From New World Encyclopedia
Revision as of 01:18, 17 November 2022 by Rosie Tanabe (talk | contribs) (→‎External links)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Flag of Nunavut Coat of arms of Nunavut
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᓴᙱᓂᕗᑦ
(Nunavut Sannginivut)
(Inuktitut: "Our land, our strength")
Map of Canada with Nunavut highlighted
Capital Iqaluit
Largest city Iqaluit
Official languages Inuit Language (Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun), English, French[1]
- Commissioner Nellie Kusugak
- Premier Joe Savikataaq (consensus government)
Federal representation in Canadian Parliament
- House seats 1
- Senate seats 1
Confederation April 1, 1999 (13th)
Area [2] Ranked 1st
- Total 2,038,722 km² (787,155 sq mi)
- Land 1,877,787 km² (725,018 sq mi)
- Water (%) 160,935 km² (62,137 sq mi) (7.7%)
Population  Ranked 12th
- Total (2016) 35,944[3]
- Density 0.019/km² (0/sq mi)
GDP  Ranked 13th
- Total (2011) C$1.964 billion[4]
- Per capita C$58,452 (6th)
- Postal NU
- ISO 3166-2 CA-NU
Time zone UTC-5, UTC-6, UTC-7
Postal code prefix X
Flower Purple Saxifrage[5]
Tree n/a
Bird Rock Ptarmigan[6]
Web site
Rankings include all provinces and territories

Nunavut (Inuktitut syllabics: The word "Nunavut" in Inuktitut syllabics) is the largest and newest territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the actual boundaries were established in 1993. The creation of Nunavut resulted in the first major change to Canada's map since the incorporation of the new province of Newfoundland in 1949.

Canada's northernmost territory, Nunavut (“Noo-na-voot” in both English and French) means "our land" in Innuktitut, the language of Inuit. It is one of the most sparsely populated habitable regions on Earth (density 0.015/km²), consisting of small settlements which are clustered largely in the coastal areas. It is both the least populated and the largest of the provinces and territories of Canada. The capital, Iqaluit (formerly "Frobisher Bay") on Baffin Island, in the east, was chosen by the 1995 capital plebiscite. The territory includes Ellesmere Island to the north, as well as the eastern and southern portions of Victoria Island in the west.

Arctic tundra covers virtually all of Nunavut, the only exceptions being a tiny area in the extreme southwest near the "four corners" area where a marginal taiga forest exists, and small zones of permanent ice caps, found on some of the larger Arctic Islands.

Nunavut's indigenous people, the Inuit, who have lived for thousands of years in one of the toughest climates of the world, have been faced with adaptation to the "modern" world in the last 100 years. It has been a century of massive social, economic, and cultural changes. Their culture and traditions have been challenged by upheaval, but they have wisely pursued a path to incorporate their traditions into their governing system while learning to deal with the larger world. The creation of the Nunavut Territory from the Northwest Territories in 1999 is one part of the story of their struggle for recognition of their unique existence and the power to protect it.


Sila River's "Fourth Waterfall"—typical Canadian Shield rocks

The Canadian territory of Nunavut is a vast stretch of land which constitutes the greater part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, including its largest island, Baffin Island. It consists of approximately 750,000 square miles (1.9 million sq km) of land and 62,000 square miles (161,000 sq km) of water, including part of the mainland, most of the Arctic Islands, and all of the islands in Hudson Bay, James Bay, and Ungava Bay (including the Belcher Islands). Several islands in the area are divided between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, notably Victoria, and Melville Islands.

It is the fourth largest subnational entity (statoid) in the world. If Nunavut were a country, it would rank 13th in area, after the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nunavut has land borders with the Northwest Territories on several islands as well as the mainland, and a tiny land border with Newfoundland and Labrador on Killiniq Island. It also shares aquatic borders with the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba and with Greenland. The creation of Nunavut created Canada's only "four corners," at the intersection of the boundaries of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, at 60°00' north, 102°00' west, on the southern shore of Kasba Lake.

The mountains on the easternmost coasts of Nunavut are part of the Arctic Cordillera which stretches from northernmost Ellesmere Island to the northernmost tip of Labrador. The highest point is Barbeau Peak on Ellesmere Island at a height of 8,583 feet (2616 m), which is also the highest point in Nunavut. The Arctic Cordillera is the northernmost mountain range in Canada and offers some of the world's most spectacular scenery.

Nunavut and its capital, Iqaluit (formerly "Frobisher Bay") on Baffin Island. Image courtesy of, used with permission.

Nunavut comprises two distinct physiographic regions: The Canadian Shield, including the mainland and the islands around Hudson Bay, and the Arctic Archipelago in the north. The lowlands of the Canadian shield consist of very thin soil lying atop ancient bedrock, and many bare outcrops. This arrangement was caused by severe glaciation during the last ice age, which covered the Shield and scraped the rock clean. The extreme age of the base rock (Precambrian Era, over 540 million years old) is one the main factors for the rich veins of ores and minerals that have been found in the territory. The multitude of rivers and lakes in the entire region is caused by the watersheds of the area being relatively young and in a state of sorting themselves out with the added effect of post-glacial rebound. Virtually all of Nunavut's rivers drain into either the Hudson Bay or the Arctic Ocean.

Arctic tundra covers virtually all of Nunavut, the only exceptions being a tiny area in the extreme southwest near the "four corners" area, where a marginal taiga forest exists, and small zones of permanent ice caps, found on some of the larger Arctic Islands (especially Baffin, Devon, and Ellesmere) at sites having a relatively high elevation.

Nunavut experiences bitterly cold winters and cool to cold summers. Though temperatures are harsh, with little precipitation and few trees, it is home to a number of species of plants and animals. There are herds of caribou (reindeer) and and musk oxen that feed on the lichens and plants.[7] Small, hardy shrubs, notably dwarf birches grow throughout the territory, in addition to a variety of flowering plants. Grizzly bears, wolves, Arctic foxes, and red foxes are included in Nunavut's animal population, which also includes polar bears, walrus, and seals in its coastal areas. Beluga and bowhead whales and narwhals are found in coastal waters. Abundant insects in summer provide food for thousands of migratory aquatic birds. Only the snowy owl and gyrfalcon and species of ptarmigan live in the territory year-round.[8]

Nunavut has four National Parks: Quttinirpaaq National Park on Ellesmere Island; Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island; Sirmilik National Park on northern Baffin Island and Bylot Island; and Ukkusiksalik National Park on the mainland. In addition, there are Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary (mainland) and Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, shared with the Northwest Territories.


Did you know?
Nunavut is the newest, largest, and most northerly territory of Canada

The region now known as Nunavut has supported a continuous population for approximately 4,000 years. Most historians also identify the coast of Baffin Island with the Helluland described in Norse sagas, so it is possible that the inhabitants of the region had occasional contact with Norse sailors.

The written history of Nunavut begins in 1576. Martin Frobisher, while leading an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, thought he had discovered gold ore around the body of water now known as Frobisher Bay on the coast of Baffin Island. The ore proved to be worthless, but Frobisher made the first recorded European contact with the Inuit. The contact was hostile, with both sides taking prisoners who subsequently perished.

Sir Martin Frobisher.

Other explorers in search of the elusive Northwest Passage followed in the 17th century, including Henry Hudson, William Baffin and Robert Bylot.

In June 1870, the Hudson's Bay Company transferred their holdings to the government of Canada. This immense region comprised all of non-confederation Canada except British Columbia, the coast of the Great Lakes, the Saint Lawrence River valley and the southern third of Quebec, the Maritimes, Newfoundland, and the Labrador coast. It also excluded the Arctic Islands except the southern half of Baffin Island; these remained under direct British rule until 1880. The present territory of Nunavut was a part of this vast land, known as the Northwest Territories.

In 1976, as part of the land claims negotiations between the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (then called the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada) and the federal government of Canada, the division of the Northwest Territories was discussed. On April 14, 1982, a plebiscite on division was held throughout the Northwest Territories with a majority of the residents voting in favor of division. The federal government gave a conditional agreement seven months later. The land claims agreement was decided in September 1992 and ratified by nearly 85 percent of the voters in Nunavut. On July 9, 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act were passed by the Canadian Parliament, with the transition completed on April 1, 1999.[9]


Nunavut's head of state is a Commissioner appointed by the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. As in the other territories, the commissioner's role is symbolic and is analogous to that of a Lieutenant Governor. While the Commissioner is not formally a representative of Canada's head of state, a role roughly analogous to representing The Crown has accrued to the position.

Legislative assembly building in Iqaluit.

The members of the unicameral Legislative Assembly of Nunavut are elected individually; there are no parties and the legislature is consensus-based. [10] The head of government, the premier of Nunavut, is elected by and from the members of the legislative assembly.

Faced by criticism of his policies, Premier Paul Okalik set up an advisory council of eleven elders, whose function it is to help incorporate Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit culture and traditional knowledge, often referred to in English as "IQ") into the territory's political and governmental decisions.

Owing to Nunavut's vast size, the stated goal of the territorial government has been to decentralize governance beyond the region's capital. Three regions—Kitikmeot, Kivalliq and Qikiqtaaluk/Baffin—are the basis for more localized administration, although they lack autonomous governments of their own.

The territory has an annual budget of C$700 million, provided almost entirely by the federal government. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin designated support for Northern Canada as one of his priorities for 2004, with an extra $500 million to be divided among the three territories.

In 2005, the government of Nunavut collaborated with the federal government and the technology firm SSI Micro to launch Qiniq, a unique network which uses satellite delivery to provide broadband Internet access to 25 communities in Nunavut. As a result, the territory was named one of the world's "Smart 21 Communities" in 2005, by the Intelligent Community Forum, a worldwide organization which honors innovation in broadband technologies.


This polar bear shaped license plate, originally created for the Northwest Territories in the 1970s, has been used by Nunavut since it became a separate territory in 1999.

Unemployment in Nunavut is higher than in the rest of Canada. The majority of those employed work in the service sector, particularly such government services as administration, health care, education, and welfare. Much of the territory's revenue comes from the federal government, though it is supplanted by local taxes.

Traditional activities of hunting and fishing remain. Some fish species (shrimp, turbot, and Arctic char) are fished and exported to southern markets. Much of the food in Nunavut is imported, supplanted by what the Inuit fish, trap (small animals) and hunt (sea mammals).

Nunavut's unique culture and natural beauty attract tourists, and the service industry surrounding this, though small is significant.

Mining is the principal resource-based industry in the territory. Its major operations are:

  • Lupin Mine—1982-2005—gold (located near the Northwest Territories boundary near Contwoyto Lake)
  • Polaris Mine—1982-2002—lead and zinc (located on Little Cornwallis Island, not far from Resolute)
  • Nanisivik Mine at Nanisivik—1976-2002—lead and zinc (near Arctic Bay)
  • Rankin Inlet Mine—1957-1962—nickel and copper
  • Jericho Diamond Mine—2006-present—diamond (located 400 km, 250 mi, northeast of Yellowknife)


Inuit man, Arviat.

One of the most sparsely populated habitable regions on Earth (density 0.015/km²), Nunavut consists of small settlements which are clustered largely in the coastal areas.[8] While there is some internal migration from the rest of Canada to Nunavut (usually on a temporary basis), there is very little external migration from outside the country to Nunavut.

Over 80 percent of the population identify themselves as Inuit. Much of the rest are of European descent. Nunavut's small and sparse population makes it unlikely the territory will be granted provincial status in the foreseeable future, although this may change if the Yukon, which is only marginally more populous, becomes a province.

The three dominant religions in Nunavut are Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Born again Christianity. Traditionally, Shamanism has always been a taboo subject in Inuit culture, not openly talked about. Shamans did not make their identity know, though the families and clans knew who to turn to when needed.


Inuktitut (literally, "like the Inuit") is the name of the varieties of Inuit language spoken in Canada. It is spoken in all areas north of the tree line, including parts of the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, to some extent in northeastern Manitoba as well as the territories of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and traditionally on the Arctic Ocean coast of Yukon. It is recognized as an official language in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Nunavut encompasses the geographically largest part of the Inuit world (not counting the uninhabitable Greenland ice shield), and includes large mainland areas and numerous islands divided by rivers, straits, Hudson Bay, and areas of ocean that freeze only for a part of the year. Consequently, it is unsurprising that it has a great deal of internal dialect diversity.

Nunavut's basic law lists four official languages: English, French, Inuktitut, and Inuinnaqtun, but to what degree Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun can be thought of as separate languages is ambiguous in state policy. The word Inuktitut is often used to describe both.

Northeast coast of Baffin Island.

While the use of Inuktitut is promoted in the schools, there is some fear that without a proactive stance, the language may be lost, replaced by English. In his 2000 commissioned report, Aajiiqatigiingniq Language of Instruction Research Paper, to the Nunavut Department of Education, Ian Martin of York University states that a "long-term threat to Inuit language from English is found everywhere, and current school language policies and practices on language are contributing to that threat" if Nunavut schools follow the Northwest Territories model. He outlined a 20 year multi-model language plan to create a "fully functional bilingual society, in Inuktitut and English" by 2020.[11]


Drum-led dancing has long been an important part of Inuit life in Nunavut, and was used to mark all the major occasions of life—a birth, changing of the seasons, a successful hunt or a marriage.
Some Inuit believed that the spirits of their ancestors could be seen in the northern lights.
An inuksuk (or inukhuk) is a man-made stone landmark or cairn, used by the Inuit and other peoples of the Arctic region for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for hunting grounds in the tundra biome, an area containing few natural landmarks. This one is on Baffin Island.

Many traditional elements of the Inuit culture have been preserved in Nunavut, despite the impact of modern influences such as media and technology. While much of life in the territory is modernized, it is understandably influenced by deeply held Inuit beliefs.

Inuit religion was closely tied to a system of rituals that were integrated into the daily life of the people. These rituals were simple but held to be necessary. According to a customary Inuit saying, "The great peril of our existence lies in the fact that our diet consists entirely of souls." By believing that all things, including animals, have souls like those of humans, any hunt that failed to show appropriate respect and customary supplication would only give the liberated spirits cause to avenge themselves.

Inuit art has become internationally popular, especially since World War II, due in large part to its promotion by Canadian artist and author James Archibald Houston and the Hudson's Bay Company. Stone carvings, weavings, and prints have provided an important supplementary source of income for some communities.

Inuit folk music has long been based primarily off percussion, used in dance music, as well as vocals, including the famous Inuit throat singing tradition. Immigration brought new styles and instruments to Nunavut, including country music, bluegrass, square dancing, the button accordion, and the fiddle. The musical career of Inuit singer and lyricist Susan Aglukark has promoted greater understanding and appreciation of Inuit cultural life in a modern context.

Popular sports include hockey, curling, dogsled and snowmobile racing, and traditional Arctic games. Hunting, fishing, hiking, and kayaking are popular not only to the local people, but are a draw to visitors from outside.

As the Inuit seminomadic lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and trapping was replaced by a communal life which proved to be more sedentary in the mid-twentieth century, social problems began to arise. Dependence on welfare programs replaced self-sufficiency, followed by alcohol and other substance abuse, unemployment, and crime.

As a solution, the Inuit began to seek greater participation in the administration of their own affairs. This led to several major initiatives; Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, which gave them control of more than 135,000 square miles (350,000 square km) of territory; and the Nunavut Act which created the territory on April 1, 1999. The ethnic-based territorial government has shown mixed success. The economy has grown, but not enough to be self-sufficient. The social problems which prompted the change of governance have not been solved.

A reawakening of native culture and pride has occurred, resulting in "Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit"—an Inuktitut phrase that is often translated as "Inuit traditional knowledge" (literally "that which has long been known by Inuit"). It has recently become something of a political slogan in Nunavut, as the government attempts to integrate the traditional culture of the Inuit more into their modern governance structure in order to combat disempowerment. While its critics, however, tend to view it as little more than window dressing for more conventional politics, the Inuit consider it a body of knowledge and unique cultural insights into the workings of nature, humans and animals. Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, then, has both practical and philosophical aspects that branch out from a basic principle that human beings have an infinite potential for problem-solving within the dictates of nature and technology.


  1. Consolidation of Official Languages Act (S.Nu. 2008,c.10) and Consolidation of Inuit Language Protection Act Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  2. Census Profile Nunavut Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  3. Population and Dwelling Count Highlight Tables, 2016 Census Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  4. Gross domestic product, expenditure-based, by province and territory (2011) Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  5. The Official Flower of Nunavut: Purple Saxifrage Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  6. The Official Bird of Nunavut: The Rock Ptarmigan Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  7. S. Whitney, Tundra, Blue Planet Biomes, 2002. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Nunavut Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  9. Creation of Nunavut. Canada's History. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  10. On the Nunavut Campaign Trail CBC Digital Archives. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  11. Ian Martin, Aajiiqatigiingniq Language of Instruction Research Paper December , 2000. Retrieved March 15, 2019.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Alia, Valerie. Names and Nunavut Culture and Identity in Arctic Canada. New York: Berghahn Books, 2007. ISBN 1845451651
  • Henderson, Ailsa. Nunavut: Rethinking Political Culture. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2007. ISBN 0774814233
  • Kulchyski, Peter Keith. Like the Sound of a Drum: Aboriginal Cultural Politics in Denendeh and Nunavut. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2005. ISBN 0887551785
  • Sanna, Ellyn, and William Hunter. Canada's Modern-Day Aboriginal Peoples Nunavut & Evolving Relationships. Markham, Ont: Scholastic Canada, 2008. ISBN 978-0779173228

External links

All links retrieved November 16, 2022.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.