On April 1, 1999, the world’s attention turned briefly to the Arctic village of Iqaluit. At midnight, as green flickers of the aurora borealis danced across the sky, fireworks exploded into the frigid air. The Inuit of Canada were celebrating the enactment of the Nunavut Agreement, which established their ancestral land—an icy tundra the size of Mexico with just 25,000 inhabitants and almost no industry, roads or other infrastructure—as a self-governing territory. Under those glowing skies, Canadian Inuit embarked on what is still one of the greatest experiments in indigenous autonomy, one that offers a roadmap for other nations seeking to emerge from the dark history of colonization.
Twenty years after the territory’s inauguration, much has changed. Many of the people