She is also a member of Nunatsiavut, which means “our beautiful land,” an autonomous area in Newfoundland and Labrador governed by the Inuit. For her honours research project, Watts decided to look at what it means to be Inuit and how this is affected by a reapplication process that judges whether a person is eligible to be a beneficiary under the Labrador Inuit Land Claim Agreement.
“I questioned why, as you are already a beneficiary, you have to reapply again at nineteen,” explains Watts.
Watts, who has an avid interest in culture, especially Aboriginal cultures and contemporary issues, became interested in this topic after doing an essay in a “Maritime Aboriginal Culture” class.
“I was particularly interested because it had something to do with me. It is really interesting when I am going through articles and books in the library and I find pictures of family.”
Watts is looking at the process of how beneficiaries under the agreement are identified. At the age of nineteen beneficiaries reapply for status by filling out an extensive application form in which they must outline family history, going back generations, Inuit traditions, and connections to the Land Claims Area.
“I wondered how a person’s identity is affected if beneficiary status is lost. You have always thought of yourself as Inuit and suddenly you are told you are not. There is also the loss of benefits, medical and educational, and a political voice,” she says.
Rebecca received the Rouie Adair Long Award to help support her research over the summer.