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20. Aboriginal Land Use And Culture

The Labrador Inuit and Innu, including those who live in the communities closest to Voisey's Bay, have a distinct world view. Each group believes a spiritual connection exists between humans and the land, sea, plants and animals. The cultural values of both peoples language, structures, ideas, wisdom, innovations, values, symbolism, spirituality, and aesthetic views influence how they understand and interpret their relationship to the world around them. The Innu and Labrador Inuit, each in their own way, see themselves as protectors of the environment and believe that if care is exercised in relation to land, water, plants and animals, then present and future generations will be assured a continuing harvest.

All cultures evolve over time, and may at times be subject to rapid change. A culture includes some diversity between individual members, although, in general, culture is a shared, social phenomenon. In the recent past the Innu and Inuit of Labrador have experienced many direct and indirect interactions with Euro-Canadians, which has caused changes in their cultures. Yet each group seeks to maintain the best and distinctive parts of its own culture. The Project will provide new opportunities for the Innu and Inuit, including increased participation in a wage economy. However, it will also expose them to many new influences which may change their land use patterns. This, in turn, may have more general effects on spirituality and other aspects of their cultures.

20.1 Existing Environment

The Innu and Inuit of Labrador believe that a Creator gave them their territory, to use and look after. Despite their many cultural differences, the Innu and Inuit peoples have world views that are centred on their relationship with the environment.

As with many other Aboriginal peoples, the Innu and Inuit see themselves as an integral part of the ecosystem. They believe all components of the environment are connected and have a purpose. They are acutely aware that changes in the environment resulting from human actions will affect many of the functions of natural systems which, in turn, will affect all of the other interconnected components. They also believe that future generations will survive if each of the parts of the natural world are respected.

20.1.1 Environmental Assessment Boundaries

Capitalized terms used herein (such as Landscape Region and VBNC Claim Block) may be defined in other chapters. Some terms and phrases used may have different definitions in other chapters depending upon the context in which they are used, for example, the Assessment Area.

While mining activities will take place within the VBNC Claim Block and along the shipping route, employment, and purchase of goods and services will take place in areas beyond the VBNC Claim Block. Since Project activities may affect the land use and culture of North Coast communities and their resource harvesting or cultural areas, predictions of residual environmental effects will be made for communities along Labrador's North Coast. Administrative Boundaries

The Project is located in an area of two overlapping comprehensive Aboriginal land claims. The Labrador Inuit Association (LIA) and Innu Nation are negotiating their land claims with the Government of Canada and Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (referred to respectively as the LIA Claim and the Innu Nation Claim). The two Aboriginal peoples are the main users of renewable resources in the Claim Block.

The LIA Claim, accepted for negotiation in 1978, extends along the coast from the northern tip of Labrador to the area of Spotted Island, southeast of Cartwright, and offshore to the extent of fast ice. Its inland boundary covers a portion of northern Quebec east of the George River. The Innu Nation Claim covers all of Western Labrador, most of the interior of Southern and Eastern Labrador, and the interior of Northern Labrador south of Nain. The two land claims overlap in the inland parts of the country between Rigolet and Nain.

There are a number of other Aboriginal land claims that have been submitted to the federal government:

  • Makivik Corporation, on behalf of the Quebec Inuit, submitted a comprehensive claim in Labrador in October 1992, which was accepted by the federal government in 1993 for both offshore and onshore northern Labrador. The framework agreement was ratified in August 1993 and negotiations are ongoing with the federal government only;

  • The Schefferville Indian Council of Montagnais submitted a comprehensive claim in Quebec and Labrador in 1979. There are no current negotiations on the Labrador portion of the claim;

  • The Labrador Metis Association (LMA) submitted a comprehensive land claim in November 1991. Supplemental information was provided in support of the claim in March 1996. The claim is being reviewed by the federal government and is not currently under negotiation; and

  • The Quebec Naskapi submitted a comprehensive claim for lands in Labrador in August 1995. The claim is not currently under negotiation.
  • LIA established the Torngâsok Cultural Centre in Nain to address Inuit cultural matters. The cultural institute of the Innu Nation in Sheshatshiu has a similar function. Heritage Canada, formerly the Secretary of State, provides core funding and support to these organizations for cultural development, as well as for communications programs and native friendship centres.

    20.1.2 Technical Boundaries

    The analysis in this chapter is based largely on data from secondary and published sources. Additional cultural information has been provided to VBNC through workshops, open houses and meetings, and this has been considered and integrated into the EIS wherever possible.

    20.1.3 Methods

    Secondary source material has been used to describe existing conditions, and is the basis for the prediction of residual environmental effects on Aboriginal land use, culture, and spirituality. There is considerable literature on traditional Aboriginal culture, economy and society in Canada. Aboriginal communities in Labrador have been relatively well documented, in ethnographic studies, and in land use and occupancy studies. However, some of these data are no longer current.

    Information on contemporary Inuit land use in the project area was obtained from a study funded by VBNC, under the direction of the LIA (Williamson 1997) and from community survey of Nain, Hopedale, Postville, Makkovik and Rigolet (CRS 1997). The CRS survey covered households and individuals aged 18 and over. Similar, information was not available for the Innu communities, but a survey currently underway by the Innu Nation (funded by VBNC) may be provided directly to the Panel.

    20.1.4 Existing Conditions

    When describing baseline conditions, the EIS Guidelines require that the EIS identify significant events or processes which have affected the environment since about 1940. This chapter goes back further, because many of these events and processes which still affect the land use and culture of the Innu and Inuit of Labrador derive from early in this century.

    "The people mostly ate fish and caribou. Sometimes the caribou would swim across the river and the people would chase them using their canoes and stabbed them with a knife in the neck. We used spears and knives. Some ladies are very good at stabbing caribou. My Mother was very good at it." Tshenish Pasteen, Them Days, Life in Voisey's Bay, 1997.

    The Innu of Labrador, numbering about 1,600, are part of a larger Innu grouping of about 10,000 whose traditional land base includes the northeastern part of the Ungava Peninsula (which they refer to as Nitassinan). Their language belongs to the Algonkian family and they share many cultural traits with their neighbours to the west, the Cree. Until recently they were known to others, and in the literature, as the Montagnais and the Naskapi, depending on where the lived (Armitage 1990). In the past the Innu in southern Labrador and along the Quebec North Shore were called Montagnais, or sometimes Mountaineers. The Innu of the more barren northern country were called Naskapi. Innu Nation, whose members are limited to the Innu of Labrador, includes approximately 1500 people. They live in two communities, Sheshatshiu in Upper Lake Melville and Utshimassits (Davis Inlet), on Iluikoyak Island, 85 km southeast of Voisey's Bay. The Mushuau Innu in Utshamassits are currently in the process of relocating their community to Natuashish (on Sango Pond), located on the mainland, just west of Utshimassits.

    Traditionally, the Innu were nomadic, routinely travelling long distances by canoe and on foot. By the historic period, subarctic bands, or in some cases, family groupings, were using the same territories from generation to generation. However, the boundaries of these territories were flexible, and mobility between them through extended social networks was especially important for the Innu. Most Algonquian speaking nations east of James Bay shared language, material culture and much intellectual culture. During the past two centuries the Innu people have experienced social disruptions, encroachments on the land they traditionally used, and consequent cultural changes. However, their traditional land use was primarily focused on the interior and, until the last two generations, there was relatively little direct contact with Europeans. Davis Inlet and North West River were important locations where the Innu went to trade with Europeans, as well as to harvest coastal resources, including fish and migratory waterfowl.

    An investigation for the Canadian Human Rights Commission highlighted the increasing vulnerability of the Innu economy in this period: The records of the 1920s and 1930s show that the Mushuau Innu were often in dire circumstances. The diversion of their traditional hunting efforts into fur-trapping for profit had made them particularly vulnerable to seasonal changes in the abundance of wildlife and in the 1920s government relief began to be provided. From time to time a shortage of caribou led to starvation among the Mushuau Innu who were equally vulnerable to disease. Reports also indicate that social problems existed among the Innu at that time, often resulting from the use of alcohol (McRae 1993:34).

    A series of events, both natural and cultural, had severely affected Innu culture by the 1940s. These included epidemics of European diseases (1919, 1951); a severe decline in the abundance of caribou (1916, 1940s) or a radical shift in caribou movements, which resulted in hunger and starvation (1849, 1858, 1885, 1943); and the encroachment of trappers on the territory traditionally used by the Sheshatshiu Innu (Cram 1986; Armitage 1989; Tanner 1976). Between 1901 and 1941, the settler population tripled and their intensive trapping depleted the supply of furbearing animals.

    Increasing competition with settlers, who had radically different views of property rights, created growing conflict. In the 1940s the collapse of the fur trade, and the opening of CFB Goose Bay, where many settlers found employment, relieved the immediate causes of conflict but also increased the hardships experienced by the Innu. By this time, the Innu were reduced to severe poverty and were reluctant to travel far inland, fearing starvation.

    The Innu increasingly sought assistance from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1948, the Newfoundland government, concerned the Innu were becoming entirely dependent on relief, closed the trading post at Davis Inlet and resettled the Innu to Nutak, on a barren island nearly 200 km farther north. This decision was described by an official at the time as "monstrous but necessary" (McRae 1993: 36). Government's intention in relocating the Innu was to make them productive in the cod fishery. However, Nutak was in Inuit territory, which was treeless and alien to Innu culture. At the end of the second winter, the Innu walked back to Davis Inlet. In 1967, they were again relocated to a new site at Utshimassits, on Iluikoyak Island. Nearly 30 years later, the problems associated with this site have been exhaustively documented (Henriksen 1994; MIRC 1995; Mushuau Innu Band Council and Mushuau Innu Nation 1995; PWGSC 1994; Tanner 1993a; Tanner 1993b; Terpstra and Associates 1992; UMA Group 1994; Wilkinson, P.F., and Associates 1993). A move to Nutuashish on nearby Sango Pond is being directed by the Innu themselves.

    "Mineral exploration is intensifying the impacts of low-level flight training, road expansion, industrial forestry and hydroelectric developments which have already had profound cultural and environmental consequences on our people and our land." Daniel Ashini 1997

    The Project is the latest in a sequence of modern developments pressing on the Innu culture and economy. The encroachment by non-Innu trappers was soon followed by a series of much larger-scale developments. Certain parts of Labrador have been industrially developed, commencing with the construction of an air base and community at Goose Bay and Happy Valley beginning in the 1940s; construction of a railway and iron-ore mining operations at Schefferville, Labrador City and Wabush beginning in the 1950s, and the construction of the Churchill Falls hydroelectric project in the 1960s. Dikes and water diversions associated with the latter flooded traditional Innu hunting areas and burial sites.

    The construction of the Trans-Labrador Highway resulted from development of the Churchill Falls project. This gravel highway now provides year-round access to the interior of Labrador, the Innu's traditional land use area. A sequence of Forestry projects were initiated in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay region, starting in the 1960s. Since 1988, the range and frequency of low-level military flights training over Labrador has increased despite Innu protests. More recently the Voisey's Bay mineral discovery touched off the largest exploration boom in the province's history.

    The traditional Innu way of life has been subject to stress given the collapse of the fur trade, the debilitating effects of their exposure to European diseases and the periodic threat of starvation. Access to formal education and other government services was offered as the rationale for settlement in permanent communities. This action resulted in a major shift from nomadic hunting in the interior to sedentary life on the coast, and had a dramatic effect on the Innu (Armitage 1989).

    "Our culture has laws of how we need to protect the environment, the wildlife and the people who depend on these for their survival. When we don't follow those laws we pay the price." Simon Pokue 1996.

    Today the Innu attach great importance to time spent in "nutshimit" (the country). It is seen as an opportunity for cultural and spiritual renewal, away from the pressures of the community; an opportunity to harvest highly nutritious food and to affirm the continuing importance of the Innu link with the land. At the core of the Innu universe is a close and custodial relationship with the environment. Environmental damage is generally seen as threatening the viability of the traditional economy and disrupting the integrity of the holistic relationship with "mother earth" (on which long term health and security are believed to depend). Resources are not simply to be used for the satisfaction of immediate needs; they are to be carefully managed and protected for the use of future generations. This places a strong emphasis on the need to protect the environment from any long term damage.

    The Inuit

    LIA, whole membership totalled 4,871 in November, 1997, represents both Inuit and Kablunangajuit. This is the Inuktitut word for the people of northern Labrador who formerly called themselves "settlers", most of whom are of mixed Inuit-white ancestry. About 55 percent of LIA members live on the North Coast in five communities (Rigolet, Makkovik, Postville, Hopedale and Nain). Most of the remainder live in the Upper Lake Melville, chiefly in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and North West River (Dicker, R. pers. comm.).

    The Inuit of Labrador are culturally and linguistically part of the Inuit peoples who occupy the Arctic and parts of the sub-Arctic; from Alaska east across northern Canada, Greenland and the Arctic edges of the former Soviet Union. In many respects, the Labrador Inuit represent the most southerly expansion of this culture. The Labrador Inuit have been in regular contact with Europeans since at least the sixteenth century, far longer than Inuit in other regions.

    For the Inuit, a coastal people, ‘land' includes adjacent sea ice. Their relationship with the marine environment is complex, unique and crucial to their way of life. Land and sea are often barely distinguishable in winter, and landfast ice is as much a part of Inuit life as the land itself. A hunter may snowmobile long distances over sea ice to secure the family's food (Figure 20.1).

    A lead is a long stretch of open water formed when sea ice cracks or pulls away from shore.

    As an illustration of the importance of ice to the Inuit, Alaskan Eskimos have at least 90 terms for types of ice, including at least 19 relating to its age or thickness, about 50 for sea ice topography and 15 for sea ice movement. These words include subtle distinctions for the nature and development of cracks and leads. There are different words for a crack formed when ice buckles up or when it buckles down and fills with water, or where a lead forms between fast ice and the moving pack ice, or between the land itself and ice (Freeman 1994).

    In Labrador, as in the Arctic, the LIA Claim treats landfast ice as equivalent to land in terms of importance, and seeks a recognition of the right to large areas of fast ice on the basis of historic and prehistoric use.

    The Labrador Inuit population also includes a large number of Kablunangajuit. These are people whose European ancestors came to the area, mostly in the 1800s, married local women and settled down as trappers, hunters and fishers. The settler lifestyle and culture embraced elements of both European and Inuit practices. They were much less nomadic than the Inuit, and settled as family groupings in the larger, sheltered bays, chiefly to the south of Nain. Unlike the Innu and Inuit, they established relatively well-defined trapping territories and had a stronger sense of ownership of the land they used. This was especially true of prime "berths" for setting salmon, charr and seal nets, or cod traps. Being more sedentary than the Inuit, these family groupings came to be associated with the bays in which they lived. Nearly all lived south of the treeline (Brice-Bennett 1977: 103).

    Contact with Europeans resulted in a series of epidemics for which the Inuit had little or no immunity, including measles, whooping cough, flu, mumps, scarlet fever and typhoid. Many Inuit died when these epidemics hit, especially after the Newfoundland schooner fishery expanded into northern Labrador in the mid to late-1800s, multiplying the frequency of contact.

    "They were promised new houses, new schools and education system, they were promised everything - water, sewer, hospital - they got nothing. We still have some of these same people and the descendants of these same people in Nain. We still have the case of 20 people living in a three-room bungalow. And so the government and the company now come back and they say to these same people, trust us. Would you trust them? I mean the record is just ridiculous." Toby Anderson, Globe and Mail, 7 October 1997.

    Following Newfoundland's confederation with Canada in 1949, the provincial government's desire to centralize the provision of social services resulted in the closure of the two most northerly Inuit settlements. The government run store in Nutak was closed in 1956 and most of its 200 residents were moved to Nain. Some moved north to Hebron but in 1959 the provincial government, the Moravian Mission and the International Grenfell Association jointly decided to close their facilities at Hebron.

    This left residents with no choice but to relocate. Most of the 300 Inuit were moved to Makkovik and Hopedale, though some later moved on to Nain.

    Traditionally, the Inuit were a mobile people whose movements followed the seasons and migratory movements of the animals. European activity and establishment of the Moravian missions resulted in dramatic and lasting changes in traditional Inuit culture, and settlement and subsistence patterns.
    The Inuit attach great importance to life on the land. They see it as important not only for harvesting traditional foods but also for ensuring cultural renewal, bringing families closer together and socialising children. Women experience fewer constraints in the country, and children have an opportunity to see their mothers in new roles (Williamson 1997: 59). Values of mutual assistance and sharing are reaffirmed. Many of the problems of the community, notably alcohol abuse are left behind, and many people's mental and physical health improves.

    The Labrador Metis

    Many of the residents of the South Coast of Labrador are members of the LMA. The LMA was formed in 1981 and also has members in North West River and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Unlike Metis elsewhere in Canada, the Aboriginal roots of the Labrador Metis are Inuit rather than Indian.

    The Labrador Inuit have long been associated chiefly with the North Coast, but early accounts mention their presence in Eastern and Southern Labrador as well. Inuit probably settled southeastern Labrador following Captain Cartwright's arrival (Kennedy 1996: 25). Cartwright founded a settlement at Cape Charles in 1770 but moved north to the site of present-day Cartwright in 1775. Trading companies established other posts along the coast and a number of their employees married local Inuit women. It has been suggested the early Inuit were originally traders from the North Coast who decided to remain in southeastern Labrador (Kennedy 1996: 26). The pattern of Inuit-European intermarriage was similar to that in northern and central Labrador, which created the settlers or Kablanagajuit. Indeed the difference between these people and the Labrador Metis is chiefly one of geography, not race or history.

    The formation of the LMA resulted from the 1973 decision of the LIA to offer membership to settlers whose ancestors had lived in northern Labrador prior to 1940. This left settlers in the south without effective representation, even though ethnically they were similar to those admitted to LIA.

    Settlers in the south experienced a different administrative regime from their northern counterparts. People in designated Inuit communities (Nain, Hopedale, Makkovik, Postville and Rigolet) receive federal funding for a range of programs based not on ethnic identity but on geographic location. This provided access to a range of programs for northern settlers which were and are not available to their southern counterparts.
  Land Use, Subsistence and Material Culture


    Early entries in the Moravian Periodical Accounts and the journals of Hudson's Bay and other fur traders mention Innu visits to the Labrador coast (Cram 1986, Hammond 1994). The Innu of the pre-contact period exhibited a much greater use of outer coastal resources than historic-period Innu, who spent most of their time in the interior hunting caribou and fishing. Their relatively specialized interior adaptation appears to have begun during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in response to European and Inuit activities on the Labrador coast (Loring 1992:222).

    Figure 20.1 Major Snowmobile and Small Boat Routes

    "The women say that if they are away from being on the land for too long Inuit lose their sense of who they are" (Williamson 1997: 67)

    The first trading post in the Labrador interior was established at Hamilton Inlet in 1743 by the French trader Fornel (Loring 1992:115). The Hudson's Bay Company built posts at Fort Chimo (Ungava Bay) in 1830, Northwest River in 1836, in the central Labrador interior at Fort Nascopie (Lake Petitsikapau) in 1838 (closed in 1873) and on the Labrador coast at Davis Inlet in 1869 (Mailhot 1993: 43). Short-lived posts were also established in the interior at Fort Michikamau and Winockapau (Loring 1992:124-127; Privy Council 1926).

    These interior trading posts made European goods more available and could have facilitated an expansion of the fur trade economy, but archaeological evidence from mid-to-late nineteenth century Innu sites in the interior does not indicate an abundance of trade goods. Thus despite a network of Euro-Canadian trading posts having been established in Labrador beginning in 1743, it would appear the Innu resisted integration with the trapping economy in favour of continuing their emphasis on caribou hunting (Loring 1992:209-216).

    "To prepare for the mukushan, the meat must be scraped off the caribou bones, the bones must be crushed. The marrow must be saved from the bones and mixed with the mukushan. . . . According to Innu tradition all this must be done very carefully as directed by an elder or a person in charge of the mukushan." Shuash, Utshimassits, in Mushuau Innu Band Council and Mushuau Innu Nation 1995.

    During the late 19th century, for most of each year (Loring 1992:170-208), the Innu moved about the interior in small groups. During the summer, they hunted caribou when available, but fish (lake trout, brook trout, whitefish) and small game (porcupine, hare, waterfowl, ptarmigan) were also important components of the diet. Certain places served as regular summer meeting places, such as Mushuau-nipi (Indian House Lake), where whitefish were available in abundance and caribou were intercepted. Of crucial importance was the caribou migration in the fall. At this time, it was relatively easy to spear the animals in the water as they crossed lakes and rivers. Large scale cooperative hunting was not necessary, as groups of four or five hunters and their families could kill and process hundreds of caribou within a few days. Successful kills would attract Innu from other areas and large, long-term camps could be maintained, such as at Tshinutivish on Mushuau-nipi. The caribou would provide meat, fat and skins for clothes, and their bones would be crushed and boiled for fat broth as part of the mukushan ritual (Henriksen 1973:35-39). During the winter, stored and fresh caribou meat would be supplemented by ice fishing and hunting small game such as ptarmigan. Innu activity at Mushuau-nipi during the nineteenth to twentieth century has been documented archaeologically at 49 sites, with over 700 habitation structures (Samson 1978; 1983). The nineteenth century structures are characterized by earth rings and central hearths.

    Table 20.1 shows Innu use of the Voisey's Bay area in the years before they settled at Utshimassits.

    Table 20.1 A Glimpse of Innu Land Use in the Voisey's Bay Area
      Group/Period Place, Area Activity Source
      Historic Innu bands Interior barrens Most subsistence activities Henriksen 1973; Loring 1992; Turner 1894; 
      Samson 1978; 1983
        Indian House Lake/George River/Mushuau Nipi Caribou hunt during their fall migration Cabot 1920
        Ashuapun-shipu/Kogaluk River: route from the interior to the coast Travelling Cabot 1920 
      Moravian Periodical Accounts 1790-1960 
      Waugh 1921-1922
        Hudson's Bay Company and R. White at Voisey's Bay / Emish and Hudson's Bay Company at Davis Inlet Trading, fall-winter 
      Strong in Leacock and 
      Rothschild 1994 
      Moravial Periodical Accounts 1790-1960 
      Cram 1986 
      Hammond 1994
      200 Innu, during the 1940s Ikadlivik Brook Camp B. Voisey, in Flowers 1996 and Brice-Bennett 1977: 202
      Utshimassits Innu, since 1967 
      Voisey's Bay area Seasonal hunting: caribou, black bear, porcupine and wildfowl  Armitage 1990

    The traditional material culture of the Innu depended on the caribou hunt; the Innu used caribou skins for clothing, boots and mittens, carrying bags and tent covers (Turner 1894:117-137; VanStone 1985). They used wood for tent-frames, birch bark canoe frames, toboggans, snowshoes, spoons and containers, bows, arrows, and spear shafts. They used bones and antlers for knife or scraper handles. Before the fur trade period, the Innu used stones for knives and projectile points, but later replaced it with iron. After the introduction of firearms, they continued to use the bow and arrow, but only for small game such as hare and ptarmigan.

    Despite their interior adaptation, the Innu were regular visitors to Davis Inlet, where the Hudson's Bay Company bought out a rival fur trader, A. B. Hunt, in 1869. The Innu also visited the Moravian missions at Nain and, more frequently, Zoar, just south of the entrance to Voisey's Bay, which had opened in 1865. When Zoar was closed in 1889, the Innu continued to visit the area, trading at Davis Inlet but occasionally visiting Nain.

    A mobile, interior-oriented settlement pattern was maintained until a major decline of the caribou population in 1916, after which it seems the Innu began a regular seasonal presence near the coast and became more closely linked to the trading post at Davis Inlet (Leacock and Rothschild 1994; Loring 1992:193-194; VanStone 1985). During this time, the Innu came out to the coast in late fall/early winter to hunt seals and small game and to fish. Nonetheless, they still maintained their long distance forays into the Mushuau-nipi area (Henriksen 1977).

    Beginning about 1912, the Innu traded at Amos Voisey's homestead and Richard White's trading post at Old Harbour, just west of the mouth of the Ashuapun-shipu/Kogaluk River (Loring 1992:196; Waugh 1921-1922). After the 1916 decline in the caribou population, the Innu relied increasingly upon the Voisey's Bay and Davis Inlet posts for maintaining an element of security in their interior hunting (Henriksen 1977, cited in Armitage 1990:110). After World War II, the Innu progressively hunted less in response to the low caribou population. As a result, they became dependent on food and services provided by the Hudson's Bay post at Davis Inlet (Armitage 1990:110). During periods of hunting failure, this was one place where rations, subsidized by government, could be dependably obtained.

    This linkage to a central place became even firmer with the establishment of the permanent community of Utshimassits in 1967. Centralization of the population in a coastal village led to an increased use of marine resources, but also an ideological conflict between life on the coast and a spiritual culture based on interior caribou hunting traditions (Henriksen 1973).

    In recent years, use of bush planes and snowmobiles has enabled the Innu to continue hunting in areas they used in the past, without having to move whole families. This has some logistical advantages in that hunters on their own are more mobile, but there is a cultural price when hunting camps are occupied only by men. The area between the Ashuapun-shipu/Kogaluk River and Lake Mistastin is used for caribou hunting in the fall; during the winter, hunters traverse the plateau west of Utshimassits and move northwestwards to Anaktalik Brook, the Fraser River and sometimes farther north. A variety of other species, like ptarmigan, hare, porcupine and black bear, may be harvested in the course of these activities (Table 20.2).

    In coastal areas, charr and salmon are fished during the summer and seals may be hunted year-round.

    Innu harvesting in the Landscape Region is depicted on a series of maps in Homeland or Wasteland, published by the Naskapi Montagnais Innu Association (now Innu Nation) (Armitage 1989). A composite map of Innu land use in northern Labrador (Figure 20.2), shows Voisey's Bay as one of the areas used by Innu from Utshimassits in the period covered by the research (1979-1987). A small portion of land on the west side of the bay appears on a map showing caribou, moose and black bear hunting areas (Figure 20.3)

    Table 20.2 Summary of Recent Utshimassits Innu Subsistence Activities
      Resource Spring Summer Fall Winter
      Marine Mammals
      Seals X X X  
      Terrestrial Mammals
      Caribou X X X X
      Moose X X X X
      Bear X X x  
      Wolf x   X X
      Fox   x X X
      Beaver x X X  
      Otter x x X X
      Marten     X X
      Mink     X X
      Ermine     X X
      Muskrat x   X  
      Lynx x   X X
      Porcupine X X X X
      Arctic Hare X X X X
      Hare X X X X
      Grouse, Ptarmigan X X X X
      Owl X X X X
      Goose X X x  
      Ducks X X x  
      Loons x X x  
      Seagulls (immature)   X    
      Eggs   x    
      Char X X X X
      Salmon     X  
      Trout X X X X
      Suckers   x X  
      Pike   x X  
      Turbot   x X  
      Berries   x X x
    Source: Armitage 1990: 59
    X = Harvesting during most of the entire season
    x = Harvesting during part of the season only (less than six weeks)
    Figure 20.2 Composite Land Use Map - Figures 20.3-20.11
    Figure 20.3 Mushuau Innu Caribou, Moose and Black Bear Hunting Areas, 1979-1987

    Only a small portion of Voisey's Bay, around the mouth of Kogaluk Brook, overlaps with the Mushuau Innu trapping areas (Figure 20.4). Voisey's Bay, Reid Brook and Trout Pond all appear on the map of small game hunting and fishing areas (Figure 20.5) and Voisey's Bay is included in the Innu hunting territory for migratory water fowl (Figure 20.6) and seals (Figure 20.7).


    For the Inuit of Labrador, the term ‘land' also includes the sea and especially the landfast sea ice, which is both a hunting territory and an efficient travelling surface. In earlier days, the outer edge of the landfast ice, the "sina", was usually the most productive zone accessible to Inuit hunters. In many respects this remains true today. In the Nain and Hopedale areas, the mainland portion of the coast is flanked by a complex of islands which tend to shield much of the landfast ice from the impact of ocean storms, locking it in place. This ice provides access to hunting and trapping areas as much as 30 km from the mainland part of the coast.

    Figure 20.4 Mushuau Innu Trapping Areas 1979-1987
    Figure 20.5 Mushuau Innu Small Game And Fish Harvesting Areas 1979-1987
    Figure 20.6 Mushuau Innu Migratory Waterfowl Hunting Areas 1979-1987
    Figure 20.7 Mushuau Innu Seal Hunting Areas 1979-1987

    The other important zone for the Inuit in northern Labrador, especially from Hopedale north, is the interior plateau which people of Nain call "Nunatsuak", the Big Land. This is high, relatively flat country, difficult to reach because deep, steep-walled valleys divide it and make access difficult. The high country is the main winter feeding ground of the George River Caribou Herd, the major terrestrial wildlife resource in the area. Depending where the caribou move, Innu, Inuit and Kablanagujuit from south of Nain, and occasionally people from Eastern Labrador and the Lake Melville, travel over fast ice to Voisey's Bay, Anaktalak Bay or Nain Bay before turning inland to hunt the plateau.

    The contemporary Inuit of Labrador descend from the Thule Eskimo culture, which appears to have entered northern Labrador from the eastern Arctic between 1200-1300 AD (Fitzhugh 1994). The earliest Thule people tended to establish their winter sod house settlements in outer coastal areas near the ice edge. Faunal material recovered from their middens (garbage dumps) suggests the hunting of bowhead whales and walrus was particularly important (Kaplan 1983:216-230, 297-298).

    In northern Labrador during this period, there was a shift in settlement towards the mid-inner island zone. These locations permitted the maintenance of a maritime economy focused on whaling (in some areas), walrus and seals. At the same time, it facilitated greater use of caribou and anadromous fish resources by seasonal hunting in the inner bays (Kaplan 1983:298-299). By the eighteenth century, Inuit settlements were marked by large communal sod-houses. These multi-family households were probably related to the emergence of influential trade middlemen (Kaplan 1983:349-359; Taylor 1974; Taylor 1976; Richling 1993).

    The Inuit lifestyle during this period involved the use of skin tents during the summer and semi-subterranean stone and sod houses in the winter. They traveled in seal skin boats (kajaks and umiaks) in the open water season. During the winter they traveled by dog sleds and built snowhouses when traveling. Sometimes, several snowhouses connected by tunnels would form a temporary camp.

    The harpoon with a detachable head, the ulu (woman's semi-lunar knife) and soapstone pots and lamps were among the most useful tools. The Inuit made winter clothing and blankets of caribou skins, which are exceptionally warm when the hair is left on, boots and mittens were made from seal skin, which is tougher and more waterproof. In the high Arctic, Inuit would sometimes travel great distances to collect driftwood, but in Labrador there are forests in all the bays south of Hebron. Bone, ivory and antler were important materials for making handles, harpoon parts and a number of other devices (Turner 1894; Hawkes 1916).

    Inuit culture changed after the Moravian missionaries began establishing church communities along the Labrador coast, beginning in 1771 at Nain. Conversion of the Inuit to Christianity was initially slow, but proceeded more rapidly after a wave of religious fervour in 1804-1805 (Hiller 1971:86). During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Inuit winter settlements gradually moved away from their previous locations in the mid-inner island zone and centralized in the Moravian church villages. This settlement change caused difficulties in harvesting wildlife, since some of the Moravian villages were not located near the best harvesting areas. In an attempt to solve this problem, the Moravian missionaries encouraged the Inuit to undertake a fall cod fishery to store food for the winter.

    By the nineteenth century, the Inuit had largely stopped whaling and relied more on seals. The introduction of firearms greatly aided the effectiveness of caribou hunting and, especially with the arrival of the Hudson's Bay Company posts, fur trapping became an important element of the Inuit economy (Kaplan 1983:361-368).

    Recent Inuit land use patterns in the Nain region have been documented by Brice-Bennett (1977), DPA (1989) and Williamson (1997). Figure 20.8 shows the distribution of rare, endangered, recovering and new species. The latter include beaver and moose, which were scarce or entirely absent from this area until recently. The following discussion provides a short overview of Inuit seasonal activities, primarily in the past few decades.

    "Not that finding any of those eggs was easy. Wild birds' eggs can't just be picked up like stones; they're tucked away in some pretty unlikely spots. Sometimes you have to do some cliff-climbing with a strong rope, then use a long piece of wire to pull them out from under the big overhanging rocks where birds hide them." John Igloliorte 1994: 59

    In the early spring, the Inuit hunt ringed seals as they bask on the ice at their breathing holes, or in open water. In May, they hunt Canada geese and various migratory ducks returning north and from spring to early summer they collect duck and gull eggs. After ice break-up in mid-June, they hunt or net harp seals as they enter the bays on their way north. They also hunt ringed, harbour, grey and bearded seals in the outer island areas and in the bays as the seals move with the tide.

    Williamson (1997) reports that, with the exception of geese, the last twenty years have seen a decline in the availability of migratory birds. Ducks still frequent the area but the population is reported to be much smaller than in earlier years. The Gooseland, at the mouth of Reid Brook, however, remains a staging area for geese in the spring as well as a nesting area for some geese and black ducks. A variety of factors are believed to have contributed to the decline in migratory birds, including food shortages, an increase in natural predation, weather changes, increased hunting and disturbance from speedboats and mineral exploration (Williamson 1997: 33-35).

    "We used to go seal huntin', what I used to call fun. Get up early in the morning and go out from Kidlitak to the edge of the sinna, they call it the edge of the ice , and kill seals and come back. If you wanted something for dinner you'd go into the woods and shoot a partridge, come back and cook it. "Rose Spurvey in Them Days, Life in Voisey's Bay, 1997

    Seal hunting takes place in April and May over an extensive area. Figure 20.9 shows the principal areas. The harvest is driven by subsistence requirements but remains of central cultural significance. Success requires considerable expertise: "These skills efine in part who an Inuk is and help foster a sense of pride in self and culture" (Williamson 1997: 44). People from Nain hunt seals in autumn across a wide area. A seal hunt may also take place in late autumn if a quick freeze-up catches seals in the bays (Williamson 1997:52). There is also sporadic harvesting during the winter at the sina and at what people in Labrador call "rattles". These are polynias, that is, areas where the water remains unfrozen all winter, due to upwelling or strong currents.

    Figure 20.8 Ecological Map: Animal Sightings, Breeding, Denning and 
    Nesting Areas of Recovering and New Species
    Figure 20.9 Spring-Summer Resource Harvesting Activities, 1977-1997

    Northern Labrador hunters take caribou chiefly from January to the end of April but also in the fall, when the caribou are in excellent condition (Williamson 1997: 51). In recent years caribou have been found on the islands and bays, but in earlier years they were mostly hunted inland. Major caribou hunting areas are shown on Figure 20.10.

    Arctic hare are a highly prized food, hunted on the islands in the autumn and on the mainland and islands after freeze-up (Williamson 1997: 50). Figure 20.10 illustrates a loose boundary for hunting.

    People in northern Labrador fish through the ice with hook and line, catching Arctic charr at the mouths of rivers. Increased access to snowmobiles has increased activity in the winter fishery. Speckled trout, lake trout and rock cod are also fished (Williamson 1997: 55). Figure 20.10 shows the principal sites.

    "My daddy, Henry Voisey, had a house out to House Harbour, and my Uncle George and his family were there. Just two families, fishin' time in the fall." Katie Winters, in Them Days, Life in Voisey's Bay, 1997.

    Until the recent downturn in fish stocks, fishing was the major summer activity in the Nain region. Arctic charr spend the summer around the islands until late August, when they return up the streams to spawn. Traditionally, charr were speared at fish weirs on their migration up river. More recently, they have been caught with nets on the outer coast. Salmon were also netted and a cod fishery was undertaken in the early fall. The principal sites for commercial fishing are shown on Figure 20.11.

    In recent years, caribou have been hunted extensively during the winter. Prior to the 1990s, most hunting took place on the interior plateau, but in recent years large numbers of caribou have wintered on the coast.

    Contemporary Inuit from Nain (and sometimes Hopedale and Makkovik) make use of the Landscape Region in various seasons for hunting caribou, porcupine, ptarmigan, waterfowl and black bear and for fishing char, salmon and cod (DPA 1989). The head of Anaktalak Bay is used for spring ice-fishing camps and Anaktalik Brook is an important winter access route to the caribou hunting areas in the interior (Brice-Bennett 1977).

    "It's not a traditional route…people use that as a shortcut to get to the upper reaches of Aklavik (sic) River to go trout fishing now. This may in fact be the first winter, but it is being used quite frequently (now) and people get a good cup of tea on the way back home." T. Williamson, Voisey's Bay Mine/Mill Environmental Assessment Scoping Sessions, Nain, April 17, 1997. referring to the route through the VBNC claim block from Edward's Cove to the mouth of Reid Brook:

    Trapping activities have also been undertaken throughout the area. The Reid Brook Valley is a winter transportation route from Anaktalak Bay to Voisey's Bay (Flowers 1995b). The seasonal hunt for wildlife is summarized in Tables 20.3 and 20.4.

    Berry picking is an important harvesting activity in the late summer and early fall. Bakeapples and redberries (lowbush cranberries also know as partridge berries) are the most common berries harvested. Bakeapples abound on the coast, although this crop is subject to failure every few years; redberries are more dependable. Berry picking is usually a family activity, and many families harvest up to 20 gallons of bakeapples and ten gallons of other berries, primarily redberries, in a good year (DPA 1989).

    Williamson's study (Williamson 1997) indicates that the Inuit continue to make extensive use of the land and sea, including the sea ice. Williamson emphasises the importance to the Inuit of having access to a very large area, given the relatively low productivity of the land.

    Table 20.3 Summary of Inuit Subsistence Activities in the Nain-Hopedale Region, Before 1960
      Resource Spring Summer Fall Winter
      Marine Mammals
      White whale (S) S S  
      Porpoise   S S  
      Jumper     S  
      Walrus (S)      
      Ringed (Jar) seal P S S S
      Harp seal P S P  
      Harbour (Ranger) seal S S S  
      Square-flipper seal S S S  
      Grey seal S S S  
      Polar bear (S)      
      Terrestrial Mammals
      Caribou P     P
      Black bear S S S  
      Wolf       S
      Fox     S P
      Otter       P
      Mink     S P
      Muskrat     S P
      Porcupine S   S S
      Rabbit     S S
      Hare     S S
      Partridge     S S
      Migratory birds P S P  
      Eggs P      
      Charr P (P) S  
      Salmon   P S  
      Tom cod S   S  
      Brook trout S   S  
      Lake trout S   S  
      Capelin S      
      Mussels, clams S      
      Berries     S  
    Source: Brice-Bennett 1977: 129-163
    P= Primary emphasis S= Secondary emphasis
    ( )= Species are hunted in the Okak-Hebron region only, (hunters are traveling north)
    Figure 20.10 Autumn-Winter Resource Harvesting Activities, 1977-1997
    Figure 20.11 Commercial Fishing Locations
    Table 20.4 Summary of Inuit Subsistence Activities in the Nain-Hopedale Region, 1960-1975
      Resource Spring Summer Fall Winter
      Marine Mammals
      White whale (S) S S  
      Porpoise   S S  
      Jumper     S  
      Walrus (S)      
      Ringed (Jar) seal P S S S
      Harp seal P S P  
      Harbour (Ranger) seal S S S  
      Square-flipper seal S S S  
      Grey seal S S S  
      Polar bear (S)      
      Terrestrial Mammals
      Caribou P     P
      Black bear S S S  
      Wolf       S
      Fox     S P
      Otter     S P
      Mink     S P
      Muskrat     S P
      Porcupine S   S S
      Rabbit     S S
      Hare     S S
      Partridge     S S
      Migratory birds P S P  
      Eggs P      
      Charr P (P) S  
      Salmon     S  
      Cod   P    
      Tom cod S   S  
      Brook trout S   S  
      Lake trout S   S  
      Capelin S      
      Mussels, clams S      
      Berries     S  
    Source: Brice-Bennett 1977: 129-163
    P= Primary emphasis S= Secondary emphasis
    ( )= Species are hunted in the Okak-Hebron region only, (hunters are traveling north)

    "We used to help with the fish in the summer. I used to cut throat, just cut the throats and split them open and haul the gut out. The header would break his head off on the edge of the table. Daddy was the splitter, that's the man that takes the sound bone out of the fish. Other ones would wash and salt, lie them on the bulk and then put salt over it". Alice Andersen, Them Days, Life in Voisey's Bay, 1997.

    The renewable resource economy has experienced a number of changes which have reduced both cash income and the harvest of many species. The collapse of the cod fishery in the 1960s resulted in increased activity in the harvest of arctic charr and salmon. The opening of a fish plant in Nain in 1971 increased the intensity of the harvest, especially closer to Nain, and provided a significant increase in jobs for women. This, in turn, reduced the number of women participating directly in the fishery. The increase in harvesting resulted in the depletion of the stocks in the Nain area by the 1980s. In 1993, DFO introduced a buyback program which resulted in a major reduction in the number of fishing licenses (Williamson 1997: 46).

    The collapse of the market for sealskins which followed the campaigning of animal rights activists reduced the seal harvest. This led to an increase in the seal population which has implications for other species and for the health and size of the seals. Williamson reports that in 1977 the seal net fishery in the Nain district "disappeared overnight" (Williamson 1997: 19). The seal harvest is now directed to meeting local food needs.

    People of Nain use Voisey's Bay and Anaktalak Bay for hunting waterfowl and seal by boat, and for hunting seal on new ice. Both areas contain sites which have been used for charr fishing. Parts of the peninsula between the bays include trapping areas (Figures 20.8 to 20.10).

    Technological changes have made harvesting easier, but more expensive. Speed boats and snowmobiles enable people to reach harvesting areas with greater speed, often returning the same day. For those in regular wage employment this flexibility is welcome, allowing intensive weekend activity. However, for those with limited cash, the cost of buying and operating boats and snowmobiles can be prohibitive. There are concerns that new travel patterns may place some resource areas under greater pressure (Williamson 1997: 22). Population growth has also increased demands on the resource base.
  Importance of Country Foods

    Harvesting is important for the physical and emotional health of the Innu and Inuit because it is the medium through which human and animal communities are joined. Food obtained through harvesting, or "country food", has value for the Innu and Inuit which cannot be replaced or substituted and cannot only be measured by market criteria (Usher 1976). Several reports indicate markedly better physical and mental health when the Innu are living in the country (Sarsfield et al. 1983; Andrew and Sarsfield, 1988). This may be because hunting provides a consistent framework of meaning (Henriksen 1973).

    "Hamburgers and porkchops might keep our bodies fed, but without caribou and other country foods our spirits and our culture would starve." Daniel Ashini 1997

    Both the Innu and the Inuit prefer country food fresh. The seasonal food consumption pattern of birds, caribou, fish, and seals by Nain households from 1980 to 1981 is shown in Figure 20.12. Although all categories of country food are consumed year-round, their proportions change with the season. For example, Inuit fish and bird consumption is the most variable over any given year. Fish consumption drops off sharply between late summer and late fall, when migratory birds and seals are more available.

    Figure 20.12 Seasonal Consumption of Birds, Fish, Land Mammals and Seals in Nain, 1980-1981

    The cultural, social and nutritional qualities of country food are an integral part of the Innu and Inuit lifestyle. Fish and wild meat provide a very healthy diet, because they are nutrient-dense. That is, they contain a higher proportion of most essential nutrients than their store-bought equivalents. The nutrient level of various species in both the Inuit and Innu diet is high enough that many of these species can be used interchangeably, with no loss of dietary quality.

    Caribou and ptarmigan contain three times more protein than beef or pork. Seal meat has 20 times more Vitamin A than beef. Ptarmigan has two to five times more calcium than chicken, beef or pork. Trout and caribou contain more than twice as much iron as chicken or pork; and seal contains seven times as much. Nearly all country foods (even seal) are also lower in fat than their store-bought equivalents. Alton Mackey 1988.

    In 1981, a study of country food use in Makkovik found that annual consumption of local fish, mammals, and birds was 96 kg per capita. That same year, average consumption of meat, poultry and fish in Canada as a whole was 117 kg per capita. In other words, residents of Makkovik were harvesting from their environment 82 percent of the meat and fish that most Canadians were buying in the stores (Mackey and Orr 1987:62). The quantity of fish, mammals and birds harvested and consumed by 62 households in Makkovik from July 1980 to June 1981 is reported in Table 20.5.

    Table 20.5 Total Quantity of Fish, Mammals and Birds Harvested by all 
    Reporting Households in Makkovik, July 1980 to June 1981 (N=62)
      Species Kg Percentage of Total Country Food
      Atlantic Cod
      Arctic Charr
      Rock Cod
      Other fish1
      Total fish
      8574 30.1
      Total shellfish
      64 0.2
      Ranger (harbour)
      Other seals2
      Total seals
      3170 11.1
      Total dolphin
      225 0.8
      Land mammals
      Hare arctic
      Other land mammals3
      Total land mammals
      11030 38.8
      Eider ducks common
      Ptarmigan willow
      Spruce grouse
      Canada geese
      Black ducks
      Scoters common
      white wing
      Other birds4
      Total birds
      5334 18.8
      Total fish, mammals, birds
      28397 99.8
    1. Other fish include: herring, capelin, smelts, flounder, mackerel, halibut, white fish, redfish, sculpin, and squid.
    2. Other seals include: square flipper, and grey.
    3. Other land mammals include: black bear, beaver, porcupine, and lynx.
    4. Other birds include: merganser: common, red breasted, hooded; golden eye: common, barrows; harlequin duck; turr: thick bill, common, razor bill; widgeon; dovekie, and wobby (red-throated loon).
    5. Source: Mackey and Orr 1987


    Of this, almost 39 percent was land animals (chiefly caribou), 30 percent was fish, about 19 percent was birds (chiefly eider ducks and ptarmigan) and 11 percent was seal. A study in Rigolet in 1982 found that 88 percent of households ate seal meat. (Boles et al. 1983: 96-99).

    "…for us, so-called subsistence activity is far more than subsistence. Hunting is more than food on the table. It is a fundamental part of who we are". LIA presentation to Scoping Meeting, Nain, April 17, 1997.

    A study of the importance of country food in the Nain economy, discussed in more detail in Chapter 22, suggests that on average country food contributes the equivalent of $4,258 to household incomes (Higgins et al. 1993: 38). The harvest of country food should not, however, be judged only in terms of its contribution to income. Subsistence plays a cultural role which cannot be measured in cash.

    The survey of Inuit communities found that 40 percent of respondents got "most" of their food from hunting, fishing and trapping, and a further 40 percent got "some" of their food this way (Community Resource Services Ltd. 1997) . An LIA sample survey reported that of 103 respondents, 34 consumed country food every day and another 34 ate it three times a week (Eco-Research 1997: 26). A large majority of respondents reported that they believed country food was healthier than store-bought food (ibid: 35).

    A study of country food use in the two Innu communities in 1987 calculated a harvest of 34.4 kg/person/year in Sheshatshiu and 101.3 kg/person/year in Utshimassits (Armitage 1990: 79-80). The edible weight and number of animals harvested by people of Utshimassits in 1987 is reported in Table 20.6.

    Although caribou represents almost 75 percent of the total diet, the Innu diet is diverse and includes at least nine species of land mammals, 11 species of fish and over 20 kinds of birds. These numbers actually under-represent the diversity of the Innu diet, because they do not distinguish between different species of grouse, ducks, mergansers, loons, eiders, scoters, and sandpipers.

    The Innu of Utshimassits had fewer boats and snowmobiles in 1987 than they do today. Therefore, harvest levels in the Table 20.6 may not reflect the intensity of harvesting in the last few years. Subsistence hunting and fishing today requires a heavy capital investment in boats and snowmobiles and high ongoing costs for repairs and maintenance, fuel, weapons, ammunition, and gear. In this way, access to cash income heavily influences the ability to hunt and gather food and other resources.

    "I grew up eating animals from the land and fish, seal meat, deer meat, trout, salmon and all the good things that were around before I left Nain.... Everything was free (almost free) then; now, it creates difficulty for those trying to feed their families on a small income. How can anyone live with five or six children on $800 per month on U.I. or family benefits? It's beyond me." Hilda Lyall, Pauktuutit, 1991.

    Rising harvesting costs (mixed gas and lube cost about $5/gallon) mean that those unable to afford new technology are unable to hunt far from the community (Williamson 1997: 22). A study of the Nain economy undertaken for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples cites a figure of $10,000 as the annual investment required for equipment and operating costs for a hunter in the Northwest Territories in the 1980s, based on research by Usher and Wenzel (Higgins et al 1994: 36). No figure is available for Labrador but the NWT research is suggestive. Across northern Canada lack of cash income provides a severe constraint on Aboriginal harvesting, as suggested in another study for the Royal Commission (Weihs 1993: 7).

    Table 20.6 Estimated Number of Animals Harvested and Edible Kilograms of Meat Produced by 
    Utshimassits During January 1 to December 31, 1987
      Species Community Harvest Country Harvest Total Harvest Total Edible Food Weight (kg)
      Caribou 405 75 480 29,616
      Bear 3 2 5 477
      Moose - - - -
      Beaver - 1 1 8
      Otter 3 1 4 19
      Marten 14 34 48 n/a
      Mink 4 8 12 n/a
      Weasel 12 50 62 n/a
      Fox (gen.) 1 6 7 n/a
      Red Fox 10 30 40 n/a
      Cross Fox 2 1 3 n/a
      Silver Fox 1 - 1 n/a
      Black Fox 2 1 3 n/a
      Arctic Fox 1 - 1 n/a
      Lynx - 13 13 51
      Muskrat 1 24 25 16
      Wolf 2 - 2 n/a
      Hare 382 400 782 657
      Arctic Hare 36 2 38 32
      Porcupine 22 12 34 162
      Snowy Owl 1 1 2 -
      Grouse (gen.) - 223 223 78
      Spruce Grouse 188 205 393 138
      Willow Ptarmigan 567 257 824 288
      Canada Goose 393 19 412 865
      Ducks (gen.) 1 27 27 21
      American Black Duck 11 - 11 8
      Common Pintail Duck 3 - 3 2
      Harlequin Duck 63 23 86 66
      Seagull Immature 18 1 19 -
      Dovekie 2 6 8 6
      Atlantic Puffin 5 3 8 6
      Merganser (gen.) 76 7 83 64
      Loon (gen.) 52 6 58 63
      Eider Ducks (gen.) 236 - 236 183
      Common Eider 356 2 358 276
      Oldsquaw Duck 4 - 4 3
      Scoters (gen.) 45 4 49 38
      White Winged Scoter 69 - 69 53
      Scaups 82 5 87 67
      Sandpiper (gen.) - 40 40 31
      Greater Yellowlegs 65 2 67  
      Lesser Yellowlegs 53 50 103 79
      Seals  116 7 123 2,903
      Atlantic Salmon 35 2 37 139
      Lake Trout 4 30 34 41
      Brook Trout 1,250 188 1,438 719
      Arctic Charr 3,777 65 3,842 1,921
      Lake Whitfish 323 23 346 208
      Northern Pike 2 - 2 2
      Longnose Sucker 160 100 260 130
      Burbot - 2 2 1
      Capelin 200 - 200 4
      Smelt - 10 10 1
      Tomcod 60 3 63 100
      Flatfish 110 100 210 -
      Total Edible Food Weight 39,593 
      Source: Armitage 1990: 76-77
    Loss of Economic Independence

    A central aspect of a community's viability is its ability to maintain its economic independence. In Labrador the movement into permanent settlements increased the need for a cash income, but the later disappearance of traditional sources of income from trapping, fishing and the sale of seal pelts has fostered increased economic dependency. Brice-Bennett noted the cumulative environmental effects of growing dependency on North Coast residents, with the erosion of initiative, ambition and pride (Brice-Bennett 1986: 127). Having become dependent on social assistance, adults had insufficient resources to go harvesting, lost self-esteem and became demoralized. This in turn contributed to increasing family breakdown and growing youth delinquency (IBID: 112-113).

    The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples drew attention to the deleterious consequences of unemployment, including the ways in which the loss of an economic role affected Aboriginal men. The commission noted the views of a Mohawk psychiatrist:


    Contemporary Innu and Inuit peoples have adopted and practice Christian religions: the Innu are Roman Catholic and most Inuit are Moravian. Postville is largely Pentecostal, while Rigolet is Anglican. In general, the Innu and Inuit do not see a conflict between Christian religion and traditional spirituality. Christianity is viewed as a part of community life and traditional spirituality as part of life on the land (Tanner et al. 1997). Contemporary Innu and Inuit spirituality are more fully described in Appendix 20A.

    The Innu

    The Innu value hunting not only as a source of food and materials, but as the focus of their religious expression (Armitage 1989). The Innu retain many essential elements of their non-Christian beliefs (Henriksen 1993) and see their relationship to the land as one of balance, of give and take. The land and animals support people by providing the essentials for life. In return, the people must protect and care for the land and animals to ensure survival (Armitage 1989; Vincent and Mailhot 1983: 22).

    Innu believe "animal masters" or utshimau direct the movements of the animals and determine their availability to humans. The most important of these animal masters is Papakashtshihk, master of the caribou and also the "supreme animal master". If the animal masters are offended by improper treatment or lack of respect, hunters simply will not have success. The heart of Innu culture lies in ritual ceremonies aimed at satisfying or appeasing the animal masters. In the shaking tent ceremony, animal spirits were invited by hunters (who had the spiritual ability to communicate with them) into a specially constructed tent.

    Another central ceremony for Innu is the mukushan, a ritual meal which shows respect to Papakashtshihk and reaffirms the value of communal sharing of resources. Very strict rules govern the preparation and handling of all parts of the caribou which, if not adhered to, will offend the caribou master (Henriksen 1973:37-39). After the mukushan, there is drumming, dancing, and singing of hunting songs.

    Armitage (1990:154) and Speck (1935:76) describe hunting as a holy occupation for the Innu. Upon arriving in an Innu camp, a visitor will commonly see goose wings, caribou bones and other animal remains hanging in trees or resting on scaffolds, out of respect for the dead animal. Speck indicates the Innu believe animals pursue an existence similar to humans, in terms of emotion and purpose, and the only difference lies in the outward form.

    "People who have experienced our own spiritual practices should come out now and talk about this. These are sacred practises. We should stop being embarrassed about talking about these things." Kanikuen, Sheshatshiu, in Innu Nation 1993.

    The Innu have been able to blend Innu spirituality with elements of Christianity without apparent conflict. Armitage suggests that traditional beliefs persist because the Innu don't see any contradiction between believing in a Christian god and animal masters and forest spirits. The Christian god is responsible for overseeing the activities of people of all races, while the animal masters participate in the activities of the animals and humans (Armitage 1990:124).

    The Innu believe animals are part of the same moral or ethical world as the Innu. Game animals will give themselves to Innu hunters, provided they are treated with respect. Respect is important for maintaining good relations with the spirit world, natural elements, and physical objects (Tanner et al. 1997).

    The Innu have rules of respect which dictate how an animal is to be hunted, killed, brought back to camp, butchered, and shared. These rules include placing animals and bones of animals on scaffolds, or in trees, lakes or streams, so dogs cannot eat them. The animal masters need the bones to regenerate new animals. Over-harvesting or failure to treat animal remains with respect will cause the animal masters to punish the offending person and can lead to starvation, weakness, sickness, or death (Speck 1935).

    Sharing and the distribution of bush food are important for Innu social relations. Bush food, notably caribou, must be distributed throughout the community and particularly to the elders. Failure to share food can result in misfortune (Tanner et al. 1997).

    Innu elders are greatly respected and accorded a high status due to their ability to communicate effectively with the animal masters and spirit beings. Men accumulate power, manitushiun, through hunting and maintaining good relations with the animal spirits. Women accumulate power through processing animal hides, meat and other products. The more of these a woman has handled, the more spiritual power she possesses.

    The Inuit

    The Moravian Church in Labrador recently celebrated its 200th anniversary. This long exposure to Christianity has tended to submerge traditional Inuit spirituality, which included shamanism and a rich mythology of spirits. Nevertheless, many traditional attitudes to the land and animals remain strong.

    Contemporary Inuit spirituality emphasises a custodial ecological ethic and the interdependence of the differing components of the environment. Contemporary behaviour continues to be formed by deep-rooted traditions: land and sea animals, for example, are not combined at the dinner table.

    Traditional Inuit spirituality included shamanism and a belief in spirits (Wenzel 1991). The Inuit had two main gods who were husband and wife: Torngak and Suporgusoak, who were thought to live in the Torngat Mountains. Torngak ruled over the sea and sea animals and Suporgusoak had authority over the land and its animals. They also believed in the power of inua or spirits. All things, living and non-living, were thought to have inua (Borlase 1993). Inuit did not segregate the qualities enjoyed by humans from those enjoyed by animals. The rights and obligations that pertained to people were extended to other members of the natural world. Animals gave humans food and, in turn, received acknowledgement and revival (Wenzel 1991).

    Traditionally, Inuit maintained themselves by exercising their knowledge of the environment they shared with the wildlife they hunted. Inuit subsistence culture has its own ideology which developed, in part, from the belief that many animals were formerly human (Hutchinson 1977). Animals were thought to share with humans a common state of being that included kinship and family relations, sentience, and intelligence. All living things were seen as part of a single system involving responsibilities and reciprocity. In this cultural system, harvesting provides the link between hunters, animals, society and the environment (Wenzel 1991: 60).
  Education, Language and Culture

    The importance Canadian Aboriginal peoples attach to retaining their culture identity and language is repeatedly confirmed. The Royal Commission reported on its initial hearings: "At every hearing, Aboriginal presenters spoke of the pre-eminent value that they place on sustaining their culture..." (RCAP 1992: 3; Berry 1993).

    "I would always respect people to go in the country . . . I like wild meat. I am very ashamed that I can't live that life. I have totally relied on whiteman's way. I don't know if it's my fault. Maybe, it's my father's fault. He thought we should have an education but I only have grade 8 and I never learned the traditional life. I was alone. I still feel all alone in this place we call Ntesinan. . . People who use the land have that to fall back to. I have nothing. I'm not sure if I should learn to hunt. I'm not sure what I want. I'm not sure employment is the way I should go." Michel Gregoire, Sheshatshit, Fouillard 1996.

    Missionaries and government encouraged the schooling of Innu and Inuit children, assuming that a European type of education would equip them with the tools for life in Euro-Canadian society. However, equating "education" with the knowledge taught in a classroom denied the legitimacy of aboriginal knowledge and language. Increasing efforts have been made to incorporate Aboriginal concerns in the curriculum, and there are now a number of Aboriginal teachers (Tanner et al. 1994).

    Education and, more recently, television have affected Innu and Inuit cultures and limited the ability of younger generations to communicate with their parents and grandparents in their native languages. This has interrupted cultural continuity by hindering the ability of elders to transfer traditions to younger generations.

    The tension between the curriculum of the classroom and the traditional skills acquired in the country is one of many factors which may account for relatively low levels of academic achievement. In 1991, 42 percent of North Coast residents aged 15 and older had less than a Grade nine education, compared to 20 percent for the province as a whole (JWEL 1996). Many young Innu and Inuit are unable to fully participate in either the traditional Aboriginal Culture or in those aspects of Euro-Canadian culture based on formal education.

    Labrador's Aboriginal languages reflect the special relationship speakers have with land, ice, vegetation and animals. The Innu have a highly developed vocabulary of nouns and verbs which relate to hunting. They have names for animals and their body parts; names for the products made from animals and the tools used to process them; names for geographical features; and complex terms for every detail of weather (Mailhot 1988). Many of these words have no equivalent in English or French. Similarly, the Inuit have an extensive vocabulary for their environment.

    The school curriculum has been one of a number of influences which have affected the vitality of Aboriginal languages. Innu-aimun, the Innu language, appears to be more secure than Inuktitut, the Inuit language, perhaps because Innu contact with outsiders has been more limited. In the 1991 Census, 91 percent of the residents of Utshimassits reported Innu-aimun as their mother tongue (Statistics Canada 1992). The linguistic status of Sheshatshiu is somewhat less clear, statistically, because this community is lumped in with Mud Lake in the census data. Significantly fewer Innu reported English as their mother tongue, and of these many use it in combination with English in the home (Tanner et al. 1994: 59-61).

    "When I stopped going to school, I went to live with my mother again....My stepfather taught me a lot about how to provide for a family....He showed me how to jig for hunt for seals and game using a .22-calibre rifle and to handle a dog team, which was our only means of winter transportation." John Igloliorte 1994: 22-23.

    Concern over language loss is of particular importance to the Labrador Inuit. This concern is reflected in a number of initiatives which have been undertaken to increase the use of Inuktitut in the school, where the Inuit children are taught in Inuktitut from Kindergarten to Grade 3. The OKalaKatiget Society was set up in the 1970s to broadcast news and public affairs programming in Inuktitut. For years it also published a quarterly magazine, Kinatuiamot Ilengajuk (To Whom it May Concern), with articles in Inuktitut and English. The magazine ceased publication in 1982 due to lack of funds, but revived again in 1997. More recently, LIA set up the Torngasok Cultural Centre to work for the preservation of Inuit culture.

    The challenge faced by the Labrador Inuit reflects the threat faced by Canadian Aboriginal languages in general. This was noted by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples:

    This captures the difficulty faced by the Labrador Inuit where there are a decreasing number of unilingual Inuktitut speakers and a growing number of those who have limited understanding of the language (Gray 1997b).

    20.1.5 Likely Future Conditions

    The relocation of the Mushuau Innu to Natuashish will result in a significant improvement in living conditions (Chapters 23 and 24) and large, but relatively short-term, gains in employment. In the absence of industrial projects, such as the Project, that offer business and employment opportunities, the economic future of the new community is uncertain. Harvesting opportunities will be greater at Natuashish; however, few sources of cash income will be available income to individuals beyond the provision of educational, social, and other services through the Band Council.

    "The economy of the north coast is based mainly on the inshore fishery and also depends on government funding. The meagre income from both provides neither a stable economic base nor an adequate standard of living." Fred Hall 1990: 23

    In the other Aboriginal communities, existing high levels of economic dependency will continue. The subsistence economy will continue to play an important role but the increasing importance of cash in financing harvesting activities will hinder many from participating. Many young people will likely emigrate, while elders will remain.

    Aboriginal culture is under pressure from many sources. Social problems exist which flow from high levels of economic dependency. A strong culture based on a vibrant economy is closely connected to high levels of self-esteem. In the absence of new economic opportunities, there will be more issues as to the long term viability of the communities on the North Coast and at Sheshatshiu.

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