The Birth of Nunavut

The Birth of Nunavut

From Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

The Birth of Nunavut

To some Inuit, with a deeper knowledge of the language, when the word “nunavut” is spoken, the silent understanding means, “we share in this together, unconditionally,” and there is intense gratitude.

Ann Meekitjuk Hanson

After years of negotiation and struggle, the Northwest Territories were formally divided. Nunavut was created, and a new territory in Canada was born! To the Inuit, the word “nunavut” means simply, “our land.” The more emotional, spiritual, deeper meaning of nunavut is “our homeland.”

In February 1999, the people of Nunavut held their first election. And on April 1, 1999, the governor general of Canada, The Right Honourable Romeo LeBlanc presented the new territory with a brand new flag and a new coat of arms. With the design process being guided at every stage by input from Inuit elders and leaders, the result was a unique set of beautiful symbols designed especially for them.

His Excellency travelled to Iqaluit, the capital of the new territory, and the following is his moving presentation to the people of Nunavut.

Today I have the honour and privilege of presenting a flag and coat of arms to Nunavut. These symbols will recognize not only a new territory, but also an ancient heritage.

Inuit have lived here for thousands of years. You have respected the spirit of the land and the wisdom of your elders. But let me add that, in a sense, all the First Peoples in our country are elders. You were here first, long before the rest of us. You first understood the lessons of our northland. You know that here we need cooperation to survive, compassion to help one another and cheerfulness to endure.

Through courage, sharing and ingenuity, the Inuit have prevailed in the harshest land on earth. And your new coat of arms reflects your history. It shows the caribou and the narwhal to remind us how you gained food, clothing and shelter from the creatures of land and sea. It shows the igloo and the stone lamp to remind us how you turned a frozen land into a home full of music, art and love. Your own spirit was always your main resource. But today your history is entering a new stage.

You have now gained the powers of a territory. You control many resources. And you have the tools to govern everyday life. Every new venture presents challenges. You must create jobs, safeguard communities, educate the young to take over. But you have always faced challenges. You have always prevailed. And you will win again.

The new flag of Nunavut shows an inuksuk and the North Star. Through the centuries, they have guided you across the snow to your homes. You are the closest people on earth to the North Star. And your courage and your values are a light and a lesson to others.

Tonight when Canadians look up to the North Star, we will remember your long history of courage, compassion and endurance. We will look forward with hope to your promising future.

And we will ask that all blessings descend on Nunavut.

Speech given by The Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc,
former Governor General of Canada,
April 1999

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