1. Traditional Teaching : Death
4:56 min. - In this first step of our guided tour, we are plunged into a universe of hunting specific to the Innu people. Messenak becomes aware that the relationship between birds, fish, and hares that are hunted and caught, is the very fact that hunters catch and kill them.
Messenak - My name is Messenak. And this is my grandfather "nimushum"... I am an Indian from the Innu nation. I was born in Mani-utenam, one of the 11 Innu communities of Quebec and Labrador, almost all of which are situated along the north shore of the St. Laurence River. Nakaui, my mother was only 16 when I was born. After a few years it fell to my grandparents to take care of me. My education began not very far from here... in the woods just behind the village. Mushum set snares to catch hares. That's when I made my first discovery... The fish live in the water, the caribou and hares in the woods! (laughter) Mushum was kind and didn't laugh at me too much when I said that I thought that all the animals lived in the same place... I was really young then... I didn't know much... It caught me off guard when we found the hare in the trap. It was my first experience with death... and I was afraid. I didn't yet know that death is part of life for the hunter. Sometime later my grandmother suggested that I spend part of the winter in the woods with Mushum. She said that with him I would learn all that an Innu needed to know in order to live in nature, with nature... I would have gone anywhere with Mushum, but I had no idea what it meant to live in the woods...
Zacharie Bellefleur - Life in the forest is completely different from anything you've ever known, Messenak... You're going to learn how to live here, and slowly but surely the forest will adopt you, you'll come to feel that you are a part of it... from the tree that you cut and burn for heat, to the fish you catch for nourishment... Learning to live in the woods is also learning to live with yourself Messenak... I was born in the woods... I lived there until I was 8... The Romaine Reserve had just been established at that time in 1955 and the Oblate priests had set up their mission there. Then the government decided that the 8 youngsters from my community who were of school age should go to boarding school in Sept-îles. It was very hard for me, for my family, for the whole community. It was deeply wounding. After 4 years of boarding school and learning the second language of French and a lot of things about the world, history and other cultures, I came home... But I had forgotten almost everything about my own culture... I often wondered what, if anything, the whites had learned from me... But you know Messenak, even wounds can teach us something and take us farther on our path... I had to learn again how to live as an Indian, because I had almost become a stranger to our ways, and I put my heart into it. I chose to be an Innu, to live as an Innu. And it's because I made that choice that today I can share with you everything that I learned.
Messenak - I was only three and a half then and I hadn't fully understood but I was quite sure that this time in the woods was only the beginning of a long journey...
Music - Philippe Mckenzie