Published on January 21, 2013 by Carol
In Quebec, the Inuit live in a vast toundra territory situated north of the 55th parallel called Nunavik. The population is spreaded throughout 14 villages regrouping 160 to 1400 residents each. Those villages, distant from hundreds of kilometres, are situated on the banks of the Hudson Bay (Kuujjuarapik, Umiujaq, Inukjuak, Puvirnituq, Akulivik), the Hudson Straight (Ivujivik, Salluit, Kangiqsujjuaq, Quaqtaq) and the Ungava Bay (Kangirsuk, Aupaluk, Tasiujaq, Kuujjuaq and Kangiqsualujjuaq). Over 60 Inuit also live in Chisasibi, a Cree village of the Hudson Bay.
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The Nunavik is the Inuit’s traditional hunting and fishing territory. It was peopled by the Inuit ancestors, over 5000 years ago, who came from Siberia and Alaska by successive waves at the beginning of the human peopling of the Canadian and Quebec northern territories. Nomadics, they pursued their herds and progressively settled into their actual territories.
Around 1400, whalers and European explorers started to frequent the region and established contact with the Inuit for commercial exchanges. But it is mostly from the fur trade that came, in the 18th century, a major change in the Inuit way of life. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Inuit turned down their traditional weapons for guns and started to use the products exchanged at the fur trading posts. In the 1950s, government services were gradually introduced north of the 55th parallel.
Today, even though snowmobiles and houses have replaced dogsleighs and igloos, the Inuit care to preserve their values, culture and language. The Inuit language, Inuktitut, is a rich and versatile language, adapted to contemporary realities. The Inuit’s second language is English.
The Inuit also signed the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) wich gives them administrative authority in their communities. With the Agreement, new structures are created and rule the health, education, and social services sectors. The Makivik society, created after the signature of the Agreeement, plays an important part in the social and economic development of the region. Municipal services are provided by the Northern Village Corporations, wich are ruled like the municipalities of the South. The Kativik Regional Government (wich was also created after the signature of the Agreement) is in charge for the ensemble of the northern villages from its Kuujjuaq headquarters.
The Inuit strengthened their economic prosperity with the creation of the cooperative movement, wich became today one of the basis of their economic development and autonomy. The cooperative movement, wich started at the end of 1950, took a prominent part in the historical evolution of the Inuit. It allowed Inuit to take in charge their commercial activities on their territory and opened to the Inuit artists and craftsmen international markets. Today, there is 13 cooperative stores in the 14 Inuit villages.
The Inuit’s economy is also based on businesses related to the transport (aerial), services, administration and tourism sectors. The Inuit improved, all along the centuries, the manufacturing of utilitary objects like made of stone, wood, bones and ivory. Today, Inuit crafts are world-renowned; especially the sculptures they make from soapstone, wich became their international trademark.