Nfld. & Labrador

New flag, renewed optimism and self-determination for NunatuKavut

NunatuKavut, which represents Inuit and those of Inuit ancestry, is in talks with the federal government about Indigenous self determination rights.

Todd Russell says annual general assembly gave people a chance to talk about their future

Todd Russell is president of the NunatuKavut, which represents Inuit in central and southern Labrador. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

NunatuKavut Community Council unveiled its official new flag over the weekend at its annual general assembly, and President Todd Russell says the momentous reveal was just one part of an inspirational weekend.

The AGA for NunatuKavut, which represents Inuit and those of Inuit ancestry, was held on Labrador south coast, and had a number of cultural sessions.

"It was an opportunity for us to say, where do you want to be, as an Indigenous person? As a southern Inuk? In the future, where do you want your community to be, where do you want us as a group to be?" Russell told CBC's Labrador Morning.

"People were so engaged in that and it just told me that our people are in a place, too, where they see that the process we're involved in with the federal government, and some time in the future the provincial government, is something that is meaningful and significant to them — and for the generations to come."

Todd Russell shows off the new official NunatuKavut flag at the annual general assembly on the weekend. (NunatuKavut/Facebook)

Those talks with governments Russell referred to are to recognize Indigenous Rights and Self Determination for NunatuKavut.

"Obviously people want to be self-governing again, have more control over their own lives, where we're going to go as a people, more control over their own resources," Russell said.

"This was heard loud and clear when it came to things like the fishery and other resources, particularly when people hear talks of mines."

As part of the AGA, Russell said the official new NunatuKavut flag, which showcases cornerstones of Labrador Inuit culture, was unveiled.

"It's a beautiful vibrant flag and it has those beautiful colours that resemble the sky, the water, the snow, ice, the land itself, so it has these beautiful, beautiful white, green, blue beautiful, vibrant colours," Russell said.

The image in the centre features an ulu, a traditional Inuit knife used by women.

"It represents the tremendous role that our grandmothers, our aunts, that the women and the girls in Inuit culture played in our communities, in our history — and they still do," said Russell.

NunatuKavut members discuss the issues facing their communities at the annual general assembly. (NunatuKavut/Facebook)

Within the ulu image is a dog sled team, showing the important of husky dogs, as well as a kudlik, a traditional seal oil lamp.

"That was such an important part of the life of our communities. It provided heat, it provided warmth, it was a place that families gathered, and so that flame in that seal oil lamp burns really, really bright, and that speaks to our future, as well," Russell said.

"It speaks to our past and it's inspired by the future. And what a time to unveil it, just after we had the acceptance of our recognition of Indigenous rights and self-determination process."

'There's a lot of optimism'

Russell said the more than 200 members of NunatuKavut who were able to register were happy with the new flag, and the meeting itself showed the bright future for NunatuKavut.

"There's a lot of strength, there's a lot of unity, there's a lot of optimism," he said.

But he did say there is a lot of work to be done.

"We saw what happened at Muskrat Falls and people certainly don't want to have those kinds of mistakes repeated in the future. People want an adequate health care service, healthy people, healthy communities," he said.

"Some of these items were very, very broad but they're also very, very practical for people. Things like infrastructure ... When you look at a community like Black Tickle without any water and sewer."

Russell said there's no longer a reliance on the federal government to solve those issues, giving his people more ownership over their own lives.

"They see their own government within NunatuKavut and what we can all do together to improve the wellbeing of our people and our communities," he said.

"How do we get it from the vision in place to implementing that vision, and that's the work we do every single day."

With files from Labrador Morning

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