Innu of Labrador
Content provided by: Danielle Matthews, in collaboration with; Lyla Andrew, Winston C. White, Shirley Pye and Tim Borlase
Innu Nation Flag
Labrador has two Innu communities, Sheshatshiu & Natuashish. Natuashish is a new community which was developed in 2002. Prior to this, the second community was located in Davis Inlet.

Naskapi and Montagnais Indians were names given to the Innu by Europeans. Currently, the people of Natuashish call themselves Mushuau Innu while the people in Sheshatshiu call themselves Sheshatshiu Innu. Archaeological evidence suggests Innu ancestors inhabited Labrador over 7,000 years ago.

Both groups of Innu stem from one culture, known as caribou hunters. The Innu were referred to as Indians by Europeans, but rarely referred to themselves as Indians. The creation of reserves will classify the Innu under the Indian Act. However, Innu is the preferred and commonly used name, which means "human being."
Innu Language - Innu-aimun
Innu in both communities speak Innu-aimun, but have slightly different dialects. Despite these dialect differences, the two groups can communicate fluently.

The Innu of Labrador are very proud that they have been able to retain their language.
Pien Penashue - Photo courtesy Mina Campbell Hibbs
The Importance of the Innu Way of Life
The Innu were traditionally nomadic, traveling the interior of Labrador and Quebec in the winter to hunt mostly for caribou, and migrating back to the coast in the summer to fish. There is archeological evidence that Innu have been traveling the interior for thousands of years. A permanent settlement was started at Sheshatshiu in the 1950's. Davis Inlet was built in the 1960s but the Innu from this community have chosen and relocated to Natuashish, on the mainland of Labrador.

The strength of the Innu culture has proven to be remarkable. In spite of the tremendous pressure to assimilate, they have maintained a strong cultural orientation toward traditional homelands, their nomadic roots and way of life.

The Innu relied on caribou not only for food, but also for clothing. The Innu women would make footwear as well as coats from the caribou. These items protected the people from the harsh elements of winter in Labrador. The Innu people are highly skilled crafters.

After a successful hunt, an important communal meal is held, known as the Mukushan. It is held in honor of the spirit of the caribou and continues to this day.The Innu are great story tellers. Many of the stories have been passed on for generations and include narratives on how the world began, how the sun was born, and other spiritual beliefs.
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