NunatuKavut members reject questions about Inuit identity



The head of the NunatuKavut Community Council, along with one of its members, is fighting back against recent claims questioning the organization’s indigeneity – questions that have reached the Prime Minister’s office.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, who represents 65,000 Inuit in Canada, questioned the legitimacy of NCC in an October 7 letter to Justin Trudeau. President Natan Obed wrote that Inuit territory outside the already established borders “does not exist” and called the federal government’s relationship with NCC “alarming and disturbing”.

The NCC has been negotiating with the federal government on self-determination since the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding in 2019.

CNC says she represents 6,000 Inuit in southern and central Labrador. This area is just south of the ITK representation, which ends in Nunatsiavut, the Inuit territory encompassing the northern coast of Labrador.

Todd Russell, chairman of the NCC, issued a written response to Obed on Monday, calling Obed’s letter “a dark stain on the reputation and good work ITK has done.”

Russell wrote that he had invited Obed twice – the most recent in May – to tour the NCC grounds and learn about local history and culture. Rather than respond, Russell said, Obed instead wrote the letter to Trudeau in which he “chose to try to inform opinions about us, without us.”

Obed’s letter is not the first example of indigenous resistance to the existence of CNC. The Innu Nation and the Nunatsiavut Government have asked the federal court to block the NCC’s memorandum of understanding.

Obed, right, is pictured with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Obed asked Trudeau in his letter to deny the NunatuKavut Community Council access to any Inuit-specific funding pot. (Marc Robichaud / CBC)

Research questions

Russell’s letter details a story where the Inuit traveled freely through Labrador, the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland and the North Shore of Quebec. Dividing Labrador into “north” and “south” does not reflect lived reality, he said.

“While some of our experiences of colonialism may differ from those of other Inuit groups, we remain a distinct people in the same land that our ancestors occupied,” said Russell, adding that traditional activities, including living according to the seasons, are still widely practiced. today.

Obed told CBC News that oral tradition and academic research back up ITK’s claims about NCC. Russell said the information is “based on biased, patriarchal and Eurocentric views of our history.”

Another NunatuKavut member, herself an academic, also says there are flaws in what Obed cited.

Debbie Martin said some publications came from non-Indigenous scholars of past decades who “had a particular reason” for not including certain Indigenous voices. There are also the NCC members’ own oral histories to consider, she said.

“To suggest that we don’t exist unilaterally is wrong. This is incorrect, ”Martin, a professor at Dalhousie University, told CBC radio. Labrador morning.

“And the fact that the president of ITK is saying that our claims are fraudulent is of real concern, because it shows that he is based on outdated and debunked research since.”

On Wednesday, the Nunatsiavut government released a report examining the NCC’s land claim, with research commissioned from Darryl Leroux, a professor at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. Leroux concluded that “the nature and extent of the NCC’s claims are not supported by the evidence they present” and that the existence of the Southern Inuit is “unfounded”.

Martin said the work Leroux cited in Obed’s letter did not follow ethical research guidelines, as it examined the people and history of NunatuKavut without the proper approvals.

“[Leroux has] no expertise on Inuit issues, he was never invited or asked to learn from the people of NunatuKavut, ”she told CBC News in an email.

Debbie Martin, right, is pictured with her daughter. Martin says she wants future generations of Inuit in southern Labrador to be able to improve and protect their culture. (Submitted by Debbie Martin)

“Divide and rule mentality”

In his letter, Obed called on the federal government to deny CNC access to funding programs for Inuit.

Russell called ITK’s attempts to block access to policies or programs a “colonial position.” Martin said NunatuKavut members have a wealth of expertise and experience that would be better leveraged to advocate for the rights of all Inuit.

“The argument that we don’t exist, it really falls into the trap of a divide and conquer mentality that works to the advantage, I think, of the federal government, because it diminishes the ability of each to work collectively. to do what we all want to do, ”Martin said.

Martin said she wanted to see more recognition for the Inuit in southern Labrador, and the ability to continue to maintain a relationship with the land and culture without interest or outside development.

“To be able to strengthen our own cultural ties, right? To bring back our language, to bring back our cultural traditions, to make sure they don’t disappear for future generations,” she said.

Russell said CNC’s offer for Obed and ITK to visit southern Labrador remains open.

“It would appear that this is more necessary than ever,” he wrote.

“While we are open to sharing our stories and our homes, we do not accept your call for exclusion.”

Read more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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