People; Canada Fetes First Anniversary of Inuit Territory

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), March 31, 2000 | Go to article overview

People; Canada Fetes First Anniversary of Inuit Territory


The following article is contributed by Beth Richardson, second secretary and vice-cconsul at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul, on the occasion of the first anniversary of Nunavut whose population are mostly comprised of Inuit people .-- --ED.

Much has been written about the Inuit peoples of the Arctic, some of it factual, much of it fiction. Although their number is small among the world's six billion people, they are famous far beyond their homeland. Perhaps this recognition stems from the uniqueness of their traditional lifestyle and culture. Or perhaps it comes from others' fascination with the Inuit's ability to survive and thrive in the harsh climate of Canada's North.

Canada is home to a quarter of the world's Inuit. ``Inuit'' is the Inuktitut word for ``the people.'' The Inuit, as well as the Metis and First Nations peoples, are Aboriginal peoples as defined in the Canadian Constitution.

About 55,700 Inuit live in 53 communities across the North. Population density in the North is approximately one person per one-hundred square kilometres, only a fraction of Korea's. Over the past few decades, the Inuit population has grown rapidly. If present trends continue, there will be about 84,600 Inuit in the North by 2016.

Modern technology has changed life for the Inuit, facilitating transportation and communications, and improving health care and protection against the harsh climate. The traditional dog team has largely been replaced by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, cars and trucks. The harpoon has been replaced by the rifle. And the igloo, that legendary dome-shaped snow shelter, has been replaced by houses with central heating, electricity, appliances and plumbing and is now only used out on the land when hunting.

Modern life has also brought new problems with it. In common with many Aboriginal peoples, Canada's Inuit must grapple with the challenge of adapting to life in an advanced industrialized society, while maintaining and preserving their traditional social and cultural roots.

A culture rooted in the land Inuit origins in Canada date back at least 4,000 years. Their culture is deeply rooted in the vast land they inhabit. For thousands of years, Inuit closely observed the climate, landscapes, seascapes and ecological systems of their vast homeland. Through this intimate knowledge of the land and its life forms, Inuit developed skills and technology uniquely adapted to one of the harshest and most demanding environments on earth.

The Inuit treated human beings, the land, animals and plants with equal respect. Today, they continue to try to maintain this harmonious relationship. They try to use the resources of land and sea wisely to preserve them for future generations.

Traditional knowledge about Inuit history, and the land, plants and wildlife, has been passed down through the generations. The family is the centre of Inuit culture, and co-operation and sharing are basic principles in Inuit society. Inuit share the food they have hunted, and everyone does his or her part to help those in need.

For many centuries, the Canadian Inuit lived in nearly total isolation. Despite some brief and limited contact with early explorers, it was not until the advent of the19th-century whaling fleets that the Inuit had any lasting and significant dealings with Europeans.

The growing importance of the fur trade also brought the Inuit into further contact with the outside. Because furs were always a vital part of the Inuit lifestyle, trapping soon became as important an activity as hunting.

Interaction between the Inuit and other Canadians accelerated rapidly during and following World War Two. Airfields, weather stations and a radar line across Canada's North were built. Government services, mining exploration and development increased and, more recently, discoveries of large oil and gas reserves have brought thousands of southerners into the North. …

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