Destination Spotlight: Nunavut
This post is also available in: French
It is big, ancient, beautiful and new.
Welcome to the youngest territory of Canada, settled over four thousand years ago, recognized as distinctly Canadian in 1999. Nunavummiut are deeply pleased to invite visitors into their lovely home, into one of the largest unspoiled natural paradises on the planet. People from everywhere are cordially invited to come here and enjoy the arctic wildlife and the Inuit way of life, to explore the top of the world and be dazzled by the vivid dancing hues of the Aurora Borealis.
Welcome to your arctic adventure of a lifetime!
The first impression many visitors have of Nunavut is that of its vast expanses of pristine wilderness. Comprising most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, about one fifth of the total landmass of the nation, Nunavut is the size of Western Europe. It is the largest yet least populated of all the provinces and territories in Canada, with a total area of 2,093,190 square kilometres (808,190 square miles) and a population of approximately 33,330 people — 84 percent Inuit. With one person for every 65 square kilometres (25 square miles) of arctic wonderland, the feeling of gigantic natural space is absolutely true!
Nunavut can only be accessed by air and sea. You cannot get here by car and Nunavut communities are not linked together by highway. Travelling between Nunavut communities is usually done by aircraft or cruise ship, but in some cases it is possible to reach another community by snowmobile, dogsled expedition or powerboat.
Nunavut is home to the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world, Alert, a military installation which is only 817 kilometres (508 miles) from the North Pole. That is truly north!
Apart from experiencing its spectacular arctic landscapes, visitors gain a very memorable impression of Nunavut that comes directly from the gracious warmth and hospitality of the remarkable people who live here. In traditional Inuit culture, the ethic of sharing is of foremost importance. This deep-rooted social value is eternal. Even today, this sense of collectivity, respect and mutual reliance is what often distinguishes the friendly residents of Nunavut communities from people in many other corners of the dog-eat-dog world. Welcome to the true north!
There are four official languages in Nunavut — Inuktitut, English, French and Inuinnaqtun, which is a variant of the Inuit language spoken in the westernmost communities of the territory. Inuktitut is the mother tongue of 70 percent of Nunavummiut. English is the first language of 27 percent of the population, French and Inuinnaqtun about one and a half percent each.
One of the most important words in Inuktitut is ‘ii’ — which means yes. When said correctly, most Inuit will also raise their eyebrows, which is delightful.
Nunavut is divided into three regions, from east to west — Qikiqtaaluk, Kivalliq and Kitikmeot.
The Qikiqtaaluk region (also called Qikiqtani, formerly called Baffin region) includes Akimiski Island, Amund Ringnes Island, Axel Heiberg Island, Baffin Island, Bathurst Island, the Belcher Islands, Bylot Island, Cornwallis Island, Devon Island, Ellef Ringnes Island, Ellesmere Island, Mansel Island and Prince Charles Island. It also includes the eastern part of Melville Island, the Melville Peninsula and the northern parts of Prince of Wales Island and Somerset Island.
The capital of Nunavut, Iqaluit, is located in the Qikiqtaaluk region.
The Kivalliq region consists of a portion of the Canadian mainland west of Hudson Bay, together with Coats Island and Southampton Island. This region was once called Keewatin in the past, a part of the Northwest Territories before the territory of Nunavut was created in 1999. The old name ‘Keewatin’ is actually a Cree word meaning ‘blizzard of the north’ and it has generally been phased out.
The regional capital of Kivalliq is Rankin Inlet.
The Kitikmeot region of Nunavut consists of the southern and eastern parts of Victoria Island, with the adjacent part of the Canadian mainland as far as the Boothia Peninsula, together with King William Island and the southern portion of Prince of Wales Island. Inuinnaqtun is spoken in this western region.
The regional capital of Kitikmeot is Cambridge Bay.
Courtesy of Nunavut Tourism