Land Claims and Resistance to the Management of Harvester Activities in Nunavut
Keywords:Nunavut, Inuit, coastal communities, ocean management, resistance
In 1976, Inuit leaders in what is now Nunavut began the long process that led to a comprehensive land claim to regain control of their lives and land. Previously, they had seen their economic, social, political, educational, and belief systems diminished and the people disempowered by the imposition of Western systems, structures, and practices. To reverse the existing relations, Inuit leaders had to call upon the ideologies and institutions of the dominant society—a process greatly misunderstood by Inuit harvesters and others within the communities. The disconnect between Inuit harvesters’ expectations of the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement (NLCA) and the realities experienced in the communities have made ocean resource management a site of growing resistance in the North. Common misconceptions were that the Nunavut Government would be an Inuit government and that land-claim “compensation” would involve per capita distributions and injections of cash into the hunters and trappers’ organizations. Instead, communities were expected to abide by the decisions of the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board—a tripartite joint-management arrangement between the federal and territorial governments and Inuit organizations—and to cooperate with the increasing demands from government departments and science researchers for local information and participation. The community response to these impositions was to obscure the gaze of inquiring governments and outsiders through creative acts of resistance. To mediate the situation, increased involvement from federal and territorial resource managers in terms of support, capacity building, information exchange, and federal/territorial/community relationship building is encouraged.