Category Archives: Indigenous Peoples

Decision-Making on Future North Yukon Resource Development


The North is a place of sparse human population and immense natural resources (both renewable and non-renewable). The people who rely on this land and its resources are being pressured by global demands to develop and extract resources at alarming rates. The VGFN need to ensure that development within our territory and beyond (i.e. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or ANWR for short) is being conducted with our best interest in mind. We need to modify and improve policy and management regulations so that they better reflect our goals and values.

First Nations’ participation in resource development projects is continuously changing. Some would argue that it is improving the situation for First Nations and their communities, while others would argue that First Nations still lack meaningful decision-making regarding the land on which we live off of. My area of interest involves the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN) and our aspirations of suitable resource development within our settlement lands. I am not only interested in these issues because I am a VGFN member, but also because as a First Nations person I feel it is of the utmost importance to maintain responsible stewardship over the land and its resources that sustain our traditional way of life. I embarked on this coarse hoping to advance my knowledge on the topic at hand and better equip my people with the knowledge needed for future resource development that will affect our traditional territory.

I would like resource development decision-making within our traditional territory be done with the best interests of the VGFN in mind. I want the VGFN to be the ones making the important decision-making. My hope is that the VGFN will be in a good position to make informed decisions when development in our territory takes place. The “Live, Learn and Lead: Leadership and Sustainable Development in the Circumpolar North”coarse provided me with tools for discovering new sources, organizations, and resources on resource development in the Arctic. The tools were not only useful for learning over the past two weeks but will also aid in future research. Some of the research methods learned helped me discover the following sources, links, and organizations:

My personal goal is to learn as much as possible on the subject at hand; I am currently a Jane Glassco Arctic Fellow which has given me the opportunity to continue my research on First Nations involvement with resource development. I plan to work with my community on land and resource management in hopes that any future resource development is done in a sustainable manor that will not detriment our traditional lifestyle now and for future generations.


Nasivvik Summer Student Research Awards 2010 (Undergraduate level)


The Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments is a multidisciplinary research and training centre funded by the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples Health (IAPH), one of the 13 institutes of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The Nasivvik Centre is focused on building capacity in Inuit health research through trainee support, and promoting research in specific areas of Inuit environmental healthThe three (3) theme areas, as they pertain to community responses to environmental change, and in particular issues related to Inuit health and well-being are:

Natural/traditional medicines and remedies .

For more information click here


Native identity from an Inuk’s perspective


One day, I was asked what makes you Native? Is it in your blood? Is it because you speak your own language? Is it because you identify with a particular group? What makes you Native?

I really had to think about this. And so I did.

I realize that being Native in Canada means a lot of different things, depending on who you talk to. It could mean that you are one of the founding peoples of Canada, it could mean that you have a beautiful and rich culture and language, it could mean that you are respected under the British North American Act of 1867.

To me I think that being Native has become more political than anything. The introduction of the Indian Act in 1876 was used to assimilate Indians’ onto reserves and into the dominant form of governance. This has had a lasting effect on the First Nations’ in Canada, but the Inuit were not targeted in the Indian Act until the introduction of an amendment to the Indian Act that made it mandatory for all Native children to attend Residential School’s in 1884. So, being Native throughout the past century meant that you were largely influenced by the decisions that were made by the federal government of Canada and also the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. I could continue to write about how these decisions have influenced many Native people in Canada, but I would like to emphasize something I think is more important than politics.

Being Native for me does not mean that I am accepted into a certain category of people that is determined by bureaucrats, but rather I identify with a group of people who speak the same language, follow the same customs and understand the history of our ancestry. I would like to call these aspects of being Native the cultural aspects. The political aspects of being Native include those that are determined through administrative bureaucracy, the paper part of being Native.

So, now when I am asked what makes you Native? I just say do you mean politically or culturally? There are two different parts to take into consideration when I am asked about my identity.

What do you think makes a Native Canadian a Native Canadian?


National Native Organizations: A Brief Introduction


Canada has a large Native population. Largely Natives are known as the Aboriginal people of Canada. Many do not understand that Aboriginal is not one homogeneous group, but rather consists of a diverse group of different peoples. Generally there are three and they are Inuit, MJtis and First Nations. Each has their own national organization that  represents their constituency at the federal level. Examples include the Assembly of First Nations, MJtis National Council, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).

Recently the organization that represents Inuit, ITK launched their ‘2010 year of the
Inuit’ campaign. The campaign gained a better understanding of how to structure its content from a Ipsos Reid North poll done in November 2009 the outcome produced results that are as follows “One in Three (31%) Canadians Score a ‘D’ (18%) or Fail (13%) a simple True or False Quiz About Canada’s Arctic. Just 16% pass with flying colours (grade of A) the national average is 12.7 out of 20 questions correct, Totalling 64% Average (Grade of C) Also 65% said they have a fondness for the Arctic”( other highlights included…

  • 74% said they would like to learn more about the Inuit way of life
  • 81% know that climate change is affecting Inuit more so than the rest of Canadians
  • 75% do not know that Inuit pay taxes
  • 63% do not know Inuit are not First Nations” (

As 2010 continues there will continue to be information updated on the current ‘2010 year of the Inuit’ website or to follow up on information about other national Native organizations you can go to:

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK)

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

Assembly of First

MJtis National Countil


Government priorities could be education, but…


The Nordic model of governance used by the Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark emphasize the importance of taking responsibility of post secondary education for its citizens. This type of governance system promotes and funds students who are interested in obtaining a higher education through university or college. Coming from Canada I have realized that this is very effective in creating an atmosphere where education is not a privilege for a certain group of people, but it is just a part of life.

In Canada students who are interested in pursuing a post secondary education have to work part time while in school, spend family’s savings or get a loan from the bank. What ever route they choose to take in funding their education they are responsible for paying thousands in tuition.

Also in Canada there are different levels of governments that are responsible for different things and examples include the federal, provincial, municipal and land claims governments/self governments. The land claims governments like the Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and Inuvialuit called the Inuit Nunangat (where Inuit live) have a set of priorities that are different than other levels of government in Canada. Education is a priority for land claim governments and therefore beneficiaries from Inuit Nunangat have the opportunity to pursue their studies at a post secondary education institution and it’s paid for.

Like the Finnish, Inuit in Canada are not burdened finically when it comes to seeking a higher education. But, on the other hand citizens that are Canadian and do not belong to a land claims government have to pay for their tuition and therefore are burdened by their finances.

I have realized that those who do not get their post secondary education paid for could fall under the impression that Inuit are privileged because their education is paid for. And unfortunately, individuals who identify as Inuit beneficiaries sometimes have to face discrimination based on the fact that they do not have to pay for their university or college tuition. In situations like this it is important to outline that Inuit do not receive ‘special status’ from the government. Rather the land claims government that represents them and their needs understand the importance of funding post secondary education. It is not a case built on privilege, but a case built on a different set of government priorities.

The provincial, municipal or federal governments could follow the Nordic model or the land claim government’s model and fund post secondary education. Why they choose not to, I am still in question about this one…


Copenhagen heating up for COP 15

Jesse Tungilik

Electricity is in the air in Copenhagen in anticipation for what some are calling the most important diplomatic gathering in human history. The 15th Conference of the Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will kick off in the Danish capital in less than a week.

17 years have passed since the Earth Summit (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro and opinions today seem to be as polarized as ever. The four assessments by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change have not managed to convince the deeply entrenched skeptics and deniers of Anthropogenic climate change.

The climate debate has been raging for most of my life, and has escalated throughout my adult life. Having grown up in the Canadian Arctic and traveled to other areas of the world which have been negatively impacted by the changing climate, I find it hard to comprehend that there are still people out there that are still unconvinced that our actions are having adverse effects on the planet. The effects of the altered climate are already being seen.

On top of this, Indigenous peoples around the world are being disproportionately affected by exploitation of raw resources and are already bearing the lion's share of the burdens of the first effects of the changing climate.Through my work with the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples Secretariat, I have been learning more about how Indigenous peoples in the Arctic are being affected by climate change.

Business as usual is not an option. The climate crisis is a symptom of a broader problem of exploitation and disparity. The earth is ultimately a finite system and we are affecting the earth's ability to sustain life. This fact isn't being taken as seriously as it should by those in power.

So what are the solutions to this crisis? It seems that the most popular solution put forth by politicians are “cap & trade” schemes. Though I think it's a step in the right direction, I don't think it goes far enough, and there are too many loopholes which polluters can use to keep polluting. Also, it acts as a dangerous distraction to more robust action.

Humanity is approaching a defining moment in history. Humans have so far been bad tenants on this earth and the negotiations that come out of COP15 to me will either be a new lease agreement defining how we will behave on this planet, or it will be yet another dangerous distraction.

We will soon see what will come out of COP15. I remain cautiously optimistic that the leaders around the world will wake up and start to take this problem seriously, but I acknowledge that there are many powerful forces that would prefer that things stay the way they are. For the sake of future generations, I hope they will make the right decision.