Canada Agrees to Create Huge Region for Eskimos : Arctic: The new territory, to be called Nunavut, would be five times the size of California.
The Canadian government and leaders of Eskimos in the central and eastern Arctic reached agreement Monday on a massive land claim settlement that would divide the Northwest Territories and create a sprawling new territory five times the size of California called Nunavut.
Under the agreement, the 17,000 Eskimos in the region would be granted self-government rights over part of the new territory and would become the biggest landowners in North America. The Eskimos also would retain hunting, fishing and other rights elsewhere in Nunavut, a 772,000-square-mile expanse partly administered by federal authorities that would represent a fifth of Canada’s landmass.
Under the redrawing of the Canadian map, the Eskimos would take legal title to 136,000 square miles of disputed land stretching from the Manitoba border to the North Pole. They would also receive nearly $1 billion over 14 years, including interest payments.
In return, the Eskimos would relinquish title claims to about 80% of their ancestral land, including areas believed to contain lucrative oil and gas fields. But they would retain some governing rights.
The region covered by the agreement consists mostly of frozen tundra and wilderness islands of the Arctic archipelago; 80% of its population is Eskimo.
The land claim settlement, the biggest in Canada’s history, was announced in Ottawa by Native Affairs Minister Thomas Siddon and leaders of the Tengavik Federation of Nunavut, the political organization of Arctic Eskimos, also known as Inuit.
The Eskimo leaders said they will conduct a plebiscite in March to ratify the boundaries of Nunavut. Siddon said that he hopes the accord will be ratified by Parliament by the middle of next year.
The two sides agreed to negotiate a formal political accord creating the territory of Nunavut and establishing the terms of its financing. Nunavut would join the Yukon and the Northwest Territories as the third of Canada’s nominally self-governing territories without provincial status.
Siddon said the agreement means the end of decades of legal wrangling over all of Canada’s Arctic and sub-Arctic wilderness north of the 60th Parallel, which separates the Northwest Territories from Manitoba and other western provinces.
“It is a new partnership between the Inuit of the eastern Arctic and the people of Canada. . . . It establishes certainty over title and territory in the region,” Siddon said.