The Origin of the Name Nunavut

It Became a Territory of Canada in 1999

An Inuit man wearing furs walks across ice with a sled pulled by sled dogs
An Inuit man walks across the ice with his sled and sled dogs.

Justin Lewis/Getty Images

The meaning of Nunavut is the Inuktitut word for "our land." Nunavut is one of the three territories and 10 provinces that make up Canada. Nunavut became a territory of Canada in 1999, formed from the eastern region of the mainland Northwest Territories and most of the Arctic Archipelago. The vast territory is helmed by its capital, Iqaluit, located at the head of Frobisher Bay on southern Baffin Island.

In 1975, an accord, the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, was agreed upon between the Canadian federal government, the Province of Quebec and Inuit representatives. This accord resulted in the establishment of the Kativik Regional Government in the Nunavik territory, and the residents of all 14 Nunavik settlements now elect their own representatives in regional elections.

The Inuktitut Language

Inuktitut, or Eastern Canadian Inuktitut, is one of the principal Inuit languages of Canada. It is also an aboriginal language that is written using the Canadian Aboriginal syllabics.

Syllabics is a family of consonant-based alphabets called abugidas. It is used by several Aboriginal Canadian language families including Algonquian, Inuit, and Athabaskan. 

Vastly different from the Latin script used by more widespread languages, the use of syllabics greatly increases the likelihood of literacy among readers, due to its ease of use. 

The Inuktitut language is spoken throughout Arctic Canada, including all areas north of the tree line. The northern regions in the provinces of Quebec, Newfoundland LabradorManitoba, and Nunavut use the language, as well as the Northwest Territories. Inuktitut not only refers to the language but the entire culture of the Eastern Canadian Inuit. 

Inuit Culture and Language

The Inuit mannerisms, social behaviors, and values make up Inuktitut, in addition to the written and spoken word. An Inuktitut education takes place outside of traditional schools in the home, and also on the land, sea, and ice. Young tribe members observe their parents and elders and practice their new language and life skills in order to perfect them.

The word Inuit means "the people," and it is an autonym. The singular form is Inuk.

Lifestyle Based Around Extreme Weather Conditions

The Inuit lifestyle is completely based around the extreme weather conditions they must endure. Basic survival skills along with fishing, hunting and trapping are essential for daily life.

Agriculture has always been an impossibility, so instead, the Inuit diet is unlike any typical eating plan found elsewhere in the world. Beluga whale, seal, arctic char, crab, walrus, caribou, duck, moose, caribou, quail and geese make up almost the entirety of their diet, except in the warmer months when field roots and berries, such as cloudberries are picked and served, when in season.

This meat and fat-heavy diet has proven to be a health issue for the Inuits. Many suffer from a low calcium and vitamin D intake, but surprisingly, a vitamin C definitely has not been an issue for most. 

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Munroe, Susan. "The Origin of the Name Nunavut." ThoughtCo, Aug. 1, 2022, Munroe, Susan. (2022, August 1). The Origin of the Name Nunavut. Retrieved from Munroe, Susan. "The Origin of the Name Nunavut." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).