BAIE-COMEAU, QC, Aug. 28, 2012 /CNW/ - Innus from every corner of Québec and Labrador, québec scientists, environmental group representatives, members of civil society and government representatives gathered together on the shore of the George River for the 8th Northern First Nation Seminar organized by Amis du Mushuau-nipi to share knowledge and understandings about the subject « A caribou in precarious situation, how to put together conservation and first nation knowledge »
An obvious fact emerges : The vitality of Innu culture is closely related to the survival of the migratory caribou. This species is effectively the centre of the traditions, the spiritual life, the knowledge and the ancient and current way of living of the Innus from Québec and Labrador. This said, the mythical Mushuau-nipi, cultural center where the seminar took place, is a priviliged contact ground with this lifestyle.
During the Seminar, the participants leaned the results of the last caribou population inventory on the George River herd conducted by the Ministère des ressources naturelles et de la faune du Québec. The George River herd, who's numbers were near 800 000 individuals twenty years ago, 385 000 in 2001 and, 74 000 in 2010, is now dramatically smaller with a population of 27.000 individuals. « This number will continue to go down and, even if this cycle is historically natural, with today's conditions, considering the growing human impact on caribou habitat, makes it hard to predict when it could be restored or even if it will be possible to recover » quotes Serge Couturier, specialist in caribou's studies and participant of the Seminar.
Migratory caribou are known for being cyclical, showing natural ups and downs in the numbers of a herd. Thus, there were very few migratory caribou in Quebec-Labrador between 1900 and 1950, after which time the numbers of caribou began to increase rapidly to become the largest herd in the world in the late 1980s. The difference today is that the major development pressures facing Northern Québec and Labrador, combined with commercial, recreational and aboriginal hunting pressures that are much stronger than in the past, have the potential to affect in a very definitive way the recovery of the species when it is in a period of low numbers. Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have recently banned the sport and commercial hunting of the George River's herd.
A convergence between scientific and First Nation knowledge that has emerged during the seminar is the presence of a large territory known as the main reproducing area for the George River herd for scientists, or as Atiku-assi (Caribou House) for the Innu, where George river caribou tend to retreat during the difficult decades as is the current situation. This large area, covering approximately 75 000 km2, is located in the extreme northeastern Quebec and includes the area of Mushuau-nipi and east into parts of northwestern Labrador.
Caribou House now deserves our entire attention as a key territory for the conservation of the species and the preservation of an entire lifestyle. The Northern First Nation Seminar participants have also observed on site a few hundred caribou within the last weeks, reflecting the presence of the species in its retreat region.
Following this observation, the Seminar participants agreed on the fact that Caribou House deserves more recognition in terms of interprovincial and intergovernmental planning concerning the preservation of caribou, defined in a strict code of practice for the economic development and hunting activities.
Jacques Gauthier, Innu hunter and former chief of Matimekush Lac-John, spoke at the seminar "The priority should be given to a reduced first nation hunt, as a cultural sampling while preserving the herd and also preserving and developing traditional skills among the Innu and especially among our youth. In this sense, I might have here in Mushuau-nipi, hunted my last caribou. "
Ashini Serge Goupil, Innu hunter and advisor in sustainable development, states, "The situation is critical. Decisions must be taken quickly and require a particular leadership from first nations on this issue from the perspective of cultural responsibility with respect to the management of the land and the species that live there. For there to be a change in the individual practice of caribou hunting, it will require a very determined and patient leadership from community leaders and hunting leaders, in addition to a better information on the situation throughout the first nations communities in Quebec and Labrador. "
The seminar participants hoped as a conclusion that the issue of preserving the Caribou House would be a link between all the Innu of Quebec and Labrador to mobilize and take position unanimously.
Amis du Mushuau-nipi allow civil society, governments and First Nations to develop a knowledge of the world of First Nations. They promote cultural sharing and involvement in the territory in order to see the emergence of future leaders.
The Mushuau-nipi (lake of land without trees) is located on the migratory trail of the George River caribou herd (56th parallel), 250 kilometers northeast of Schefferville. Real cultural center of the Innu Nation for thousands of years, it is not a coincidence that this area is also part of Caribou House. The Mushuau-nipi is considered an archaeological site of national importance and a vital place in the history of the Innu and Naskapi of Quebec and Labrador, regarding the hunting of caribou.
Thank you to our partners: The eighth edition of the Northern Seminar was made possible thanks to a financial contribution from the Government of Quebec, Rio Tinto IOC and New Millennium Iron Corp..
SOURCE: Les Amis du Mushuau-nipi
For further information:
1 418 609 0491
Serge Ashini Goupil
Les Amis du Mushuau-nipi