Band­ing to­gether, un­der a new flag

The Nu­natuKavut coun­cil un­veils its new flag

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Bold and sim­ple, yet deeply sym­bolic, the flag re­cently un­veiled by the Nu­natuKavut coun­cil is eye catch­ing, de­signed to evoke a sense of her­itage, com­mu­nity and pride from great dis­tances.

Nu­natuKavut pres­i­dent Todd Rus­sell says the flag is an im­me­di­ate vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of where his peo­ple came from and where they are go­ing. “When you look at it in a glance, you can see the past, present and fu­ture all right there,” Rus­sell stated. “The strength of our cul­ture, our tra­di­tions, our way of life. How mean­ing is brought to the present, and that foun­da­tion we have, the in­spi­ra­tion we take from the past and where we are at in the present and how that’s go­ing to give rise to, we be­lieve, great things.”

The flag’s de­sign fea­tures el­e­ments that are unique to Nu­natuKavut her­itage and specif­i­cally hon­ours Inuit women’s role as cul­ture car­ri­ers. The most prom­i­nent im­age is an ulu, a tra­di­tional women’s knife, which was used for mul­ti­ple pur­poses like skin­ning and clean­ing an­i­mals, cutting food or trim­ming blocks of snow and ice to build an igloo.

On the lower blade of the ulu is a Kul­lik with a flame. The Kul­lik was used as a means of light­ing and heat­ing homes, cook­ing and was a gather­ing place for sto­ry­telling. Inuit women were known as “keep­ers of the fire.” The Kul­lik is still used for cer­e­mo­nial pur­poses to­day and to pay re­spect to an­ces­tors.

The carv­ing on the han­dle of the ulu is a dog team car­ry­ing a seal, which have both played a crit­i­cal role in the lives of South­ern Inuit. The blue, white and green colours in the flag rep­re­sent the land, in­land wa­ters, the sea, sky, ice and snow. The Nu­natuKavut iden­tity is shaped by a deep re­la­tion­ship with the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment that was in­stru­men­tal in shap­ing it.

Rus­sell says plans to rep­re­sent his cul­ture with a flag have been in the works for the past three years. “I think this whole move­ment was en­er­gized by the 250th an­niver­sary of our treaty, our Bri­tish – Inuit Treaty, which was in 1765,” Rus­sell ex­plained. “It was shortly after that that we started talk­ing about this and how we might want to com­mem­o­rate.”

The Nu­natuKavut coun­cil put out a call for de­signs on it’s Face­book page and Cartwright paint­ing and carv­ing artist Barry Pardy sub­mit­ted sev­eral de­signs, all fea­tur­ing the ulu. From there the de­sign was tweaked by the whole com­mu­nity, first through the gov­ern­ing coun­cil, then through mem­ber­ship feed­back and fi­nally pro­fes­sional graphic de­sign­ers. “We came up with a de­sign that was unan­i­mously en­dorsed by the coun­cil,” Rus­sell stated.

Rus­sell is fiercely proud of the work of such a uniquely demo­cratic process.

“It’s bold but it has a sort of un­der­stat­ed­ness to it as well,

It’s just a beau­ti­ful flag and it makes me feel some­thing about my­self, my cul­ture, my fam­ily, my com­mu­nity, my peo­ple and where I’m from in Nu­natuKavut.

-Nu­natuKavut Pres­i­dent Todd Rus­sell

which I think very much speaks to our peo­ple,” Rus­sell ar­tic­u­lated. “An un­der­stated peo­ple who lived in and raised fam­i­lies in a North­ern cli­mate, in the Arc­tic if you will. It also has a cer­tain bold­ness be­cause I think we had to be bold, its part of our re­silience. We wanted to tell our story be­cause it cer­tainly hasn’t been told by oth­ers. You won’t find it in a lot of his­tory books,” Rus­sell laughs.

Nu­natuKavut means “Our An­cient Land.” It is the ter­ri­tory of ap­prox­i­mately 6000 South­ern Inuit, who re­side pri­mar­ily in south­ern and cen­tral Labrador. The Nu­natuKavut have grown to be­come the largest Indige­nous group in Labrador and re­cently re­ceived fed­eral recog­ni­tion of full Indige­nous rights on July 12th 2018.

Rus­sell ac­knowl­edges that the un­veil­ing of the group’s new flag was well timed. “Here we are em­bark­ing on a na­tion to na­tion re­la­tion­ship with the gov­ern­ment of Canada and there was some talk about mark­ing that new re­la­tion­ship with this,” Rus­sell ex­plained. “It wasn’t specif­i­cally done for this but some­times things just hap­pen for a rea­son.”

The pres­i­dent points out that an­other im­por­tant sym­bol­ism of the flag is to cel­e­brate his­tory and cul­ture as well as con­fi­dence for the fu­ture. “The beau­ti­ful Kul­lik flame is a bit big­ger than nor­mal but I think that goes to show you the sense of op­ti­mism and the place we’re in as a peo­ple as south­ern Inuit and where are feel our fu­ture is headed in a good way, a bright way,” Rus­sell said.

The flag’s de­sign speaks to Rus­sell in a pro­found, deeply per­sonal way. “It’s just a beau­ti­ful flag and it makes me feel some­thing about my­self, my cul­ture, my fam­ily, my com­mu­nity, my peo­ple and where I’m from in Nu­natuKavut.”

Rus­sell con­cludes that the flag, which the coun­cil pro­duced in var­i­ous sizes as well as van­ity li­cense plates, should be mean­ing­ful both to folks within his ter­ri­tory but also to vis­i­tors. “It helps unite our peo­ple un­der a com­mon ban­ner, un­der a sym­bol that we can all re­late to,” Rus­sell ex­plained. “I think that when our peo­ple look at this, they can say this is part of my story, my his­tory, me, my peo­ple, my fam­ily, I can see it in this flag. It also pro­jects ex­ter­nally to the world about a peo­ple who are con­fi­dent and who are will­ing to look at what the pos­si­bil­i­ties are.”

SUB­MIT­TED

The flag’s de­sign was in­spired by sev­eral pre­lim­i­nary drafts Artist Barry Pardy sub­mit­ted, all fea­tur­ing the ulu.

SUB­MIT­TED

The of­fi­cial Nu­natuKavut flag

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