New Owners in Their Own Land: Minerals and Inuit Land Claims


305 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-097-1
DDC 346.719'50432'0899712




Reviewed by David Mardiros

David Mardiros is a lawyer and anthropological consultant in Terrace,
British Columbia.


A spate of books has appeared over the years about Native land claims.
Usually authored by academics, lawyers or, in a few cases, members of
the Aboriginal community affected, these accounts have made the general
public aware of the complex and lengthy process involved in the settling
of Aboriginal claims. Few of these accounts have paid much attention to
the technical and ethical issues that Aboriginal peoples have to grapple
with when their traditional lands are greatly prized by mining companies
and mineral resource developers. McPherson, a consulting geologist who
worked under contract for the central Inuit organization that negotiated
the Nunavut Agreement, provides a unique insight into the pragmatic and
difficult choices made by Inuit negotiators when deciding what areas of
their traditional territories they will try to retain surface and
subsurface mineral rights over.

Mining and mineral development has been the subject of much agonized
debate in Canadian Aboriginal communities; more than one region has seen
the devastating ecological effects of such development without realizing
the promised economic and employment benefits. As McPherson describes
with much sensitivity, Inuit negotiators began to hire mineral advisors
to assist them in the land selection process only in the late 1980s and
only after considerable and protracted debate among those who would be
affected by the settlement. The decision to proceed with land selection
based not just on traditional land-use patterns but also on the mining
and mineral potential of traditional lands reflected a realization that,
in order to ensure the continued survival of the Inuit in a world
economy where the products of mining and mineral development are
increasingly precious, a strategy needed to be developed that would
allow Inuit to try to control the worst effects of mining and harness
the benefits for local communities.

The Nunavut Agreement has made the Inuit of the eastern and central
Arctic owners of the largest block of freehold lands in Canada, large
sections of which they also control the surface and subsurface mineral
rights to. This book is a powerful exposition of the difficult process
that occurred on the way to achieving a settlement. It is also a very
good read for anyone interested in learning not just about the Nunavut
Agreement but also about how land claims negotiations will likely
proceed in the future.


McPherson, Robert., “New Owners in Their Own Land: Minerals and Inuit Land Claims,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed November 29, 2023,