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The area now known as Nunavut has been inhabited for about 4000 years. The written history of Nunavut begins in 1576 when Martin Frobisher, searching for a Northwest Passage, discovered gold ore near Baffin Island. Frobisher made the first European contact with the Inuit. The contact was hostile. Other explorers in search of the elusive Northwest Passage followed in the 17th century, including Henry Hudson, William Baffin and Robert Bylot.

In 1976, as part of negotiations between the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the federal government, the division of the Northwest Territories was discussed. A plebiscite on partition took place on 14 April 1982, with a majority of residents agreeing to partition and the federal government entering into a conditional agreement seven months later. The final agreement was reached in September 1992 and was ratified by almost 85% of the voters in Nunavut. On 9 July 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act were ratified by the Canadian Parliament and the transition was completed on 1 April 1999.

See also the history of Canada.


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Last updated May 2024
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