In contrast to headlines of gas sniffing and suicide in Labrador, are
stories from the Mushua Innu, a culture rich in humour and spirituality.
These stories were recorded in October 2004, in the northern Labrador
community of Natuashish. They include a story of how a spirit
grandfather takes his grandson on a journey of love and transformation. CBC Radio's Legends Project compiles traditional oral stories, legends
and histories of Canada's Inuit and First Nations, gathered in
communities across the country. To find out more, go visit the Legends
For several thousands of years the Mushuau Innu, the People of the Barrens
moved through the rugged land, following the caribou through spruce and tamarack forests onto the barren lands. They would go to the coast for seal and fish, and back to the forests for porcupine, wolf and bear.
They lived with and from the land they travelled. Then in the 1960s they settled on a small Island in Davis Inlet. In Innu aimon it was called Utshimassits
- the "place of the boss".
The land they had lived from became inaccessible for 5 months of the year during
freeze-up and break-up.
Many of the Innu turned to alcohol and then drugs, and then gas sniffing. Suicide took a terrible toll. Davis Inlet became infamous around the world as a place of human misery.
In 2002, after almost a decade of work, The People of the Barrens were relocated again, this time to Natuashish.
Natuashish, a new community, new houses roads and a school. It was built in an area Innus had traditionally used for hunting and trapping. It was to be a new start. A chance to reclaim their dignity and their culture. The Innu could go into the country year round.
But Natuashish, like Davis, has seen suicides, gas sniffing, alcohol and drug addiction. The land is closer, but for many, still not close enough. What may bring it closer, what may help bring the land and the culture back to the consciousness of the Mushuau Innu are the stories from the elders. Stories of how the people lived, how the world began and how to live in this world.
was the cultural advisor for this program. Manishan, along with Prote Poker
, Katie Rich
and Simeon Tskabesh
are our guides.