Caribou and the Leadership of the Innu First Nations of the Quebec Region

QUEBEC CITY, Feb. 1, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - The Chiefs of the Innu First Nations of the Quebec Region are taking stock of the situation of the George River caribou. On January 28, 2013, the Government of Newfoundland-and-Labrador announced that it is prohibiting the hunting of the Mushuau Atik caribou (George River) in Labrador for a period of five years, including for First Nations and Inuit peoples1.

The Innu First Nations of the Quebec Region have traditional territories in Labrador and have been practicing their traditional activities since before the Europeans' arrival. The Chiefs of the Innu First Nations of the Quebec Region take cognizance of the Government of Newfoundland-and-Labrador's position and in no way endorse this unilateral approach and formally reject any hunting stoppage regarding the Mushuau Atik herd.

"The protection of our political and territorial rights is essential. We are analyzing all the options presently offered to us in order to defend our connection with the caribou", mentions Chief Réal Mckenzie of Matimekush-Lac John.

"The governments have failed in their efforts to manage the caribou and protect our ancestral rights; today, it is time that the First Nations take back their rightful leadership role in the management and protection of the territory and the caribou. Once again, non-Aboriginal governments make decisions that affect Aboriginal peoples without consulting them, which is in violation of their obligations towards them in virtue of the Constitution and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples", according to Vice-Chief Mike Mckenzie of Uashat mak Mani-utenam.

"We have this particular relationship with Atik (caribou) which has allowed the Innu people to survive in Nitassinan for millennia. Therefore, the Innu have the duty to ensure its protection. We must also, by ourselves, identify the means we will take to maintain our subsistence hunting, our food safety and the transmission of our cultural and spiritual knowledge", adds Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho of the Innu Nation of Ekuanitshit.

Innu Political Leadership

The Innu First Nations of Quebec who, just like their Innu brothers from the Innu First Nations of Labrador, have millennial and sacred ties with the Mushuau Atik (George River) herd, are greatly concerned by the current situation (decline) of the caribou herd.

In an objective of showing their leadership and political sovereignty as well as confirming their millennial governance connection and responsibility towards the caribou, an important political meeting will be held on February 7, 2013 in Uashat mak Mani-utenam between the nine Innu First Nation chiefs from the Quebec Region and a delegation from the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach in order to take position, take stock of the current situation and propose possible solutions and actions that respect our culture and relationship with the caribou.

This meeting follows the one held in Kuujjuaq on January 16 and 17, 2013 in which all the First Nations and Inuit present agreed to individually take engagement actions and approaches toward the caribou. For the Innu, the co-management of the territory and the caribou habitat is undeniably a major option in the preservation and protection of Nitassinan and the caribou.

Finally, the Innu First Nations from the Quebec Region will be present at the Leadership Summit of the 7 First Nation and Inuit groups of Quebec and Labrador concerned by the caribou to be held at the beginning of April 2013.

_________________________

1 http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2013/env/0128n08.htm


SOURCE: Innu First Nations of Quebec

For further information:

For interviews, contact Réal Mckenzie at: 1-(418)-961-8597.

For other information: Serge Ashini Goupil, 1-(418)-609-0491 - ashinigoupil@me.com