Essipit

Community

4:34 min. - The most modern community in the entire Innu nation.

Transcription

Suzie Gagnon - We've been in contact with the non-Native population for a hundred years, so you might say there's been a lot of intermingling. It's been a long time that my grandfather... He'll be 83. He knew a few words at 7, but it's already been about 80, 85 years... He had to work if he wanted to eat. So he trapped when he had time. But mostly, he worked. It's been like that for almost a hundred years or so. I'm in charge of education. And first, we want to make the language more accessible, so the young people can at least speak a bit to each other when they meet, really just basic notions because it's a spoken language. I'd like Essipit's young people to understand that they're Native and they should be proud to speak the language, not to be shy. But the culture has to be preserved in other communities. And we... were... we've lost it; it's unfortunate, but we'll have to work hard to get it back again. The problem is, that those who possess it, have it in their heads.
Denis Ross - I started as a councillor in 77. And I was on the council when my father was chief. I was a councillor for 2 years. And I've been chief of this community for 7 years, since 79. First of all, we want to improve people's quality of life, to give our people more, meaning to make sure that everyone can work, has a job. Then act, so our development can continue for many more years and become increasingly independent, financially as well as politically. When we started in 77, there was nothing in this community. We didn't even have a band office to meet in. So, we got the population together, and said: "This makes no sense at all, "we must at least get ourselves some offices, "a hall so we can meet when we want to get together or celebrate." We put together a project and built the community hall we have now. Everything was managed by Indian Affairs. And then, slowly, we started to bring things back to the community level... We built our offices, we built a campground, we purchased some outfitters, we built a convenience store. So we did all kinds of things so people would feel involved in our development. And we tell them, we repeat the message regularly: these businesses belong to them and it's their job to develop them. At the height of the summer season, we have 150 employees. We own 5 1/2 outfitters, because we've partnered with someone in the village for the 6th. We set up a partnership on the Salmon River. It's working out very well. It's growing. Naturally it's always fragile because Native and non-Native outlooks aren't always compatible. People don't always understand Native values either. We established other partnerships, for example with Bergeronnes, an interpretation centre for tourists, tied to archeology. Natives were present hundred of years ago. So before talking about Natives, they came here to consult us so we could have our say. If you're going to talk about us and our ancestors, well, we want to be involved. And people understood, yes, it's a good thing to involve us.
Music - Philippe Mckenzie

Aerial view of the community of Essipit
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