Portrait of the Naskapi Nation


10:28 min. - The Naskapi are traditionally nomads. Presentation of their voyage from Kuujjuaq to Schefferville.


Noat Einish - My name is Noat Einish, I’m Naskapi, we are the last nomads in Quebec to have settled down.
The population of Kawawachikamach is approximately 740 people, the community is situated in northern Quebec. We have often read documents about the Naskapis, now it is time for us to tell our story.
Listen to Joe Guanish about our history through his own travels.
Joe Guanish - In the past, the Naskapis lived in Fort Chimo. Our grandfather told us that the earth had gone dry, and we would not find anymore minks.
One day an official was sent to search for a new territory, where the ground was rich and fertile, the place that was favorable for mink, martin, and otters.
This place was Fort McKenzie. It was the first time we left Fort Chimo. Construction was sent to begin.
Upon arriving at Fort McKenzie, officials told us to head towards the sea in order to let the earth rest during five year period, in order to augment the presence and number of animals. I lived through this period.
At that time, I worked as a mine prospector, an official informed us of the discovery of a mine, that the elders might know of the place, my grandfather did. He had met some Innu from Uashat, he knew about Kawawachikamach, where we now live.
The Naskapis hunted all over the territories of Fort Chimo and Fort Mckenzie. They crossed path with the Innu of Utshimassit, Tshishe-shastshit, Uashat and Nitshikuan. They also crossed paths with the Cree of Fort George, and those of Whapmagoostui. The Natives came to Fort Mckenzie to stock up on provisions, it was practical and not too far. The Naskapis came to buy matches, ammunitions for hunting. The Hudson Bay Company managed commerce.
We did not touch the tea of the Elders, they prepared it themselves in a small container, it was a very black tea. The younger people drank a very rich broth made from fish, partridge, meat and bone marrow.
Well fed, they could easily walk for hours without becoming hungry.
At that time, we heard very little disease and illness. Today, serious illnesses are numerous. The Natives believe in natural treatments, they use wild fruits, flowers, and even bark and roots from the trees. Today, the Natives are more often sick, in the past that was mostly a result of either drowning or famine.
Also, today women have more difficulties with childbirth. We learned that the mine had been discovered, from this mine we could extract metal that could then be sold. If we went, we would receive an education and a salary. At this mine there would be work for at least a hundred years. Our children would go to school, there would be money for them, and our Elders would have a right to a pension.
A policeman would be in charge of the distribution.
After Fort Chimo, we went to go live at Fort Mckenzie.
Once at Fort Mckenzie, after about a year we were moved towards the sea to hunt martin and mink, but the livestock had not increased over the course of the five years. We were consulted before moving here. The Chief Nuah Moakosh said that the Elders will travel by airplane, and the others would go by canoe. On a day by day basis, we had to find our systems during the traveling. The first site was founded next to the airport of Knob Lake. The Elders lived in tents amongst the Innu of Uashat.
When we arrived a place was found at Lake John, the voyage had lasted close to three months. We finally had our houses in 1956, but there was no electricity or running water, we had oil heating. For water, we were forced to go down to the lake. The situation was identical for the Innu of Uashat.
The iron ore company brought us large square boxes to build our cabins with. We were not at ease in our new cabins, as we always live in tents, we felt cramped and confined like prisoners, we were suffocated, we felt ill. After finally settling in, we were told we would have to move again, this time to Metimekosh. Being displaced from one location to another didn’t really bother us, we were used to traveling through the territory, a territory where we were entirely free.
Music - Philippe Mckenzie


Barbara Little Theriault 7 years, 11 months ago

I really enjoyed the story of the Naskapi...I knew some of the history...But I remember the Guanish family....I was born in NL and raised in Schefferville...

marc st-onge 12 years, 3 months ago

je veux voirs plus de photo des anciens mon grand pere est grand mere merci.

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