John Amagoalik, ‘Father of Nunavut,’ honoured in Iqaluit
'I firmly believe that our culture and our way of life won't go away tomorrow, because of people like John,'
The man many call the Father of Nunavut was invested into the Order of Nunavut last night — the territory’s highest honour.
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For Amagoalik, the ceremony has extra significance for taking place in the halls of the government he’d dreamed of more than 40 years ago.
Amagoalik recalls being a student, watching a session of the Northwest Territories legislature in the Iqaluit high school gym, and turning to a friend.
“I remember saying to him, some day we'll be down there running our own government. Forty-four years later, look where we are.”
At the ceremony, Amagoalik’s lifelong friend, colleague and fellow High Arctic exile, Larry Audlaluk, wondered whether the experience of the relocation planted the seed of determination that set Amagoalik on his path.
Amagoalik was five when his family was among several in Northern Quebec that were relocated to the Grise Fiord and Resolute in the 1950s.
Twenty years later, he was among the first people to call for the creation of an Inuit homeland called Nunavut.
“I firmly believe that our culture and our way of life won't go away tomorrow, because of people like John,” Audlaluk said.
In 1976, Amagoalik explained the reasoning behind the land claim on CBC’s Front Page Challenge.
"People seem to think we're after money, we're after services, but the original intent is the survival of a unique people. We want to save our language, our heritage, our philosophy, our whole way of life."
Amagoalik served as president of the national Inuit group, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, the predecessor of today’s Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. He was co-chair of the Inuit Committee on National Issues and chair of the Nunavut Constitutional Forum.
After Nunavut was legally created, Amagoalik was appointed chief commissioner of the Nunavut Implementation Commission, the group that set to work in advance of April 1, 1999.