Written by ines January 11th
The Innus - A Few Words on Their History and Territory
Europeans called these inhabitants of the little mountains on the North Shore “Montagnais”. However, they prefer the term “Innus”, meaning “authentic men”. Nomadic hunters, fishermen, pickers, they moved according to seasons. They waited for the salmon spawning run, caribou passing, and geese flights. Hunting was a source of food, clothing, shelter, tools and weapons for the Innus. Their ancestral territory, the Nitassinan, follows the north shore of the Saint-Lawrence River, between the Lac Saint-Jean and Labrador, and continues until Schefferville. In spring, during the fur trade period, the Innus travelled to Tadoussac, one of the most important fur trade spots in New-France. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, their lifestyle changed dramatically, due to logging, which deprived them of numerous hunting territories, mining and dam construction. Private clubs were also built on the best spots of the salmon rivers.
Current Population, Language and Culture
With over 15,500 members, the Innu nation actually has the highest population of all nations in Quebec. Nine Innu communities exist: Betsiamites, La Romaine, Les Escoumins, Uashat-Malioténam (Sept-Îles), Matimekosh, Mingan, Natashquan, Mashteuiatsh (Pointe-Bleu) and Pakuashipi (Saint-Augustin). Over 80% of the nation speaks their ancestral language. The Innu nation was also the first to take charge of its own educational services, and to organize themselves politically and culturally regarding the evolution of Native identity. Innu art is widely diversified: sculptures (in wood, caribou antlers or stone), drawings, paints, carving and crafts (leather, pearls, basketwork), etc.
Tourism Among the Innus: The Example of the Native Museum of Mashteuiatsh
In the Mashteuiatsh community, it is possible to visit the Native Museum, which has existed since 1977, and whose mission is to preserve Ilnu heritage. The museum presents their history, culture and lifestyle; lifestyle which is deeply linked to the territory. In addition to the permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions are also brought in. It is possible to meet certain artists and to take part in animated cultural evenings. Thousands of years of a people’s memory can thus be discovered, as can their contemporary culture, which continues to evolve. The museum also welcomes school groups and offers a nature interpretation walk to learn about indigenous flora. According to the STAQ (Quebec Aboriginal Tourism Corporation), this museum is a must-see.
Photo Credit : Zoli-Camonari