Week Three – Nunavut Land Claim Agreement

Hi folks, thanks to everyone who came out on Thursday despite the inclement weather (and to everyone who found a way to stream Arctic Defenders at home).

This week, we will take some time to dive more deeply into the previous weeks’ discussions as we turn to  the creation of Nunavut itself through the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement. Rather than watching a new film, this session will give us more time to reflect on the material we’ve covered so far.

The Agreement

Ratified on May 25th, 1993 by representatives of the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut (today, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.), the Canadian federal government, and the government of the Northwest Territories, this agreement constitutes the largest Indigenous land claim settlement in Canada to date.

As we saw in Arctic Defenders, the agreement was the result of decades of Inuit political organizing and persistence. Rather than reading the entire agreement, which runs 292 pages long, we’ve selected a few excerpts that we believe speak well to the themes of this session, like land, sovereignty, and the media we use to negotiate these:

  • The Agreement (pp. 1-2 ; 12-13)
  • Article 2 on the General Provisions (pp. 11-12 ; 22-27)
  • Article 3 on Nunavut Settlement (pp. 17-21 ; 28-32)
  • Article 4 on Nunavut Political Development (pp. 23; 34)
  • Articles 17, 18 and 19 on Inuit Owned Lands (pp. 139-145 ; 150-156)
  • Article 23 on Inuit Employment within Government (pp. 191-195; 202-206)

(NB. Underlined page numbers refer to the PDF document itself rather than the Agreement’s Table of Contents. Anyone wanting to print these selections could copy-paste the following into the print screen directly : 12-13, 22-27, 28-32, 34, 150-156, 202-206)

Of course, anyone who would like to read beyond these selections is more than welcome to do so and to report back on what you found.

This is a legal document, and it is likely going to be alienating to read for us who do not normally have to engage with this kind of language — language that is given the power to govern people’s lives and territory. As you read, think about the privilege inherent in our not normally having to engage with it, and the power of those people who have easy access to such forms of language. Try to identify what particular aspects of the language is alienating or not. What is especially confusing?

Otherwise, let’s try to identify: 

  • What rights and benefits are provided the Inuit in this land claims agreement? 
  • How does the agreement characterize land ownership, rights, sovereignty?
  • How do such definitions differ from the ways people in Arctic Defenders discussed land and sovereignty?

Telecommunications Media and Governance

The second, much shorter reading is a 2018 interview with Iqualuit Mayor Madeleine Redfern. The interview focuses on the digital divide in Nunavut, offering us an important perspective on the ways that media can be used to facilitate self-determination, access to education, and sovereignty. While Mayor Redfern focuses specifically on the Internet and other telecommunications, we are in a position to think about the ways that cinema may serve such purposes too. 

Thinking back to last week’s discussion in that context, consider how these documents (films and texts) capture different settler or Indigenous gazes, different ways of seeing and saying and knowing. Whose voices and perspectives are we given access to here?

  • What is Arctic Defenders communicating in its use of an autobiographical frame to the film? Does it go far enough? Or is it too much? How does that frame reflect our focus on how we remember the news of the 1993 agreement, how we might feel when given the chance to visit the north, what we might have to say about the ongoing use of the word “eskimo”.
  • Can we use Sherrill Grace’s notion of seven deadly sins of representing the north, for example, as a helpful way to access the language of the Nunavut land claims agreement?

Finally, please pay particular attention to the communications article that was removed from the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement, which Mayor Redfern mentions towards the end of the interview. How does this change your understanding of the agreement, if at all?