On Labrador’s Atlantic coast, 300 km north of the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Natuashish is accessible only by plane or boat. The village of Natuashish, founded in 2002, is thus the most recent of all Innu communities It is located about 15 km from the ancient site of Utshimassit (Davis Inlet), abandoned at the beginning of the 2000s because of its unfavourable location on an island. The new community, whose name means “little lake”, allows much easier access to inland ancestral hunting and fishing grounds.
Number of persons within the community: 809
Number of persons outside the community: 1901
Localisation: 295 Km North of Goose Gay and 80 km Southeast of Nain
On December 11, 2003 the new community of Natuashish was set apart as reserve land for the Mushuau Innu First Nations.
The community of Natuashish was constructed from previously undeveloped land as a part of the Mushuau Innu Relocation Agreement (MIRA). The Mushuau Innu from Davis Inlet have now relocated to Natuashish. Reserve creation at Natuashish, along with the relocation of the Mushuau Innu, is part of a long-term strategy, to address the social challenges of the community.
The Mushuau Innu chose the Natuashish site, which is within their traditional territory, with the agreement of Canada and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1996. There are no neighbouring municipalities. The nearest communities are Davis Inlet, which will be decommissioned as part of the Mushuau Innu Relocation Agreement, and the coastal community of Hopedale. The area at Natuashish set apart as reserve land is approximately 4265.486 hectares, which includes a water lot for the wharf site of approximately 1.582 hectares and a water lot for the barge site of approximately 0.252 hectares.
The Federal Crown holds legal title to reserve lands. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada administers, controls and manages reserve land for the First Nation on behalf of the Crown. The Mushuau Innu First Nation may assume responsibility for managing certain aspects of the reserve land in the future, should they choose to do so.
Within the reserve, the First Nation may choose to designate land for leasing purposes. Leasing reserve land is usually used for economic development ventures for band or non-band members. Designation for leasing offers the First Nation increased flexibility to change or adapt the use of land according to the community's needs, maintains long-term interest in the land, and provides the Band with income in the form of rent based on fair market value. Designations must be assented to by band members through a referendum.
Within Natuashish, certain lands are to be set aside by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, with the consent of the Mushuau Innu First Nation Band Council, for specific, non-commercial purposes that improve the general welfare of the First Nation. An example would be the land set aside for the school and the nursing station.
In the future, if the Mushuau Innu First Nation wants to give up complete interest in a piece of land it would be an absolute surrender to the Crown. This type of surrender might occur if the First Nation wants to trade one piece of land for another. Land that has been absolutely surrendered is no longer part of the reserve.
With reserve creation, the Indian Act gives the Council the authority to pass by-laws for a variety of purposes, as outlined in the Indian Act. This includes the observance of law and order, zoning, property taxation on-reserve, health hazards, road construction and maintenance.
Council can determine who can live on a reserve, however, no by-law can infringe on an individual's rights under the Indian Act. With the consent of a majority of electors of the First Nation, Council can also enact a by-law banning the possession, use and sale of intoxicants on-reserve. Copies of all by-laws must be shared with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development before they come into effect.
By-laws enacted by Council do not apply outside the geographic boundaries of the reserve. However, many provincial laws do apply to the reserve. This includes laws regarding child welfare, family law, contracts, corporations, and the regulation of professions and trades. Generally, if the province has the constitutional authority to pass the law, and it applies the law to all residents of that province, the law will apply on reserve.
Statistics Canada (2006 Census)
Community of Utshimassit
5:12 min. - "They call us "mushuaunnu" because we lived on barren ground. The missionaries, who were determined to keep adults and children in one place, insisted on settling us here [village of Utshimassit]. This village no longer exists today. A new one, Natuashish, was built on the mainland." Nympha Byrne, Utshimassit Innu.
Nympha Byrne - I don't know whether we're Mushuannu or Naskapi. But they call us mushuaunnu because we used to live on barren land. Before the missionaries insisted on settling us here, they wanted the children and adults to be in the same place. We lived on the land in harmony with the animals we needed to survive. They were Catholic priests. Our people arrived on the land in the spring, and they're happy there. It's better than here. I'm looking forward to when the community moves, it'll be better for our youth. We'll no longer have to wait for the ice in order to leave the island and go into the bush, we'll be able to cover greater distances and the young people will be happier. We lived in the bush where we hunted, fished and gathered. Everything else, flour, sugar, and the rest, we bought from Whites to whom we sometimes sold our furs. Hairy money! The missionaries said that if we brought our children into the bush, the government would cut our family allowance cheques. They also told us the family allowance would be cut if the children didn't go to school. I'd like it if the young people would visit the elders, listen to them and learn from them. That way, they wouldn't lose their culture.
Music - Philippe Mckenzie
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