produced by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, published by Canadian Government Publishing, 1994 (190 pages)"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-10-01. Retrieved 2010-06-20. 
  6. ^ Royte, Elizabeth (2007-04-08). "Trail of Tears". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Alfred A. Knopf, 2006 (268 pages) Hardcover: ISBN 0-00-715796-7 Paperback: ISBN 0-00-715797-5
  8. ^ CBC Digital Archives (2006). "Creation of Nunavut". CBC News. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
 Whitcomb, Dr. Ed. A Short History of the Canadian North. Ottawa. From Sea To Sea Enterprises, 2011.  ISBN 978-0-9865967-2-8. 62 pp.