On today’s date in 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act (NLCA), the largest Indigenous land-claims settlement in Canadian history, came into effect.
Granting the local Inuit population the right to hunt, fish and trap throughout the territory, the NLCA created three land designations. These areas, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia, include “Crown lands, over which Inuit have the right to hunt, trap, fish and participate in management; 318,084 square kilometres of Inuit-owned land, including rights to the ground’s surface but not what lies beneath; and 37,883 square kilometres of Inuit-owned land, including both surface and subsurface rights.”
“Inuit were invited to select the parcels of land for each designation,” adds the encyclopedia. “In compensation for the Crown lands that were not to be Inuit property, the federal government agreed to pay recognized Inuit organizations $1.17 billion over 14 years.”
A day later, on July 10, 1993, the Nunavut Act passed through Parliament, setting the stage for the official establishment of Canada’s newest and most northerly territory on April 1, 1999. It would be the first significant change to the country’s map since the incorporation of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949.
The territorial holiday Nunavut Day is now celebrated every July 9 to mark the passing of the NLCA.
1999 NUNAVUT COINS
In 1999, the Royal Canadian Mint struck a $2 proof gold coin to mark Nunavut’s creation.
The coin’s reverse, designed by Germaine Arnaktauyok, features an Inuit drum dancer beating a drum bearing an outlined map of the territory. A stone lamp is depicted inside the map to symbolize warmth, security and hope for the future. Struck with a white gold outer ring and a 22-karat inner core, this coin has a weight of 11.4 grams, a diameter of 28 millimetres and a mintage of 4,298 pieces.
In 2009, the Mint struck another gold coin, this with a face value of $100, to commemorate the territory’s 10th anniversary. The coin depicts a hunter performing a drum dance with past and future generations symbolized by the faces above. This piece has a weight of 12 grams and a 27-millimetre diameter.
In 2012, as part of its “Provincial Coat of Arms” series, the Mint struck another 14-karat gold coin featuring Nunavut’s coat of arms, which was granted by Governor-General Roméo LeBlanc in 1999.
Created by Inuit artist Andrew Qappik in partnership with the Canadian Heraldic Authority and the elders and leaders of Nunavut, the territory’s coat of arms is a distinct blend of ancient Inuit symbolism and European heraldic tradition. Resting upon the shield is an igloo, which was essential to survival and represents the traditional way of Inuit life and the modern gathering of legislative members.
The territory’s status in Confederation is symbolized by the royal crown above. Holding the shield is a caribou and a narwhal. The motto is written in Inuktitut, which reads “Nunavut Sanginivut” (Nunavut our strength).
In 2018, the Mint issued its first collectible coin crafted entirely of Nunavut-sourced gold.
Also designed by Qappik, the reverse of this piece, dubbed “Symbols of the North,” highlights the walrus, ptarmigan, polar bear, bowhead whale and narwhal, each of which is framed within the outline of a maple leaf. In another innovation, the 10th-ounce gold coin was struck on newly developed blanks that were thinner and wider than previous coins but with the same relief, allowing for a larger canvas for the Arctic-themed design.