New stamp commemorates the creation of Canada’s newest territory in 1999 and celebrates the people who call it home.
It was the culmination of a decades-long struggle that saw an Inuit population of fewer than 30,000 people rewrite Canada’s map – and gain control over roughly one-fifth of the country’s land mass.
The creation of the territory of Nunavut on April 1, 1999 came about from the largest Aboriginal land claims settlement in Canadian history and divided the Northwest Territories in two.
It was an enormous step forward for the Inuit of northern Canada who’ve inhabited the Arctic Archipelago part of the region for 4,000 years.
“It gave us hope for Inuit and people of the territory that there’s a vision and purpose going forward,” says Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna.
“It gave us some security, a sense of security that we’re in charge of our own destiny.”
Nunavut stamp is seventh in set of 10 celebrating Canada 150
Nunavut becoming a territory, and the people who call it home, are being celebrated in a new stamp from Canada Post, the seventh in a set of 10 stamps being issued to mark Canada 150.
Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna, Commissioner of Nunavut Nellie Kusugak, and George Qulaut, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, unveiled the stamp on May 30 at the legislature in Iqaluit.
Each of the Canada 150 stamps being issued by Canada Post celebrates an unforgettable moment or achievement in the life of this country since its centennial in 1967.
The 10 stamps are being individually unveiled at locations across the country until June 1 – the day they all go on sale.
The long road to becoming a new territory
The creation of the territory of Nunavut in 1999 was the first major change to Canada’s map since Newfoundland and Labrador joined Confederation in 1949.
But securing territory status for Nunavut – meaning “our land” in Inuktitut – took decades to achieve.
“In the early ´70s, late ´60s, we had experienced a different kind of life where we were taught a different language, how to live in a different way of thinking. And from that on, I think in those days we became radicals whereby we said ‘enough is enough,’” says Nunavut Education Minister Paul Quassa, who represented the Inuit during land claims negotiations with the federal government in the 1980s.
“This was started by 27,000 Inuit, and that’s where it started. A small number within Canada and we’re now controlling one-fifth of Canada. Wow.”
Years of negotiations led to the historic 1993 signing of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement between Inuit, the federal government, and the Government of the Northwest Territories, which laid the foundation for the creation of the territory of Nunavut in 1999.
Taking control of its own future
The Government of Nunavut remains in negotiations with the federal government on transferring province-like responsibilities for land and resource management to the territory, a process known as devolution. It’s an important step in the political and economic development of Nunavut.
“We want to be treated just like any other jurisdiction where we get equal share of royalties coming out of development, especially when it comes to extraction of minerals or oil and gas,” says Taptuna, the premier.
“Our intention is to at least make our own decisions going into the future for the territory.”
Seizing Nunavut’s potential
The territory encompasses much of the vast Arctic. Nunavut’s rich wildlife and natural resources promise a prosperous future, with conservation and development guided responsibly by local needs and knowledge.
The territory, currently home to around 37,000 people, has one of Canada’s fastest growing populations – and its youngest – placing Nunavut at the forefront of Canada’s future.
Nellie Kusugak, Commissioner of Nunavut and a former school teacher, hopes Inuit youth treasure their traditional languages. The territory’s official languages include the Inuit language (Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun), English and French.
Ensuring youth receive both traditional and formal education is important for the territory’s success in the decades to come, she says.
“Education will open doors. If you have both, you’re unstoppable and you can take on the challenges of this world and be able to pursue a dream you’ve had,” Kusugak says.
“Whether it’s traditional education or formal education…it’s best to have from both worlds, and it makes you more educated about your culture and how to be part of Canada.”
The Nunavut stamp is one of only two Canada 150 stamps issued with its own booklet. Created using photography from those who call the territory home, the Nunavut stamp, its Official First Day Cover and booklet are windows into Canada’s secluded and spectacular north.
Here are the other stamps unveiled so far as part of our Canada 150 program: