INDIGENOUS PEOPLE FIGHTING FOR THEIR RIGHTS
Translated, Nunavut simply means "our land." A deeper meaning implies "our homeland." And to those Inuit with a broader conception of the language, the meaning runs deeper. The tacit understanding is "we share in this together, unconditionally," and is accompanied by intense gratitude.
The aboriginal people of Nunavut, the Inuit, know of themselves as an Inuk. Translated, they see themselves as a breathing human being. Traditionally it was the community and family Elders who gave a name to a newborn child. When missionaries arrived to spread Christianity, they renamed children with Biblical names. Within Inuit families today, the ancient names are still used and recognized. However, in the 1940s, the Canadian government gave each citizen a letter and a number with the letter referring to geographic location (east or west), and the number simply a count. Between 1968 and 1970, Abe Okpik, the first Inuk to become a member of the Northwest Territories legislative assembly, went door to door asking families to choose a surname. As quickly as it came, the offensive number system was gone and the Inuit reclaimed their identity.
Place names also have great meaning within Inuit culture. Those places who were renamed by settlers are gradually being renamed again, back to their traditional names. Gradually, things are changing and the citizens of Nunavut are fighting for their voice and making a territory their own.
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