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Government says artist violated rules

Laura Power
Northern News Services
Monday, August 6, 2007

IQALUIT - The Nunavut government has determined that Bob Kussy of Yellowknife violated archeological regulations by collecting whalebone last year in Pond Inlet.

Kussy and his son, Joe Ashoona, harvested the whale bone for use in carvings by their family of artists.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Joe Ashoona, who was harvesting whale bone last year with his father in Pond Inlet, says he feels his voice has been left out in a controversial case of harvesting bones for carvings, as no one within the Government of Nunavut has spoken with him about the matter. - Laura Power/NNSL photo

He recently received a letter from Douglas Stenton, director of culture and heritage for the Government of Nunavut stating that while he was found to be violating Section 5(1) of the Nunavut Archaeological and Palaeontological Sites Regulations, the government has decided to cancel any legal action against him.

"In your correspondence with the Government of Nunavut you indicated that you were unaware of the regulations, and this has been taken into consideration," the letter stated. "The Government of Nunavut will accordingly not be proceeding with legal action concerning this matter."

The bones they harvested, however, which were left in a friend's garage in Nunavut, will not be returned to him, though Kussy said the family plans on petitioning for the return of the materials.

He said he is not happy with the way the government handled this controversy, especially in respect to his family. He said he was on the trip to assist Ashoona, who as an aspiring artist was learning firsthand how to harvest materials for art.

"He's learning how to do things for himself and it's a whole new experience," he said, adding that the government has never acknowledged Joe's involvement. All the correspondence so far has gone through Kussy himself, he said.

"It appears... they've chosen to execute a judgment against me, seize our family's carving materials, and I guess they have decided that they only have to deal with me," Kussy said.

Ashoona said he feels left out of the matter.

Kussy said he feels the government is not "spelling it out" when it comes to the regulations, and hopes that these will become clearer for people like his own family members.

"I want Joe and Joe's children to be able to do this within the bounds of existing guidelines and policies," he said.

Stenton was not available for comment by press time.