Amagoalik John

John Amagoalik is widely recognized as one of the key leaders in the creation of the Nunavut Territory in Canada. The territory, encompassing just over 27,000 people but extending over 2 million sq km (800,000 sq mi), was carved from eastern and central portions of the Northwest Territories, and accounts for nearly one-fifth of the entire area of Canada. With a population that is approximately 80% Inuit, Nunavut serves to guarantee the future of indigenous culture and language.

In 1974, Amagoalik served as executive director of the Nunavut Land Claims Project, which was responsible for formulating the Inuit land claim. In this role, he was one of the first to call for the creation of an Inuit-majority territory in the eastern Northwest Territories. In the late 1970s, Amagoalik headed the Inuit Land Claim Commission, which negotiated land claims with representatives of the Canadian and Northwest Territories governments.

During the 1980s, Amagoalik served two terms as the president of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (presently known as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Canada's national Inuit organization), where he continued to promote the protection of native culture, language, and political interests. During his tenure, the Northwest Territories held a plebiscite to measure the support for the possible creation of Nunavut. The proposal was endorsed by 56% of the voters, with a wider margin of support among Inuit voters.

In the early 1990s, Amagoalik acted as a political advisor to the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut, the Inuit agency responsible for the final negotiations with the government of Canada to settle native land claims and the creation of a new territory. The Canadian Parliament passed the Nunavut Act (initiating the creation of the new territory) and the Nunavut Land Claims in 1993 with relatively little opposition. The successful outcome of these acts has been attributed to the Inuit position that the new Nunavut territory would not exist exclusively for aboriginals of the Northwest Territories but rather all people living within the territorial borders.

As chief commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission (NIC), Amagoalik was responsible for overseeing the creation of a territorial government. Although he borrowed from the existing laws of the Northwest Territories, duplicate government agencies needed to be formed in order to provide services once the political division took place. In order for Nunavut to function as a self-governing entity, Amagoalik also ascertained that a sufficient number of Nunavut residents received proper training for careers in government services. This required a concerted effort by the NIC and other agencies to combat the exceedingly high dropout rate within Inuit high schools.

Amagoalik endorsed a controversial effort to mandate equal representation of men and women in the Nunavut legislative assembly. The proposal, first considered in 1994, would have created two-member legislative districts in which voters elected one man and one woman to serve in the Nunavut Assembly. The proposal was ultimately rejected in a territorial plebiscite in 1997.

In addition to his work in advancing the cause of self-government for the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic,

Amagoalik was active in the formation of the Inukshuk Project. A forerunner to the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, this project brought Inuit-produced television to the Eastern and Central Arctic of Canada.

Amagoalik also succeeded in negotiating a settlement with the Canadian government in 1995 for reparations to Inuit families relocated against their will during the 1950s from northern Qu├ębec to settlements in the Northwest Territories. The relocation project, which included the moving of Amagoalik's own family from Resolute Bay in the Canadian Arctic, was intended to provide land for the construction of American military bases.

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