Davis Inlet: 'A well-intentioned bumbling'
"We are a lost people." That description by an Innu chief seemed fitting when a shocking video of six gas-sniffing teens, screaming they wanted to die, was broadcast to the world. The once-nomadic Innu of Labrador have struggled under a haze of isolation, poverty and addiction ever since their 1967 settlement. A second relocation, this time from the shantytown of Davis Inlet to the new community of Natuashish, offered much promise, but it was just the beginning of a long healing process.
But the Innu had difficulties adjusting from their traditional nomadic way of life in the mainland to a settled existence on the island. Government handouts, isolation, boredom and lack of jobs led to alcoholism, something that didn't exist prior to the relocation, according to Henriksen. Their simple wooden framed houses lacked basic amenities such as running water, sewage and electricity. Since the houses couldn't be moved like tents when they get dirty, the community quickly deteriorated into a slum.
• The Mushuau Innu - "barren land people" - were a nomadic group who hunted caribou in Labrador and northern Quebec for thousands of years. In the late 1960s, the Innu completed their settlement on the northeast coast of Labrador in the communities of Davis Inlet and nearby Sheshatshiu.
• The Innu were one of the first North American native peoples to encounter European explorers. They remained less well known than other aboriginal groups because the Innu spent most of the year in the deep interior of Quebec and Labrador. It was only due to the fur trade that the nomadic Innu began visiting trading posts for brief periods. The Innu were one of the last Canadian native people to settle into permanent communities.
• The Innu completed their relocation to Davis Inlet in 1967. The provincial government and missionary Roman Catholic priests convinced the Innu to give up their nomadic culture and relocate.
• The island of Davis Inlet was chosen because it had room to grow and had easy access to water.
• The Innu referred to Davis Inlet as Utshimassits, the "place of the boss."
• The caribou herds supplied the Innu with clothing, tent covers, tools and food. The caribou also nourished the Innu spiritually, playing an important role in their culture.
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Feb. 1, 1993
Guest(s): Georg Henriksen
Host: Michael Enright, Alan Maitland
Last updated: November 6, 2014
Page consulted on November 6, 2014
All Clips from this Topic
Six unattended children burn to death in the tiny Innu community of Da...
Addictions counsellor Bill Partridge describes finding the six comatos...
Haunting images of gas-sniffing Innu children shock the world.
An anthropologist who lived among the Innu on their misguided relocati...
Former chief of Davis Inlet Katie Rich says Innu have themselves to bl...
A damning report describes the plight of Canada's Innu as beyond hope.
Harmonica player Mike Stevens on playing for the gas-sniffing Innu chi...
The Innu children use solvents to escape their hopeless reality.
Excited Innu families begin their move to Natuashish.
A year after the move, the Innu community of Natuashish falls into a f...
A construction worker in Natuashish describes the extent of the damage...
Three Innu women attempt to make a difference in their troubled commun...
A report paints a bleak picture for the Innu children of Labrador.
A depressingly similar story reemerges on the streets of Natuashish.
"We are a lost people." That description by an Innu chief seemed fitti...