Dog sledding. Wakeham Bay in Kangiqsujuaq.
Nunavik’s history is the story of the region’s inhabitants, the Inuit.
Archaeologists believe that paleo-Eskimo, Dorset, Thule and Inuit groups have progressively occupied Nunavik for roughly the last 4500 years. Thule are the direct ancestors of the Inuit. This group arrived in the region around 1000 AD, bringing with them survival techniques well adapted to the cold climate of the Arctic. Thule were chiefly a nomadic, coastal people who were entirely dependent on the their own ingenuity and the region’s wildlife resources for their subsistence.
As with the Thule, the Inuit way of life is closely tied to the natural environment and its resources. Seal, caribou, arctic char and wildfowl remain this people’s main food source. Inuit have a deep understanding of the fragility of the North, and have always been heedful of its protection.
For the Inuit of Nunavik, contact with Euro-Canadians began gradually in the middle of the 19th century, while many Inuit continued to live much as their ancestors well into the 20th century. Missionaries and fur traders were the first wave of southerners to arrive in the North, and they introduced most notably different values, new customs and advanced wildlife harvesting tools. With the onset of government intervention in the North, irreversible transformations occurred, forevermore Inuit passed from a nomadic way of life to life in settlements.
The James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement, which was signed in 1975, is widely recognized as the first modern land claims agreement in Canada. The Agreement protects the traditional rights of the Inuit of Nunavik and establishes a foundation for mutually respectful relations between the Inuit and the governments of Québec and Canada. The Agreement encompasses a wide range of issues, including the hunting, fishing and trapping regime, education, health, economic development, and public administration.