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Innu [archive]

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The Innu live in Nitassinan, which is the area containing eastern Quebec and Labrador.

Best Known Features:

The Innu traditionally used caribou for clothing, tent covers, snowshoes, tools, as well as meat. The caribou also nourished the Innu spiritually. Despite the influence of missionaries, the sacred caribou is still one of the great elements of Innu culture which remains with them. The caribou is the most important of all the spirits in the Innu religion. Respect for the caribou is shown through the communal feast known as makushan.


At first contact with western society, the Innu had an incredible trading system. When the Europeans arrived, they became increasingly dependent on the Hudson's Bay Company and other merchants. Missionaries tried to get them to abandon their religion and to try to "civilize" them into the mainstream of the industrial society. Non-Innu trappers began invading some of the best Innu trapping regions which contributed to the economic hardship of the Innu. The worst impact of European presence was disease. Spanish flu, tuberculosis, syphilis, scarlet fever, whooping cough, measles and other diseases reduced the Innu population by as much as two-thirds. By the 1940s and 50s, the Innu fur trade had collapsed, and the industrial society had expanded into more of their harvesting areas. The federal and provincial governments were eager to assimilate them into the mainstream of Canadian society. After being subject to racism, Canadian hunting laws and missionaries, the Innu began having problems with family violence, alcohol abuse and loss of cultural identity. The Innu lived in teepees and hunted with bow and arrow.

The Innu have began to turn their lives around by beginning programs to teach the young harvesting skills, knowledge of the land, and oral traditions. The Innu language and culture have been introduced to the school curriculum, and intensive alcohol treatment programs have allowed families to be united once more.

Additional Reading

 Montagnais Language
 Innu Words
 Native Canadian Tribes

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