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Past Events

Special Events

Nunavut 10th Anniversary Celebration

Opening Ceremony

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Gisèle Jacob: Good afternoon. Welcome to the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of Nunavut, here at Library and Archives Canada. My name is Gisèle Jacob and I'm president of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and I will be your MC throughout the day. Before we begin the afternoon's activities, I'd like to thank our host, Library and Archives Canada, for organizing this event. Two other groups were actively involved in planning today's program: The Arthur Kroger College of Public Affairs at Carleton University and Canadian Geographic, the magazine of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. We've brought lots of copies of Canadian Geographic, our January issue, celebrating Nunavut's 10th anniversary, so please make sure you pick up a copy in the entrance in the lobby. We also have copies of our map of Nunavut, hot off the press. It's an updated map of the one that we produced in our issue of Canadian Geographic ten years ago to celebrate the beginning of Nunavut, and now it's been updated, it's in English and Inuktitut on one side, French and Inuktitut on the other.

I'd like to repeat that I thank our host, Library and Archives Canada and the Librarian Archivist as well as the people who contributed to organizing the Arthur Kroger College of Public Affairs of Carleton University and, of course, the Journal of the Canadian Geographical Society. We have copies of the January issue of the magazine, as well as an updated map of Nunavut.

I want to thank two organizations that provided support, also, for this event: The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation and Canadian North Airlines. I'm now honoured to invite Elder Suzanne Singuuri to officially open our gathering with the lighting of the kudlik. This will be followed by a drum dance executed by Peter Irniq, elder.

I'm just going to interpret as Singuuri talks to explain what the kudlik is.

Suzanne Singuuri: I was told to talk about the kudlik. I understand we have an interpreter on the floor so I'll leave it at that.

It's the perfect technology where she's from, very high in the Arctic. It's been a source of survival. When she was a very young infant and she was born in Nunavut, this was the technology that was used in her life, in her early life. It was the only source of heat and warmth and she was never cold. There are bigger kudliks than this in Nunavut when they were used in the igloo exclusively as a source of heat. This is a smaller example that she's lighting and that she uses to light for ceremonial purposes. It's symbolic of the sun, the warmth of the sun, the cycles of the sun and the return of the sun. She was just too excited a second ago talking about the kudlik, but what she really wanted to say at the beginning was to start by explaining that she was raised… born and raised in a little, a small place outside of the community of Cape Dorset. From that place outside of Cape Dorset, when she was eight years old, her family was brought up to a very remote place on the North Baffin Island, and they were relocated there for the Hudson's Bay Company. So the kudlik, you know, when she was a little girl up there in the very high Arctic in a very strange land, a very new place for her family, they always had the kudlik. It was a constant, and they would… they made stew, melted snow, dried their clothes. All of their clothes were made of skin, so they were thick and furry and they would dry really well by the light and the warmth of the kudlik.

So she wants to thank everybody for… in the Ottawa area she lights the kudlik for different organizations, and she really appreciates that she can share that and she would like to close now because… recognizing that time is moving on and there's more things to listen to, but she's really appreciative of the opportunity to open this ceremony for Nunavut at 10. She never thought when she came to the Ottawa area a few years ago to be with her children that she would be so embraced by the Ottawa community and so well respected for her role in lighting the kudlik and she really, really appreciates that. She wants to say a prayer. That's the process that she likes to do. No matter where you are you always have something when you have prayer.

I wish to thank the Creator for helping us. (I've lost her. I don't hear her.) We look up to you, Creator, in times of need. You alone are our comforter. Whenever we are distressed, worried, unhappy, we look up to you and in our lives we know that we will run into a lot of problems, fears, unhappiness. We look to you only. We wish to thank you for all the people in this world, Inuit, [10:51 inaudible], and I would like to see Inuit become more united and to work more collectively as a race nation because as we speak we are so few and many are dying off. We need to be together so I pray for your help for those things. Thank you, God. Thank you.

So you see her putting things in her bag…

Gisèle Jacob: What a beautiful way to start the afternoon, we will now…

Peter Irniq: Thank you. It's nice to see so many people here. Our Elder, Bob Williamson, Dr. Williamson, was a MLA [13:35 inaudible] riding in the '50s and '60s. Jose Kusugak was the president of ITK, now president of the [13:45 inaudible] Inuit Association. Nancy Karetak was a Member of Parliament for Nunavut. I am so pleased to see you all here and to see many, many Inuit here. Thank you for coming. Before I say a few words about drum dancing, the purpose of drum dancing, I just want to tell you that all Eskimos have moved to Edmonton (laughter) and they have been playing football ever since (laughter). And you know what? They've been winning lots of cups. I want to recognize a couple of people. Before I do that, I was born in a snow house and lived the first 12 years of my life in a snow house. In 1958, I was taken to a residential school run by the Roman Catholics and I said to Willie Adams and I said, Willie, you're easy to recognize. Jose Kusugak and I were sent to Chesterfield Inlet to attend Turquetil Hall in 1958 where we were not allowed to speak our language. But today we're the ones who are promoting Inuit culture, language and Jose, particularly, has (applause) Jose particularly has done a lot of work in terms of standardizing Roman orthography and writing system, which is what we use today to write in Roman orthography. Jose for your major contribution for that. When Inuit, years ago up to a particular period of time, when we were still living in igloos, when there was plenty of game, when there was plenty of animals and no one went hungry, we used to build a great big igloo called [15:36 Inuktitut word] in the Eastern dialect, big igloo. We used to hold drum dances. Women used to have throat singing, finger pulling, you know, arm wrestling and things like that, gymnastics. But drum dancing was a way to celebrate our good life. Well, today we're going to drum dance to celebrate 10 years of Nunavut, which is something that we are extremely proud of, which is something that we feel free to practice our culture and our language and our Inuit culture again in terms of drum dancing and throat singing. So, we are extremely happy to be performing a few minutes of drum dancing for you this afternoon to celebrate 10 years of Nunavut's success. My singer for this drum dancing this afternoon is Charlotte Qamaniq and she has traveled to places like Indianapolis where I performed drum dancing and we performed here on a number of occasions for important events to promote Inuit culture as well as Inuit language. So, let's have fun today, huh? Thank you. (Applause)

(Singing and drum dance)

Gisèle Jacob: Thank you so much. I should have mentioned earlier that there are earphones… the whole day is available for simultaneous translation for you in Inuktitut, English and French, so all you have to do is pick up some of the receivers in the lobby. So I see some of you have already done that, but perhaps others would be interested in doing the same thing. We're very lucky today. We have with us the honourable Paul Okalik. I might as well apologize now because I know I'm going to pronounce words in a horrible manner, and I feel very bad about that, so I apologize right now. But we're still very honoured to have the Honourable Paul Okalik, former Premier of Nunavut and also former graduate of Carleton University, here with us today and we're pleased that he's agreed to say a few words to the audience. (Applause).

Paul Okalik: Thank you. Good afternoon. Thank you very much for inviting me here. Also for our gathering, thank you very much for that. I'd like to recognize Inuits that are here. Thank you for participating and the rest of you who are present today, also, my cousin I see and also our past MP, Nancy Lindell, Karetak-Lindell, you have helped us a lot. Also, Jose Kusugak. Thank you very much for coming here and I was very pleased to hear my name still needs some work. Okalik means rabbit and my traditional name is Sukanik which means the sun, so it was nice to have it said in a nice way for a change. Something positive about me for a change. It was nice. When you're a politician you take anything that comes your way. I want to recognize my cousin, my first cousin, [21:27 Inuktitut word] Carleton. And also sitting next to her is Nancy Karetak-Lindell, who was our first MP when we first formed government. And I must say that she was very helpful in our government and one of our true pillars that we started with, the next one being with Jose Kusugak who was with NTI at the time and was very instrumental in making sure that there was a smooth transition into our government, so they made my job much easier when we first formed a government. It wasn't easy but we got it done in the beginning.

I must say that it's been a wonderful ten years for me. It was a job of a lifetime, and picturing where we started and where we are today is something that I reflect upon. When I first formed government I went to Pond Inlet early that fall in '99, and I went to see the school, to see the students, and I realized there were chairs and tables in the hallways, and I asked them is the classroom being cleaned up or something? And they said no, that's the classroom. Oh, my God, this is what we have to start with. So within the year they had a new school. So that was my commitment towards education, and that's what we started with and the last few years have been something that I feel that we accomplished some things at least. We… our graduation rates in high schools were up by 50 percent since '99. We had about 500 young people in university or college, and we had about four lawyers, Inuit lawyers, we started with one, and we have numerous nurses throughout the territory and our economy was ahead of Alberta. So I think we made some… some accomplishments, but there's still way too much to do. But I'm having the time of my life being on the other side, so I appreciate my colleagues. Thank you very much. Have fun today.

Gisèle Jacob: Thank you very much. I am pleased, now, to introduce Mr. Ian Wilson, Library and Archives Canada, Mr.Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist. (Applause).

Ian Wilson: Thank you. Merci. Honoured Elders, distinguished visitors, ladies and gentlemen, families, artists, writers, film makers, photographers, others who are here to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Nunavut, it's a real honour to have you here. Once in a while the Library and Archives gets involved in legal issues and I have to sit down with lawyers. And recently, as we were dealing with one issue, the lawyers told me that our legislation passed in 2004, essentially allows a librarian and archivist to do just about whatever he wants. It's comprehensive legislation. I want to stretch those powers today and suggest that today, to this day, the Library and Archives be considered as part of Nunavut and to say to all of you, welcome, welcome here. This is your home and we're delighted to have you with us here today to help celebrate an important part, an essential part of Canada. We may have to modify the map over here, and we'll talk to the Canadian Geographic shortly about how we add in a little piece of Ottawa as an important part, too, of Nunavut. We've very proud to come together to celebrate the 10th anniversary and to reflect on the Territory's origins, its culture and its future. For many generations, Nunavut, the land and its peoples have contributed significantly to Canada and have contributed towards our shared understanding of history, of diversity and of the nature of this country.

As you know, in 1994, Canada ratified the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the Nunavut Act, and this Act was implemented on April 1, 1999. On that day, Canada celebrated its newest territory, Nunavut, the first major change to Confederation since the admission of Newfoundland some 50 years earlier. The immediate reaction of Canadians to the creation of Nunavut was intense and explained by the fact that it was new and because we are all fascinated by the north. More recently the concerns of Canadians relating to the sovereignty of the north and to climate change and its impact on the Canadian north have brought back Nunavut at the forefront of our concerns. The future of the territory is a source of immediate concern for residents, as well as for the governments representing those residents, as well as for the private sector and for companies exploiting natural resources there. Close to the 10th anniversary of Nunavut on April 1, 2009, we have to take this opportunity to discuss what has happened over the past 10 years and mostly to think about what will happen over the next 10 years. …a geographic approach Library and Archives Canada with the idea of collaborating to help mark this anniversary. The story of Nunavut is revealed in the stories of the elders and other community members, and here at Library and Archives Canada it is reflected in our collection of photographs, of maps, of government records, of published materials, sound recordings, films and much more. You see some on the walls around you. There is a new exhibit, as well, about residential schools that we're opening, but we're also very cognizant here that the documents we hold are like that thin surface of ice on a much deeper ocean. It only reflects the immediate, the recent and the true history, the true heritage of Nunavut is far deeper and far more profound, and it's the people of that territory and of that people who know it.

The Royal Canadian Geographic Society's mission is to make Canada better known to Canadians and, as readers of Canadian Geographic magazine know, they do this through award-winning reporting, photography and cartography. As well as the shared interest in the environment and the documentary heritage of Nunavut, both Library and Archives and Canadian Geographic recognize that the Territory's creation and development is also a political story, a story of individuals and communities, a story of civics and governments, and we are proud, as well, to be collaborating today with Carleton University's Arthur Kroger College of Public Affairs to encourage a dialogue this evening on the issues that have informed the development of Nunavut. And I might just add that Arthur Kroger, a distinguished Public servant who died this past year, was well known here in this building as he spent a great deal of time doing research and once in a while advising me on how to survive in the Public Service of Canada. I want to thank the Canadian Geographic, Carleton University, but most of all I would like to thank the people of Nunavut who consulted and collaborated with us to ensure that your voices are the most prominent today and to ensure, as I suggested earlier, that Nunavut's lands and resources today encompass all people and places who can benefit from an understanding of the language, the culture, the history, the experiences and the people of this timeless Territory. So I invite you all now to our auditorium where I think we begin the celebration. Could I just, for once, encourage everyone to stay together and sit down towards the front? I know everybody likes to sit at the back, but let's sit down towards the front. Let's be a group. Let's have fun together. Thank you very much.