Akimiski Island, Nunavut, Canada: An Island in Dispute
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On April 1, 1999, Akimiski Island, Northwest Territories, Canada, became part of the newly created Inuit-dominated territory of Nunavut, even though the Inuit never asserted Aboriginal title to this island. This is why the Omushkegowuk Cree of the western James Bay region of Ontario, Canada, assert Aboriginal title over this island. Essentially, the Government of Canada has reversed the onus of responsibility for proving Aboriginal title from the Inuit to the Cree. In this paper, we examined whether the Omushkegowuk Cree fulfill all the criteria of the common law test of Aboriginal title with respect to Akimiski Island, utilizing all available printed and online material. All criteria of the common law test of Aboriginal title were met; however, the written record only alludes to the Cree using Akimiski Island at the time of first contact and prior, Cree oral history was consulted to illuminate upon this matter. I documented and employed Cree oral history to establish that Cree traditional use and occupancy of Akimiski Island was “sufficient to be an established fact at the time of assertion of sovereignty by European nations” (INAC, 1993:5; INAC, 2008); thereby, fulfilling criterion 2 of the test for Aboriginal title. As the Cree have now met all criteria of the common law test for proof of Aboriginal title in Canada, with respect to Akimiski Island, a formal land claim should be considered by the Cree.