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2002: A new beginning for the Innu of Davis Inlet

The Story

They've waited over 30 years, but the day has finally arrived. Eric Rich and his family are busy with last-minute packing. They are among the first 30 families to move from Davis Inlet to the new community of Natuashish, 15 kilometres away in Labrador. Hauling his family's possessions in komatiks -- wooden sleds built for the move -- Rich can't hide his excitement. He, like many others, hopes the move will be a turning point for the troubled community. Built from the ground up at a cost of $152 million (later the figure would balloon to $200 million), the new community, when completed, will have an airstrip, community wharf, roads, 133 houses, a school, store, community police station, health centre, band council office and water-treatment and diesel-fired electrical generation plants. But, more important for the 150 Innu families, they will finally have houses with running water, electricity and heat. Turning the faucet on and off, Rich's elderly mother says she can't believe she has lived long enough to see her son in such a nice home. 

Medium: Television
Program: Here & Now
Broadcast Date: Dec. 16, 2002
Reporter: Tony Dawson
Duration: 6:03

Did You know?

• Eric Rich and his family were among the first out of some 150 families to make the move to Natuashish. The entire community of Davis Inlet completed the move within seven months.

• The 133 homes in Natuashish were furnished with beds, dressers, nightstands, sofas, kitchen tables and appliances including a washer and dryer and a freezer.

• Of a dozen designs offered, the Innu chose standard clapboard houses with full basements. Each house was about 1,300 square feet and contained a combination oil-and-wood furnace. Residents chose from seven different models and six exterior colours. Green was the most popular house colour, followed by blue and then beige. The average cost for a home in Natuashish was $150,000.

• The new location was chosen by the elders of the community for its good soil and proximity to traditional hunting grounds and for having room to grow.

• The community of Natuashish was the result of a long series of negotiations. The Innu had signed an $85-million Mushuau Innu Relocation Agreement with the federal government in November 1996. The amount was later increased to $113 million.

• Ottawa agreed to move the community of Davis Inlet westward to Sango Bay, or Natuashish in the Innu language.

Natuashish means "a break in the river."

• The Mushuau Innu Relocation Agreement was funded by the federal and provincial governments and signed by Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Ron Irwin, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Brian Tobin, and Innu Chief Katie Rich.


Davis Inlet: Innu Community in Crisis more