Joan Scottie, Warren Bernauer, and Jack Hicks, I Will Live for Both of Us: A History of Colonialism, Uranium Mining, and Inuit Resistance. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2022. 264 pgs. ISBN 9780887552656.
Reviewed by Andrea Procter.
How would one live for both of us? And how would one write for three of us? Quite brilliantly, as it turns out. I Will Live for Both of Us is a first-person account of life under colonialism in Nunavut. It is written by Joan (Paningaya’naaq) Scottie, an Inuk activist who has dedicated her life to protecting her land, driven in part by her promise at her sister’s grave to live for both of them. But despite Joan’s first-person narration, the book also is written by Warren Bernauer and Jack Hicks, two researchers with extensive experience in mining politics and activism in Nunavut. This multiple authorship but singular voice has the potential to be problematic, but in this case is a collaboration that works well.
Joan’s narrative is engrossing. Her personal experience and perspective carry the book, while Bernauer and Hicks supply critical background research and context. Modelled on The Fourth World: An Indian Reality, the 1974 classic by George Manuel and Michael Posluns, I Will Live for Both of Us brings to life resource governance on Inuit lands in a way that no detached academic account ever could. Joan guides us through her life, from growing up on the land with her outspoken father in the 1950s to being forced to settle in Baker Lake; from the Inuit rights movement of the 1970s to the creation of Nunavut. Throughout, she illustrates the relentless onslaught of mining companies intent on exploiting Kivalliq resources. From the Meadowbank gold mine to various proposed uranium developments, Joan candidly describes her involvement in organizing community resistance to damaging mining activities. Environmental assessments are not often engaging subject matter for the average person, but in this book, they are absolutely gripping. Following Joan’s narrative, we become invested in the outcome and then watch, exhausted, as her community faces yet another mining proposal.
This book has given me new appreciation for the perseverance of community members who engage in environmental review and other regulatory processes to safeguard their lands and wildlife. Faced with constantly changing company tactics to obtain community consent, Joan and other grassroots activists draw on their strong conviction that environmental governance should stem from a respectful relationship between humans and the land, one that ensures a future for all species. Caribou calving grounds and migration routes, for example, should not be disturbed by mining exploration or development.
Notably, while fighting to prevent environmental degradation, the community organizers contend not only with the mining industry, but with their own government. When Inuit ratified the land claim agreement and created Nunavut, they expected to regain control over the governance of their territory. Joan describes her great hope that Inuit values would once again guide decision-making about land use and development. However, as the book argues, Nunavut has ushered in weakened environmental oversight. Territorial and Inuit agencies are so dependent on resource revenues that they often offer little resistance to a mining industry that promises large economic rewards. This contradiction lies at the heart of the book. As it illustrates, representative Inuit organizations and the Nunavut government forfeit Inuit values in the face of fiscal and political pressure.
Joan portrays these Inuit values and culture with precision and nuance. While respectful pitqussiit (Inuit rules, customs, and social norms) ensured that generations of Inuit thrived, Joan does not applaud all aspects of Inuit culture, especially the harmful ways in which women and girls sometimes were treated. Although this point is presented somewhat unevenly, it adds weight to the book’s argument. Inuit values do not represent an unrealistic, vague, or romanticized ideal; instead, as she describes in detail, specific principles can offer crucial guidance in regulating human-environment relationships. The betrayal of these Inuit values, as displayed by Nunavut and Inuit agencies, is a betrayal of Inuit forms of governance and the aspirations that originally built Nunavut. As Joan says, “Because we have our own territory, we should be using our autonomy to make decisions that uphold our values and traditions…. We don’t just want to share our concerns with experts. We want to make our own decisions about our future” (170).
I Will Live for Both of Us is a well-written and engaging examination of Indigenous struggles to protect culture and land within and against a colonial and land claims framework. The book tackles internal contradictions and disconnections between community interests and representative Inuit governing bodies, and provides a detailed but very accessible account of the real impact of environmental governance in the north. Students and scholars of Indigenous self-government and resource management would find the book particularly useful, but all of us could benefit from learning about Joan’s experiences and encountering her optimism: “My hope for this book is that it will show future generations of Inuit and other Indigenous peoples that they can fight proposals for unwanted development on their traditional territories…. If you always keep the long-term best interests of the ordinary people of your community and your natural environment in your heart and mind and you don’t lose hope…YOU CAN WIN!” (198).