History of Nunavut

(Redirected from Nunavut Act)

The history of Nunavut covers the period from the arrival of the Paleo-Eskimo thousands of years ago to present day. Prior to the colonization of the continent by Europeans, the lands encompassing present-day Nunavut were inhabited by several historical cultural groups, including the Pre-Dorset, the Dorsets, the Thule and their descendants, the Inuit.

Timeline of the cultures of Nunavut
Maps showing the decline of the Dorset culture and the rise of the Thule people from c. 900 to 1500

From the 18th century, the territory was claimed by the British, with portions of Nunavut administered as a part the Rupert's Land, the North-Western Territory, or the British Arctic Territories. After the Deed of Surrender was signed in 1870, ownership of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory was transferred from the Hudson's Bay Company to the government of Canada. In 1880, the British Arctic Territories were also transferred to the Canadian government. Present-day Nunavut was initially administered as a part of the Northwest Territories, although by the end of 1912, the territory only administered the lands north of the 60th parallel north and east of Yukon.

During the late-20th century, the government of Canada entered into land claim negotiations with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was signed on May 25, 1993, with a six year transitional period for the establishment of a new territory. Nunavut was formally established as a Canadian territory on April 1, 1999.

Early history Edit

Mainland Nunavut was first populated approximately 4500 years ago by the Pre-Dorset, a diverse Paleo-Eskimo culture that migrated westward from the Bering Strait region, when the region was a geographical connection between Asia and America, called Beringia.[1] Evidence suggests the Pre-Dorset culture were seasonally mobile, moving between settlements to take advantage of resources.[2]

Dorset culture Edit

The Pre-Dorset culture was succeeded by the Dorset culture about 2800 years ago. Differences between the Pre-Dorset and Dorset cultures include those in lithic technology, art, and styles of building. The Dorset culture additionally lacked the bow and arrow which was utilized by the pre-Dorset.[3] The Dorset culture has been assumed to have developed from the Pre-Dorset, however the relationship between the two remains unclear.[3]

Helluland, a location Norse explorers describe visiting in the Sagas of Icelanders has been connected to Nunavut's Baffin Island. Claims of contact between the Dorset and Norse, however, remain controversial.[4][5]

Thule Edit

Inuit portrayed during one of Martin Frobisher's voyages to the region

The Thule people, ancestors of the modern Inuit, began migrating into the Northwest Territories and Nunavut from Alaska in the 11th century. By 1300, the geographic extent of Thule settlement included most of modern Nunavut.

A number of hypotheses have been developed to explain the Thule migration. The historically dominant model posited by Robert McGhee holds that changes in bowhead whale populations brought about by the Medieval Warm Period drew Thule hunters westward. Other hypotheses connect the migration to population pressure, warfare, over-hunting, and Greenlandic iron deposits.[6]

The migration of the Thule people coincides with the decline of the Dorset, who died out between 800 and 1500.[7] While Thule settlers may have adopted Dorset harpoon and hunting technology, there is virtually no evidence confirming contact between the two populations.[1][8]

European exploration Edit

The written historical accounts of Nunavut begin in 1576, with an account by English explorer, Martin Frobisher. 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.[9] While the ore turned out worthless, 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.

20th century Edit

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.[10] 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 (6,900 sq mi) each year.[11]

Map of the 1982 division and 1992 boundary plebiscite results.

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.[12] The government paid $10 million CAD to the survivors and their families, but did not apologize until August 18, 2010.[13][14]

The whole story is told in Melanie McGrath's The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic.[15]

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 May 25, 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was signed[16] and on June 10, 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act were passed by the Canadian Parliament,[17][18] with the transition completed on April 1, 1999.[19]

References Edit

  1. ^ a b "Dorset DNA: Genes Trace the Tale of the Arctic's Long-Gone 'Hobbits'". NBC News. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  2. ^ Park, Robert; Milne, S. Brooke (2016). "Pre-Dorset Culture". The Oxford Handbook of the Prehistoric Arctic.
  3. ^ a b Houmard, Claire (January 1, 2018). "Cultural Continuity from Pre-Dorset to Dorset in the Eastern Canadian Arctic Highlighted by Bone Technology and Typology". Arctic Anthropology. 55 (1): 24–47. doi:10.3368/aa.55.1.24. ISSN 0066-6939. S2CID 165682039.
  4. ^ 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, September 12, 2008, accessed October 5, 2009
  5. ^ Weber, Bob (July 22, 2018). "Ancient Arctic people may have known how to spin yarn long before Vikings arrived". Old theories being questioned in light of carbon-dated yarn samples. CBC. Retrieved January 2, 2019. … Michele Hayeur Smith of Brown University in Rhode Island, lead author of a recent paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Hayeur Smith and her colleagues were looking at scraps of yarn, perhaps used to hang amulets or decorate clothing, from ancient sites on Baffin Island and the Ungava Peninsula. The idea that you would have to learn to spin something from another culture was a bit ludicrous," she said. "It's a pretty intuitive thing to do.
  6. ^ Morrison, David (1999). "The Earliest Thule Migration". Canadian Journal of Archaeology. 22 (2): 139–156. ISSN 0705-2006. JSTOR 41103361.
  7. ^ Friesen, T. Max (December 1, 2004). "Contemporaneity of Dorset and Thule Cultures in the North American Arctic: New Radiocarbon Dates from Victoria Island, Nunavut". Current Anthropology. 45 (5): 685–691. doi:10.1086/425635. ISSN 0011-3204. S2CID 145207595.
  8. ^ Park, Robert W. (1993). "The Dorset-Thule Succession in Arctic North America: Assessing Claims for Culture Contact". American Antiquity. 58 (2): 203–234. doi:10.2307/281966. ISSN 0002-7316. JSTOR 281966. S2CID 162383674.
  9. ^ "Nunavut: The Story of Canada's Inuit People [sic]" Archived 2007-10-03 at the Wayback Machine, Maple Leaf Web
  10. ^ Grise Fiord: History Archived 2008-12-28 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ 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)"The High Arctic Relocation". Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  13. ^ Royte, Elizabeth (April 8, 2007). "Trail of Tears". The New York Times.
  14. ^ "Apology for the Inuit High Arctic relocation". Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. September 15, 2010.
  15. ^ Alfred A. Knopf, 2006 (268 pages) Hardcover: ISBN 0-00-715796-7 Paperback: ISBN 0-00-715797-5
  16. ^ "Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Signed". Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. Archived from the original on January 18, 2015.
  17. ^ "Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act". CanLII. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  18. ^ "Nunavut Act". Department of Justice. July 15, 2019. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  19. ^ CBC Digital Archives (2006). "Creation of Nunavut". CBC News. Retrieved April 26, 2007.

Further reading Edit