Home > The Creation of Nunavut > Changing the Face of Canada > Conversation with Zebedee Nungak, the Nunavik ‘cartographer’

The melting of the sea ice near Broughton Island.

On the shore of Ungava Bay south of Killiniq.

Conversation with Zebedee Nungak, the Nunavik ‘cartographer’

John Amagoalik

We were up against the general public’s perception that Inuit were still living in ‘igloos’, were travelling by dogteam, and just weren’t active in the political life of the country. In fact, we were also just trying to convince certain governments, who had direct responsibilities for Inuit, to enter into the negotiations and to settle land claims and other rights. In the constitutional process, we had to break the sort of superficial picture that the country had of us. We had to make people take notice that we were sitting on the top third of the land mass of Canada. We may have a numerically small population, but we are extremely important in having the country achieve its full governing picture, let’s put it that way! We expected to have a lot more say in how we were governed. If we never reached a written signed agreement on the constitutional front, I think we achieved a public relations goal of educating all the governments and their ministers and their officials and their decision makers. We also succeeded somewhat in informing Canadians in general about who we were, what we were about, what we wanted, and the place we believed we should have in the country’s political structure.
In Chapter Eleven, John chats with Zebedee Nungak. They talk mainly about the discussions on constitutional issues and constitutional recognition of ancestral rights in Canada. They then discuss a series of subjects, including the question of Québec, which was the federal government’s priority during the process of the constitutional negotiations, moving the exiles from the High Arctic, the James Bay agreement and the agreements concerning the land claims of the Inuit in the Arctic, as well as preserving language and culture in Inuit communities. Zebedee Nungak talks about the events that earned him the nickname of the Map Man of Nunavik. As well, John talks of the time when the people in southern Canada began to take in interest in the North, and Zebedee brings up Jean Chrétien’s White Paper. He talks about the importance of the cooperative movement in realizing the objectives and aspirations of the Inuit. The chapter closes with Zebedee’s reflection on the creation of Nunavut and on the government of the new territory.