June 5 will mark the 35th anniversary of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, when control over lands and resources returned to the Inuvialuit people.
Northerners celebrate the day as one of the major milestones of the North’s long process toward decolonization and reclaiming self- governance among its original inhabitants.
The Inuvialuit Final Agreement is the first among three comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements signed to date in the Northwest Territories, which also include the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Settlement (1992) and the Sahtu Dene Metis Land Claim Agreement (1994) and Tlicho agreement (2003).
The agreement is significant because it has allowed more than 5,500 residents of the Inuvialuit region, which include the communities of Aklavik, Inuvik, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk, and Ulukhaktok, managerial control over the area’s economy and environment while offering a critical step toward full self-governance.
Geographically, the region, stretching some 91,000 square kilometres, is rich with Northern heritage and is one of Canada’s major shoreline fronts to the Arctic Ocean.
What is evident among the Inuvialuit, in particular, and what should be celebrated, is the sense of resiliency, optimism and promise many carry as they work toward self-government.
There are challenges for sure. Most apparent of late was Prime minister Justin Trudeau’s imposition of a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea in 2017. The moratorium undermined the people’s ability to develop their own natural resources while providing no consultation.
Climate change, which is impacting Northern communities perhaps greater than anywhere else, is creating soil erosion conditions and landslides which threatens traditional lifestyles, hunting and fishing practices.
The high dependency on diesel that powers much of the day-to-day life in Inuvialuit communities and the major reliance on barged goods from the south are yet further issues that the region must tackle.
In today’s edition, News/North delves into the history and accomplishments of the Inuvialuit people who have unique emotional connection to that 1984 milestone.
The joy that the agreement and self-determination has brought to the Inuvialuit is ever apparent today. All Northerners should share in the celebration of these accomplishments and take note of the Inuvialuit’s positive outlook despite the challenges.