Happy Inuvialuit Day! 40 years and counting …

'We never really ever had a voice until our Final Agreement.,' says Elder Albert Ruben

Albert and Eileen Ruben joined a couple hundred other folks at the Inuvialuit Day Celebrations in Yellowknife on Wednesday. (James O'Connor/CKLB.)

Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement,

There are six communities within the Inuvialuit settlement region, in the Northwest Territories: Tuktoyaktuk; Aklavik; Sachs Harbour; Ulukhaktok; and Paulatuk; and Inuvik.

Daniel Rogers, left, and Tyren Kisoun entertained at the Inuvialuit Day Celebrations in Yellowknife on Wednesday. (James O’Connor/CKLB.)

Inuvialuit also mark the success of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and its Development Corporation. The latter has grown substantially over the decades, now reportedly worth $1.25 billion.

The Development Corporation helped its beneficiaries celebrate the 40th year with gatherings in Inuvik, Edmonton, Yellowknife and Whitehorse.

Elders Eileen and Albert Ruben live in Paulatuk, but were at Yellowknife’s Multiplex, joining about 250 other Agreement beneficiaries and well-wishers.

Eileen and Albert say life started to change for residents in the Beaufort Delta with the signing of the Final Agreement.

“It took them so long to negotiate. They took years and it finally happened,” said Eileeen.

Albert added: “As far as activities in our region, we have a voice in the region as to what kind of activities go on. As far as I can see now, there’s pretty well next to nothing that’s gonna happen without us first being consulted. We never really ever had a voice until our Final Agreement. And now we are involved in pretty much all aspects of our have activities.”

Lesa Semmler was at the event with family members, including her first grandson, Mazen.

Elders enjoy a whitefish snack at the Inuvialuit Day Celebrations in Yellowknife on Wednesday. (James O’Connor/CKLB.)

The MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes, who is also a cabinet minister, recalled when her grandmother, Agnes, was an agreement negotiator.

“I remember these adults in a room and meetings after meetings, after meetings, and not knowing the importance of those meetings. So, listening to some of the past elders, some of them who passed on, it was just making sure that they have say over their lands that they have secured the Inuvialuit region for their future generations.

“I got my great grandmother here. I’ve got my cousins here. I’ve got my daughter here. You know, my grandson is now Inuvialuit. Where we are now (after) 40 years, I just can’t imagine where we’re gonna (be) and what we’re gonna see in another 40 years.”

Premier RJ Simpson said what the IRC’s Development Corporation over the years, it’s grown from literally nothing into something huge, right? What would you have to say about it and the celebration here today,

“What IRC has done in the last 40 years is very impressive. They, generate revenue through their companies, they generate revenue through their land claim, and the they invest that back into the region and the communities and you can see it, you can see the impacts. I’ve always been very impressed by IRC as an organization and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”

Premier RJ Simpson was welcomed by many in the crowd of about 250 at the Inuvialuit Day Celebrations in Yellowknife. (James O’Connor/CKLB.)


The revered Nellie Cournoyea. (Image courtesy of Nunakput MLA Lucy Kuptana/Facebook.)

Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler checks in on her first grandson, Mazen, at the Final Agreement 40th celebrations in Yellowknife. (James O’Connor/CKLB.)

About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: james.oconnor@cklbradio.com.