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RecensionsBook Reviews

McPHERSON, Robert, 2003 New Owners in Their Own Land, Minerals and Inuit Land Claims, Calgary, University of Calgary Press, 305 pages.[Notice]

  • Martina Tyrrell

…plus d’informations

  • Martina Tyrrell
    Department of Anthropology
    University of Aberdeen
    Aberdeen AB24 3QY
    Scotland, United Kingdom
    martinatyrrell@eircom.net

McPherson begins his history of mineral exploration in the Arctic with the contention that resource development has been intrinsically linked with the land claims movement in Nunavut as elsewhere in the Canadian Arctic. “Others have pointed to the catalytic connection of resource development and land claim advancement,” he writes (p. xiii) and in this volume he details that connection in exhaustive and intriguing detail. McPherson is an exploration geologist with extensive sub-Arctic and Arctic experience and has travelled and explored much of Nunavut as an employee of Comaplex Resources. Between 1989 and 1991 he was employed by the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) as an advisor on subsurface land selections where his task was “simply to provide geological consulting by preparing compilations of mineral prospects in the NWT using maps, reports, and assessment records” (p. 204). Later he travelled to the communities to take part in the negotiation sessions that led to the final Nunavut land claims agreement. This volume outlines the history of mineral exploration and the attendant development of political awareness in the Canadian Arctic, eventually leading to the formation of Nunavut. The book alternates chapters on the history of exploration in Nunavut (and the Northwest Territories more generally) and Inuit (and Inuvialuit) progression towards land claims agreements. Those chapters dealing with mineral exploration provide insights into the process of exploration and mining, the exploration industry’s relationship with Inuit and the social, economic and political impact of mining on Inuit communities. The history of the Rankin Inlet nickel mine receives in-depth treatment from its initial discovery, through exploration and the operation of the mine and finally to its closure in 1962. Dissatisfaction and feelings of injustice regarding mine and community life led to the first tentative steps towards Inuit politicisation. Inuit from camps and from settled communities were drawn to the mine with its offers of employment, where a caste system of sorts developed with southern white and Inuit mine workers segregated both socially and economically. Racially separate community organisations existed with the white council holding the majority of power in the community. Upon closure of the mine a number of Inuit miners were relocated to other northern mines (for example in NWT and Nunavik) but the majority of workers found themselves unemployed, an unusual and difficult situation for families to find themselves in now they had become accustomed to a regular wage to supplement subsistence activities. During this time, in the 1950s and early 1960s, political power still eluded Inuit who continued to make decisions by consensus and whose fledgling politicians were unwilling to speak on behalf of others. But the experience of the Rankin Inlet nickel mine led to the beginnings of political activity, with Inuit tentatively expressing their anger at being treated as second class citizens in their own land. Subsequent exploration and mining chapters detail the exploration, economic and social histories of the Nanisivik mine at Arctic Bay, the Kiggavik mine near Baker Lake, the development of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and the Polar Gas pipeline project. Not all these exploration projects were successful for the companies involved and as Inuit became more outspoken and gained more political clout the ease with which the industry could carry out its activities declined sharply. Throughout these exploration chapters there is a sense of growing Inuit unease with the activities of the mining industry, accompanied at times by government activities leading to displacement, resettlement in communities, forced education and the attendant sense of loss of a valued way of life. Inuit reaction to exploration and mining was predominantly negative. Low-flying planes threatened caribou populations, as did the …