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Natan Obed elected president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Natan Obed was elected as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president today in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

'I’m really shocked and excited about this new opportunity,' Obed says

Natan Obed was elected as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president today in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (Mitchel Wiles/CBC)

Natan Obed was elected as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president today in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

"I'm really shocked and excited about this new opportunity," Obed said today.

The national organization represents Inuit across Canada. Its board comprises representatives from four regional Inuit land claims and the president of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada.

Obed says his first priority is to "take stock and to get re-acquainted with the organization." He says he also needs to wrap up his work at his current job at Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.

Obed was the youngest of three candidates. Incumbent Terry Audla who served for one term from 2012 until now and Jerry Komaksiutiksak who works for the Mamisarvik Healing Centre in Ottawa also ran for the position.

Grilled for not speaking Inuktitut

After his speech this morning, Obed was grilled by board members about his inability to speak Inuktitut fluently. He responded that "language is not what makes me Inuit."

"This is a great day for those of us who still struggle with language," he told CBC. "Because it shows that as long as we have the vision and the passion for Inuit language and the willingness to learn, that we're not going to be penalized for not at this very second, this moment in time, not speaking Inuktitut."

Obed said he'll push forward language issues as president of ITK. He also plans to push for suicide prevention, education and a place within the federal government.

"Inuit have a constitutionally protected voice and we need to be participants in everything that affects Inuit at the federal level," he said.

ITK said in a news release that Obed has held senior roles within the Labrador Inuit Association, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.  He has also served as the acting president of Nunavut's Embrace Life Council and has served as the chair of ITK's National Inuit Committee on Health and a member of the National Committee on Inuit Education.

Obed needed seven of 13 votes to receive a majority — he received seven.  

He was sworn-in for his three-year term this afternoon.

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