The Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) is one of the four Inuit regions of Canada, collectively known as Inuit Nunangat, and means “Homeland of the Inuit of Canada“. The other regions include Nunatsiavut in Labrador, Nunavik in northern Quebec, and the territory of Nunavut. They are quite different from one another, but their Inuit culture binds them together – they are all part of the Inuit Homeland. The term Inuit Nunangat is a Canadian Inuktitut term that includes land, water, and ice, as the Canadian Inuit consider all elements of their homeland to be integral to their culture and their way of life. It was felt that Inuit Nunangat was a more inclusive and appropriate term to describe their lands.
The Inuvialuit Settlement Region is inhabited by the Inuvialuit people. Inuvialuit means “the real people”. The Inuvialuit live in the most westerly part of the Northwest Territories, which can be found between the Yukon Territory and Alaska. The ISR was created in 1984; it is still a part of the Northwest Territories, and is sometimes also referred to as the Western Arctic.
The Inuvialuit were granted their land claim rights when they negotiated the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, which was ratified by the Canadian Parliament on June 5th, 1984. Their land is now protected under the Canadian Constitution. The Inuvialuit have rights to 906,403 sq. km and have full ownership to 91,000 sq. km.
The ISR is located on the coast of the Beaufort Sea and is comprised of 6 communities. Here are their names with their Inuit meaning:
- Inuvik (“place of man”),
- Tuktoyaktuk (“resembling a caribou”; formerly known as Port Brabant),
- Paulatuk (“place of coal”),
- Aklavik (“barren-ground grizzly place”),
- Ulukhaktok located on Victoria Island (“a large bluff where we used to collect raw material to make ulus”, formerly known as Holman), and
- Ikahuak the only community on Banks Island (“where you go across to” formerly known as Sachs Harbour).
Ulukhaktok and Ikahuak are located on islands and are therefore only accessible by air or by sea. The other communities have limited road access. For example, one can drive from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk and Aklavik on ice roads during winter. Currently, one can drive from the south to Inuvik using the Dempster Highway, and as of 2018, one will be able to drive all the way up to Tuktoyaktuk.
Approximately 5,600 people live in the ISR, of which, there are about 3,300 Inuvialuit people. Most of the inhabitants speak English but great efforts are made to revive the Inuit language. They are many dialects of Inuit that are spoken here: Invialktun, Uummarmiuntun, Siglitun and Inuinnaqtun. As in Nunatsiavut, most of these dialects use the standard Latin letters instead of syllabics.
The Inuvialuit have mainly lived off the sea and the land until about 20-30 years ago as they had mainly lived from hunting whales and trapping of fur bearing animals. It is a population that is very mixed with the Inupiaq from Alaska, who also have a similar whaling culture and with the “whites” who have come here for centuries to hunt whales or fur-bearing animals, such as the arctic fox, polar bears, caribou, lynx, muskrat, moose and seals. On Banks Island there is the largest concentration of Arctic geese and musk-oxen in Canada.
These days, the population relies more and more upon tourism, resource development and exploitation, arts and handicrafts and other forms of trade for their livelihood.
Inuvik is the main administrative center for the ISR and also the final stop on the Dempster Highway. It is located 340 km north of the Arctic Circle. The capital is still Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. The Dempster Highway, also referred to as Yukon Highway 5 and Northwest Territories Highway 8, is a Canadian highway that connects the Klondike Highway in the Yukon to Inuvik, Northwest Territories on the Mackenzie River delta. The highway begins about 40 km east of Dawson City, Yukon on the Klondike Highway and extends 736 km to Inuvik. Construction of the 140 km all-weather extension to Tuktoyaktuk commenced in January 2014, with completion scheduled for 2018. It will be the first time that it is possible to drive all the way to the Arctic Ocean in Canada.
Inuvik describes itself as “being on the edge of the future”. There is much interesting development here. Ulukhaktok, formerly known as Holman, enjoys a world-wide reputation for its lithographs, which are sold throughout the world.
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