Inuit Land Rights, Whaling Jurisdiction, and Education

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Inuit Land Rights, Whaling Jurisdiction, and Education

“Common strategies are needed to confront a coming century of conflict and danger with our own imperatives for survival . . .[Common strategies are needed in] the quest for political and economic freedom with which to rebuild our own socially healthy and economically viable communities”.

- Indian Country Today, July 2002.

Today, the Inuit emerge on the modern global stage as one of many native groups claiming political sovereignty and national and international recognition of their collective rights. To be Inuit today is to be embedded in a constant, provocative political campaign against the influences of Western culture and assimilation. Indeed, in the last 40 years, the Inuit have lobbied and fought for the right to define themselves through the preservation of their traditions and customs: the Inuit fight for the right to whale, the right to control their own lands, and the autonomy to educate and raise their children as they see fit. Through grass roots organizations and skilled manipulation of our modern over-arching web of mass media, the Inuit share in “the quest for political and economic freedom” from Western concepts of the nation state, “primitive” cultural idealism, and minority marginalization. To be identified as “indigenous” in contemporary media is to be identified as a people allied in a highly sensitive internationalized struggle.

In the Native world, “all are struggling over territorial, economic, political and cultural ground with their nation-state—over self-governance issues, jurisdictional sovereignties, and issues of land tenure and land use, hunting and fishing rights” (Indian Country Today). For Inuit peoples in Canada, land and sea jurisdiction is implicit for cultural survival and preservation. The ITC’s Nunavik Naming Project manifested cultural preservation through land rights. In 1973, a study of Inuit aboriginal rights to Canadian Territories recognized the need for “the Inuit conception of land use . . . [to be] translated into Qallunaat [non Inuit people] vernacular in order to ground the new claim: “this is Inuit land” ” (Drummond 49). The Nunavik project, beginning among small committees and groups, became the mechanism that allowed for “the Inuit to be fortified with the same geographical, linguistic, and legal armaments that Quallunat use to stake their claims” (Drummond 50). In this effective grassroots movement, the Inuit claimed land ownership by creating and publicizing maps of the land they claim as their own, labeling all rivers and homesteads in the original Inuktitut, the Inuit language.

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