The map of Canada is being redrawn to incorporate the first geographical change since Newfoundland entered the Confederation. On April 1, 1999, the creation of the territory of Nunavut marks the largest aboriginal land claim agreement in Canadian history. At two million square kilometres, the new region, formerly part of the Northwest Territories, comprises one-fifth of Canada, or an area larger than Saskatchewan and Alberta combined. Despite its immensity, however, this frozen land above the tree line has a population of only 25,000. About 80 per cent are Inuit, people who have lived in the region for a thousand years. (Nunavut means "our land" in the Inuit language of Inuktitut.)
The creation of Nunavut was proposed by the Inuit Tapirisat in 1976 as part of a comprehensive settlement of Inuit land claims. Conflicting ideas about whether to divide the Northwest Territories were settled in a 1982 territory-wide plebiscite, and a federal representative signed the Nunavut Political Accord in 1992. Iqaluit, formerly known as Frobisher Bay, was chosen as the capital.
The geography of Nunavut ranges from lakes, rivers and swamps in the south to tundra, snow, ice and rock in the north. Snowmobiles, dogsleds and airplanes are the primary modes of transportation: there are no road links to areas outside the territory, and only one within, connecting the communities between Arctic Bay and Nanisivik. Living natural resources play an important role in northern daily life. The majority of Inuit families continue to depend on hunting and fishing for their food. The territory's oil, gas and mineral riches have become increasingly important to the region's economy throughout the latter part of the 20th century.
The deep horizon on the stamp suggests the vastness of this new territory, while the friendly faces of Inuit children represent the strong Inuit presence. The youth, dawn-like lightning, and spring-time setting also suggest a new beginning. Inukshuks appear in both the foreground and horizon of the illustration, to represent guidance, comfort and welcome.