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Trading secrets

Inuit man shares reasons for nunavut success with Taiwanese aboriginals

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Jan 08/01) - Simon Awa is definitely one of lucky ones.

The resident was hand-picked recently by the Canadian government to travel to Taiwan to speak to aboriginal groups about the process of creating Nunavut.

Awa spoke to Taiwan's Council of Aboriginal Affairs, focusing on what had happened in Nunavut.

"It was a learning experience, it was interesting and it was out of this world," said Awa, the director of policy and planning for the territorial department of justice.

"They learned a great deal by me talking about the land claim process and the history of the land claim," he said.

A specific lesson learned by the nine aboriginal groups recognized by the Taiwanese government was that they had a heck of a battle ahead of them. Awa said even in Nunavut where a single and united aboriginal group wanted the same thing, it was still a long haul. That made him realize how fortunate Inuit were.

"It's almost like what we have in Canada with the Indians and Inuit and Metis," said Awa.

"It's hard to collectively agree on one regime, on one common position," he said.

On the lighter side, Awa said he also noticed a difference in the kind of food he ate while in Asia. Used to a steady diet of caribou, seal and char, he was introduced to an entirely new style of cuisine.

"One thing for sure that I can tell you is that they don't have real meat," said Awa.

"They might have pork and chicken, but there's lots of seafood and rice. Some of the foods were unrecognizable. Sometimes I didn't want to know what I was eating," he said.

When he had a few free moments on his hands or didn't have to attend a special dinner, however, he sought comfort at that icon of North American cuisine -- McDonald's.

"I found some Canadian restaurants like McDonald's. They had the usual kind of food there," he said.

Awa also saw younger people moving into the urban centres, leaving their more traditional, aboriginal ways of life behind in the mountains of Taiwan.