The Inuit Impact

The Inuit have come a great distance across the geographic landscape of Canada. Inuit were here long before there even was a Canada. Many people do not realize however that the very identity of Canada itself has been reflected back at itself through the ingenuity and determination of the Inuit spirit. Whether it be something that was an Inuit invention, or the perserverance of certain individuals, or the collective will of the Inuit people, Canadian identity is impacted by Inuit. Below are examples of invention, historical moments and biographies of Inuit who have impacted the very fabric of Canada.

Historical Moment - The Formation of Nunavut

The formation of Nunavut is the first event in Canada of its kind. Inuit are the aboriginal people to create and establish a self governing territorial government.  Establishing self government is key to self determination and a new future for Inuit.  In 2009 Nunavut celebrate it's 10 year anniversary. Nunavut’s 26 communities are spread across nearly two million square kilometres - almost one-fifth of Canada.
Its population is over 29,000, 85% of whom are Inuit.
1973 Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC) begins a study of Inuit land use and occupancy which eventually demonstrates the extent of Inuit aboriginal title in the Arctic. This study forms the geographic basis of the Nunavut Territory.
1976 ITC proposes the creation of a Nunavut Territory as part of a comprehensive settlement of Inuit land claims in the Northwest Territories. The Nunavut Proposal calls for the Beaufort Sea and Yukon North Slope areas used by the Inuvialuit to be included in the Nunavut Territory.
That same year, due to development pressure in the Beaufort Sea area, the Inuvialuit split from ITC to negotiate a separate land claim agreement.
Also that same year, a federal electoral boundaries commission recommends dividing the Northwest Territories into two federal electoral districts: Nunatsiaq and the Western Arctic. This recommendation is put in effect for the 1979 federal election.
1980 At its Annual General Meeting in October, ITC delegates unanimously pass a resolution calling for the creation of Nunavut.
1990 Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) and representatives of the federal and territorial governments sign a land claims agreement-in-principle in April. The agreement supports the division of the Northwest Territories and provides for a plebiscite on boundaries.
1992 In January, TFN and government negotiators come to an agreement on the substantive portions of a final land claims agreement for the Nunavut region. The agreement contains commitments for the creation of a Nunavut territory and government, subject to a boundary plebiscite and the conclusion of the Nunavut Political Accord. This Accord would detail the timetable and process for establishing Nunavut.
1992 An overall majority of voters in the Northwest Territories and the Nunavut area approve the proposed boundary for division in a May plebiscite.
In October, TFN and government representatives sign the Nunavut Political Accord, setting the creation of Nunavut as April 1, 1999.
In November, in a Nunavut-wide vote, the Inuit of Nunavut ratify the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
1993 The Nunavut Agreement is signed in May. In June, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act are adopted by Parliament and receive Royal Assent.
1995 and 1996 Footprints in New Snow and Footprints II, documents written by the Nunavut Implementation Commission, recommend that certain headquarter and regional functions of the Nunavut government be decentralized to communities. Footprints II is used as the blueprint for the foundation of the Government of Nunavut.
1997 The Office of the Interim Commissioner is established to help prepare for the creation of Nunavut. It is responsible for setting up an operational government ready to function effectively on April 1, 1999.
1998 Amendments to the Nunavut Act are adopted by Parliament and receive Royal Assent.
1999 The Nunavut Territory and Government come into existence on April 1.
Historical Moment - The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement

The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement is the largest Aboriginal land claim settlement in Canadian history. It's creation was the necessary seed for the formation of Nunavut. Canadians can be proud that it's aboriginal voices are being heard and the aboriginal land claims are vital to the growth and prosperity of its aboriginal communities.

The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement is a 1993 land claims agreement between the Inuit of the Nunavut Settlement Area (then part of the Northwest Territories) and the Government of Canada subject to the Constitution Act of 1982. The lands are not deemed to be "Lands Reserved for Indians" with respect to the Constitution Act of 1867. The Inuit were represented by the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut to establish the agreement.

The agreement specifies two areas that are subject of the agreement: Area A consists of Arctic Islands and mainland Eastern Arctic, and their adjacent marine areas; Area B includes the Belcher Islands, its associated islands and adjacent marine areas.[1] (A complete inventory of land, islands and marine territory subject to the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement is listed in the agreement itself.)

The agreement of July 9, 1993 was the basis for creating the new territory of Nunavut, which was officially established on April 1, 1999. The agreement led to a political accord which established dates for introducing legislation to Parliament for the eventual creation of the territory, the Government of Nunavut, and a transition process.

Under the terms of the agreement, jurisdiction over some territorial matters was transferred to the new government, among them wildlife management, land use planning and development, property taxation, and natural resource management. Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

You can learn more about the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and related publications here

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement

The second major land claim victory for Inuit has come for the Inuit of Labrador with the formation of the Nunatsiavut Governent and the The Labrador Inuit Land Claim Agreement.

The Labrador Inuit Land Claim Agreement (LILCA) defines the rights of Labrador Inuit in and to our ancestral lands. It is basically a contract between the Inuit of Labrador (represented by the Labrador Inuit Association), the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The LILCA was ratified by the Labrador Inuit; the legislative assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador; and the Parliament of Canada.
On June 23, 2005, the agreement received Royal Assent from the Governor General of Canada, marking the end of a journey that stretched over 28 years.
There are several useful and educational publications to view and download at Nunatsiavut Goverment website at:
Source: Nunatsiavut Government

Inuit Invention - Clothing - The Parka

It didn't take long for Europeans and other early settlers coming to Canada to realize the need for cold weather clothing that stood up to cold Canadian winters.  Now the influence of Inuit parkas is not only evident in Canadian winter fashion but around the world.  Whether it's the stylized patterns around sleeves or the hood and bottom faux fur trim the inspiration for these designs is clear. When Canadians are featured in film, literature or television they are more times than not dressed in a parka and is synonymous with others as a visual identity of Canadians.
"As early as 1718, Caribou Inuit were trading with Hudson's Bay Company ships that travelled along the west coast of Hudson Bay. Coloured cloth, glass beads and metal added a new dimension to personal adornment and clothing decoration that conferred prestige upon the wearer. Caribou Inuit men's inner parkas were decorated with beadwork in geometric compositions. Although beads were placed in areas that followed traditional clothing decoration, the designs gave the seamstress an outlet for her creative flair."   Source: Museum of Civilization

Inuit Invention - Clothing - Kamiiks (Boots)

 Kamiiks are another one of those fantastic Inuit inventions that Canadians adopted as their own.  Traditionally kamiiks are made from caribou or seal skin and are extremley durable, waterproof and above all they are warm. Traditional Kamiiks are sewn together with sinew as it is extremely tough yet light and thin. Now even a top brand name of winter boots it's easy to see how this Inuit invention caught on with Canadians and they spurred on a Canadian fashion industry.  

Inuit Invention - The Qajaq (Kayak)

The Inuit qajaq was made sleek, fast and light so that hunters could move quickly to capture their prey. These boats were covered with stretched seal skin and extremely boyant. Even though there are other variations the design and word were copied because it was such a superior design and construction.  The kayak is extremely easy for a single person to return to an upright position even if flipped completely upside down.  Now kayaking is a major sport not just in Canada but around the world. A great Canadian past time thanks to Inuit ingenuity.

Inuit Invention - Inuksuk

The Inuksuk (prounouced ee nook shook) has become a representation of Canada to the world since the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games. The Inuksuk however is familiar to people coast to coast to coast in Canada. Inuksuit (plural)  can be seen everywhere from the entrance of the Nation's capital airport to small town rural gardens.  What many don't know are the meaning and origin behind them.
An Inuksuk is a stone marker that acts in the place of a person. They can serve many purposes and have been vital to the survival of Inuit out on the land. The inuksuit (plural) that are commonly used and created in the shape of a person are called Inunnguaq. Inuksuk have always been constructed out on the land from whatever stones where available in the immediate vicinity. Since each Inuksuk was built by hand with nearby stones each one is different from the next.  Each one built represents the land around it and since it is built from the land it represents it also has a strong tie to the land for many Inuit. Once built they are considered sacred and if destroyed or disassembled, it is said to be a bad luck and some say shorten the life of the one who destroys it.
Inuksuit have been used for hunting and navigation mostly.  Inuit hunting caribou would build a kind of scarecrow made of a few stones high and would insert Arctic Heather in them so that the blowing wind would cause the heather to appear like human hair. Once spooked the caribou would stampeded along a path  by the aligned Inuksuit which ultimately led them into the arrows of awaiting hunters.
You can learn more about Inuksuit and Inunnguaq on the Inuksuk page or check out the video podcast on Inuksuk: Build and Learn.

Difference Makers - Historical, Political and Cultural Contributions - Ms. Leona Aglukkaq

Ms. Aglukkaq was first elected to work for the Nunavummiut in the House of Commons in October 2008. On October 30th, 2008 she became the first Inuk to be sworn into the Federal Cabinet. Prior to entering federal politics Ms. Aglukkaq served in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly as the MLA for the district of NATTILIK (communities of Gjoa Haven and Taloyoak).

During her time as an MLA, Ms. Aglukkaq was elected by her peers to be part of the Executive Council. She was first given the responsibility of Finance Minister and House Leader, before becoming the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister for the Status of Women. Ms. Aglukkaq throughout her life has enjoyed an extensive career in Government. Before entering politics, Ms. Aglukkaq served in numerous roles in both the Governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, including as Deputy Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Deputy Minister for Culture, Language, Elders and Youth, Deputy Minister for Human Resources and as an Assistant Deputy Minister for Human Resources and Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Whether it has been during her time involved in the federal government, the territorial government, the Cambridge Bay municipal government, where she served for six years as a Councilor, her numerous hours spent volunteering in the communities, or during her time serving on different boards, such as the Arctic College Board of Governors, the Nunavut Impact Review Board or the NWT Science Institute; Ms. Aglukkaq has always fought hard for Inuit issues that she was raised to believe in.

Ms. Aglukkaq was raised in Thom Bay, Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven. Ms. Aglukkaq is married to Robbie MacNeil and has a son Cooper.

Difference Makers - Historical, Role Model to Youth - Jordin Tootoo

Jordin Tootoo has made history as the first Inuk to play for the NHL. His success is thanks to his tenacity , hard working spirit and always following his dream.. Jordin grew up in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, on Hudson Bay. Jordin Tootoo, is the Nashville Predators' right wing. Jordin is a role model who set his sights on the NHL and has never looked back.
"It's always good to be different," he says. "Being the first [Inuit] player to play in the National Hockey League was a goal of mine. And I don't think any kid should be shy of being different from anyone else. It sets the tone for a lot of different things."

Jordin is known for his speed, puck-handling skills and strong shot did. He gained success in his final junior team success with 35 goals and 39 assists playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings.

At 5'9" and 193 pounds, it hasn't deterred him or stopped him from playing his style or playing Jordin's game of hockey.

Date of birth: February 02, 1983  Place of birth: Churchill, Man., Canada  Drafted by Nashville in 2001 - Source Hockey Digest

Difference Makers - Recording Artist - Susan Agulkark

Singer / songwriter Susan Aglukark is one of Canada’s most unique artists and a leading voice in Canadian music. She blends the Inuktitut and English languages with contemporary pop music arrangements to tell the stories of her people, the Inuit of Arctic Canada. The emotional depth and honesty of her lyrics; her pure, clear voice and themes of hope, spirit and encouragement have captivated and inspired listeners from all walks of life.

Susan’s genuine concern for others combined with her political & social awareness lead many to view her as a role model. She is also rapidly becoming known as an uplifting motivational speaker, able to reach both youth and adult audiences alike.
Susan had held command performances for HRH Queen Elizabeth (twice), Canadian Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney and the President of France, Jacques Chirac. She has performed for Nelson Mandela and Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson as well as several other dignitaries. Equally important to her are the many, many communities across Canada and the Arctic.

Most recently, Susan was invited into the Order Canada and was presented her Officer of the Order of Canada award in September of 2005 for her contribution both musically and as a workshop facilitator and mentor in the aboriginal community.

Awards include: Juno Awards (3) and several Juno nominations presented by C.A.R.A.S. (Canadian Association of Recording Arts & Sciences); the first-ever Aboriginal Achievement Award in Arts & Entertainment, and the Canadian Country Music Association’s (CCMA) Vista Rising Star Award, along with several other CCMA nominations. Susan’s albums Arctic Rose, Christmas, This Child, Unsung Heroes and Big Feeling have sold over 400,000 copies in Canada to date.

Susan has her sights set on touring her upcoming new album (due out March 2006) and the continuation of her activist work. Susan says she never strays far from her roots or the people of Arctic Canada where she grew up; her ultimate message, “to learn to be yourself and believe in that person” reaches much further and touches all people everywhere.
Difference Makers - Historical, Political and Cultural Contributions - John Amagoalik

He is an active Inuit politician who was instrumental in the campaign for the creation of Nunavut and was deeply involved in the quest for compensation for Inuit families that were relocated. Amagoalik was born at a seasonal camp near Inukjuaq in northern Quebec. At the age of five, his family and 17 others were relocated to the high Arctic communities of Resolute and Grise Fiord. He was educated at residential schools in Churchill and Iqaluit.

Amagoalik began his political career as the Baffin Regional Information Officer with the Northwest Territories territorial government, a position he held from 1971 to 1974. It was at around this time that he became the first of many to call for the creation of an Inuit homeland to be called “Nunavut.” To help achieve this goal, he acted as head of the NWT Nunavut Land Claims Commission (NLCC) from 1977 to 1979. When that organization dissolved, Amagoalik became part of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, acting as its vice-president from 1979 to 1981, and serving two terms as president (1981-1985; 1988-1991). At the same time, from 1982 to 1985, he was co-chair of the Inuit Committee on National Issues; in 1986-87, he was chair of the Nunavut Constitutional Forum (NCF). From 1991 to 1993, he was a political advisor to the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut. After the ratification of the Nunavut Act in 1993, Amagoalik was appointed chief commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission – the organization that oversaw the arrangements leading up to Nunavut's creation on April 1, 1999.

Amagoalik has received accolades for his work with Aboriginal rights and the Nunavut claim, including the ITC's 20th Anniversary Award, a National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and an honorary degree from St. Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Difference Makers - Historical, Political and Cultural Contributions - Paul Okalik

He was a researcher and negotiator for the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut and Deputy Chief Negotiator and Special Assistant to the President of the Federation; he played an important role in achieving the 1993 settlement that resulted in the creation of Nunavut in 1999 and participated in its complex implementation. He helped create the Inuit Heritage Trust, the Nunavut Implementation Training Committee, the Nunavut Social Development Council and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. In 1999 he was elected Member for Iqualuit West of the first Legislative Assembly of Nunavut and became Nunavut’s first Premier. He served as Minister of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Justice. A longer biography appears in Native Leaders of Canada.

Being the first Premiere of the first fully Inuit  governed territory makes Paul Okalik a great role model to those who look to the pioneers in time for inspiration.
Difference Makers - Historical, Political and Cultural Contributions - Mary Simon

Mary Simon has been a champion of the Inuit voice for over 30 years. She has either assisted or served as the architechts to numerous achievement to bettering the life of Inuit and Inuit relations with the rest of Canada.  Canada has also benefited from her tireless work for all Inuit that she received the Order of Canada among many other distinguished awards. Truly a difference maker in every sense.
Originally a producer and announcer for CBC North, she began her career as a public servant by being elected Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association. In 1978, she was elected as Vice-President of the Makivik Corporation, later on becoming President, a position she held until 1985. During this period she also became involved with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's National Inuit Organization.

From 1980 to 1994 she served as Executive Council Member, President, and Special Envoy of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC). During this period she assisted in obtaining approval from the Russian Government to allow the Inuit of the Chukotka Peninsula to participate in ICC. In 1986, as President of ICC, Simon led a delegation of Canadian, Alaskan, and Greenland Inuit to Moscow and then to Chukotka to meet with Russian Officials as well as the Inuit of the Far East of Russia. In 1987 the ICC was successful in efforts the resulted in the Russian government allowing Russian Inuit to attend the 1989 ICC General Assembly held in Alaska.

Simon was one of the senior Inuit negotiators during the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, during First Minister Meetings that took place from 1982 to 1992, as well as during the 1992 Charlottetown Accord discussions.

She also served as a member of the Nunavut Implementation Commission in 1993.

In 1994 Simon was appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to be the first Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs[1], a position she held until 2003. Acting on instructions from the government of Canada she took the lead role in negotiating the creation of an eight country council known today as the Arctic Council. The Ottawa Declaration of 1996 formally established the Arctic Council which includes the active participation of the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar world. During her Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and later as the Canadian Government Senior Arctic Official, she worked closely with the Indigenous Permanent Participant’s of the Arctic Council, and the seven other Arctic Countries it comprises.

During this time period she also:

    * held the position of Canadian Ambassador to Denmark [2] (1999-2001),
    * was a member of the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Commission on Environmental Cooperation (1997-2000) and held the chairperson position for the Commission from 1997 to 1998,
    * was the Chancellor of Trent University[3], and
    * was appointed Councilor for the International Council for Conflict Resolution with the Carter Center in 2001

From November 2004 to February 2005 she assisted with the facilitation and write-up of reports on the “Sectoral Follow-up Sessions” announced by Prime Minister Paul Martin following the April 19, 2004 Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable on Strengthening the Relationship on Health, Life Long learning, Housing, Economic Opportunities, Negotiations, and Accountability for Results.

From 2004 to 2005 Simon was special advisor to the Labrador Inuit Association on the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, and was appointed president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami on July 7, 2006.


Mary Simon has received national recognition for her leadership and innovation in developing strategies for Aboriginal and Northern affairs.

    * Order of Canada , November 1, 2001,
    * Officer of the Order of Canada, November 17, 2005,
    * National Order of Quebec, January 21, 1992,
    * the Gold Order of Greenland (1992),
    * the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1998), and;
    * Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (October 22, 1998).
    * Symon Medel, November 3, 2009,
Source: Wikipedia, ITK, Ottawa Inuit Children's Centre

Difference Makers - Historical, Political and Cultural Contributions - Sheila Watt-Cloutier

She is a Canadian Inuit activist. She has been a political representative for the Inuit at the regional, national and international levels, most recently as International Chair for Inuit Circumpolar Conference. Watt-Cloutier has worked on social and environmental issues affecting Inuit, and has most recently focused on persistent organic pollutants and global climate change. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work, notably the Order of Canada and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize (2007). She has been a political representative for Inuit for over a decade. From 1995 to 1998, she was Corporate Secretary of Makivik Corporation. From 1995 to 2002, she was President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) Canada, and was International Chair from 2002 to 2006. Her recent work emphasizes the human rights impacts of global climate change in the Arctic. A longer biography appears in Native Leaders of Canada.