Servicing Indigenous Persons in a Frontier Area: the Nunavut Experiment

  • Bryan H. Massam York University
Keywords: Native Peoples, Inuit, Indigenous Autonomy, Modernity


In 1993 the government of Canada signed an agreement to create Nunavut as a new frontier territory in the north to give a measure of autonomy, control and responsibility to the Inuit. It is clear that the creation of Nunavut, while catering to the expressed desires of the Inuit for autonomy, will present the native peoples with challenges especially with respect to the implementation of self government and the provision of basic services. The paper provides empirical information about Nunavut and also theoretical notions regarding modernity and principles for collective choice. Five characteristics of modernity are identified and it is argued that these have had catastrophic social consequences on the Inuit. If the Inuit are to survive then it is imperative that they be allowed greater control over their lives in the harsh frontier region of northern Canada. If Nunavut is to succeed then the process for its creation must satisfy certain principles, and four have been identified. It is argued that a successful outcome {or creating a system for servicing peoples in the frontier region should result from a process which is seen to be fair, full, thorough and legitimate.


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