Nunavut is the newest of Canada's territories. Discover more facts about the Canadian north and its Inuit and Aboriginal peoples and cultures.
The name, Nunavut, pronounced “Noo-na-voot” is an Inuktitut (Inuit ) word meaning “our land.” Canada’s newest territory was officially created on April 1, 1999. Nunavut covers around two million square kilometres, or about one fifth the size of Canada. Its boundaries begin at Hudson Bay and border the North West Territories and include many of the isolated islands in the Beau-fort sea and those opposite Greenland.
Nunavut also has four time zones, but the people hope to change it one day to a single zone. According to the most recent census, the population is close to 25,000, of which most are Inuit. The remaining cultures include North American Indian, Metis and other aboriginal peoples. The capital of Nunavut is Iqaluit, located just west of the Labrador Sea. About one sixth of the entire population lives in or near the capital.
Nunavut was created to bring the government and administration of daily affairs closer to the people. This is important because culturally and economically this region of Canada is very different from the rest of the country. The main source of income is hunting and trapping. Even so close to one third of the population is supported by welfare. The annual income of those who do have jobs usually does not exceed $11,000. The unemployment rate ranks very high at over 22%.
Teenagers comprise 38% of Nunavut’s population. Officials are now working to develop a new generation of better educated Inuit. Historically students missed a lot of school because the Inuit culture places less emphasis on learning and more on traditional values and experiences. For an Inuit, becoming one with the land and learning to hunt, fish and trap is far more worthwhile than sitting in a classroom.
Family ties are also very important among the Inuit. Since travelling in and out of the territory is expensive, and because there are so few roads linking towns and villages, leaving Nunavut for college or university isn’t a popular option.
Despite these many set-backs there are already a growing number of Nunavut’s younger citizens who hope to bridge the gap between their culture and getting a better education. A Nunavut Land Claims Agreement is making it possible for better jobs in the fields of natural resource exploration and Inuit are being hired as more government posi-tions open.
Nunavut is a territory in its early growing pains but only time will tell what positive changes will occur by April 1, 2009.