The region of northern Quebec inhabited by Inuit is known as Nunavik. Nunavik makes up the northern third of the province of Quebec, it is the homeland of the Inuit of Quebec. Nunavik means “great land” in the local dialect of Inuktitut and the Inuit inhabitants of the region call themselves Nunavimmiut. Until 1912, the region was part of the District of Ungava of the Northwest Territories.
The Nunavimmiut (Inuit in Nunavik) live both a traditional and a modern lifestyle. They work as teachers, administrators and radio personalities but also as hunters and fishermen. Almost all the Inuit here speak Inuktitut which is a very important part of the culture and traditions here (see Inuktitut section on this site)
You can learn more about the Nunavimmiut in the stories page as these are written by them
Recent History and Creation of Nunavik
In 1971, the Quebec government announced its intention to develop a massive hydroelectric project flowing into James Bay. The project was developed without consultation with the Inuit and Cree who had lived in the region for thousands of years. It had the potential to greatly damage the land and wildlife, resources upon which Inuit depended.
The Inuit and Cree responded with court action to stop development. In 1973, they won an interlocutory injunction, effectively halting construction. Quebec responded by announcing it would negotiate a land claims agreement. A week later the injunction was overturned, however the land claim negotiations went ahead.
The result for the Inuit of Nunavik was the first modern comprehensive land claims agreement in Canada, called the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBQNA), signed in Quebec City on November 11, 1975. The Agreement is administered by Makivik Corporation. Subsequently the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement, which covers the offshore region of Nunavik, was signed on December 1, 2006.
These agreements have totally changed the lives of the Nunavimmiut, as they now have more control over their land and their resources.
Today, 9,565 Inuit live in 14 municipalities along the coasts of Ungava Bay, Hudson Strait and Hudson’s Bay. The population is about 90% Inuit, with Québécois, Naskapis and Cree Indians comprising the remaining 10%.
The largest community in the region is Kuujjuaq, with a population of 2,200. The Nunavik territory is 660,000 square kilometers making up one third of the province of Quebec and is larger than France. So it is very sparsely populated.
While the territory has not yet gained complete sovereignty, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Land Claims Agreement of 1975 did create three major institutions which carry out many important functions: the Kativik Regional Government is responsible for the delivery of municipal services and infrastructure in the communities. The Kativik School Board administers the education system. Health services are managed by the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services.
The agreement also established Makivik Corporation (Inuktitut for “To Rise Up”) that protects the interests, financial and legal rights of the Nunavimmiut.
Nunavik Inuit are working with Quebec for the creation of a new regional government which will give further autonomy to the Inuit.
Traditional hunting and fishing are important food sources for the Inuit of Nunavik, though they now also eat “southern” style food. Within the last years, they have once again been allowed to go whale hunting on a very limited scale which is usually on a cultural occasion.
The transportation and service industries, such as, tourism and mining are important components of the local economy.
Transportation is a major concern because there are no roads in Nunavik, so you have to travel by plane (which may be quite expensive). Transportation by snowmobile or boat is also possible, but may at times be difficult and dangerous.
The landscape in Nunavik does have some trees up to around Kuujjuaq but above this town, the land becomes tundra with only very small bushes and plants
There are many, many young peoples in Nunavik. About half of the population is under 24 years. The young used to learn from the elders: the grandmothers and grandfathers who would teach them how to hunt and fish; they told the younger people stories about the Inuit way of living.
These days, the elders are often not as respected as before as young people turn to television or the internet instead for their entertainment. Since the winters are long and because local stores have made hunting unnecessary for survival, many young people get bored. To combat the boredom of those long winter months, young people in Nunavik will organize hip hop or rock shows amongst other activities.
Most young Inuit are able to attend school and universities free of charge so many new opportunities are possible and there is a new-found energy among many young Inuit who will contribute tremendously to Canada in the future and to their own special culture.
You can learn much more about the Nunavimmiut in the section on stories because these are written by them.
You may also visit:
2006 Census statistics concerning Aboriginal Peoples in Canada
Article by the CBC outlining the path towards a regional government in Nunavik
Nunavik tourism’s homepage, outlining activities, services, and events in the region, as well as basic facts and histories
Nunavik Parks homepage. Includes photos and information about parks and wildlife in Nunavik
Extensive collection of maps of villages and settlements, demographics, and land use in Nunavik
Explanation of Nunavik’s path to sovereignty
Homepage for Nunavik creations
Homepage for Nunavik Foods
Lonely Planet’s introduction to Nunavik. Includes basic facts and information with a simple and easily navigable interface
Homepage for Kativik Regional Government
Homepage for Makivik