As the story goes


“I grew up in the bush and lived in a tent with a fir bough floor until I was seven. Our food came from the land around us. We lived life at nature’s pace, governed not by the clock but by whether it was blueberry season, fishing season, or beaver hunting season.”
Édouard-David Kistabish, Anishinabe (Algonquin)

“We were nomads—or semi-nomads. As the seasons changed, we moved our camps, following after game and food. When there were no more fish in our nets, it was time to go to another lake. When we couldn’t snare any more rabbits and grouse became scarce, it was time to move on so the populations could replenish. That way we never went hungry.”
Ernest Ottawa, Atikamek Nehirowisiw


1. Innu community of Unamen Shipu
Photograph : Laurent Jérôme
Les Musées de la civilisation (Quebec), La Boîte Rouge vif, and ARUC Tetauan

2. Richard Mollen, Innu
Photograph : Laurent Jérôme
Les Musées de la civilisation (Quebec), La Boîte Rouge vif, and ARUC Tetauan

3. Martin Mark and Richard Mollen, Innu
Photographs : Laurent Jérôme
Les Musées de la civilisation (Quebec), La Boîte Rouge vif, and ARUC Tetauan


“There was a feast whenever we all gathered together. The groups who’d been out on the land would bring back the caribou grease from the animals they’d hunted, and we would divide it among ourselves. Everyone would bring something—beaver, goose, or moose meat. We called it 'makusham'. »
Étienne Mollen, Innu

After families had spent the winter out hunting and trapping, they would meet again in spring or early summer to share a huge feast. Each nation had its own gathering places.

People would also gather in the fall, before the families went back out on the land. Everyone would bring something—beaver, goose, or moose meat.


Each animal had its own particular uses—whether for feeding families, making tools and clothing or, in the case of skins, trading.

Every last bit of the animal was utilized; there was a use for everything and nothing went to waste. For example, when the Inuit killed a seal, they not only ate the meat, they also used the small bones to make game pieces, the hide to make garments and kayak skins, and the fat to feed the dogs or burn in traditional lamps.

The Inuit used the muscles of the beluga and sinew of the caribou as cord or thread for sewing. To clean their tents, they reached for a Canada goose wing or grouse tail. The Naskapi used trout jawbones as combs, and the Innu the underside of a porcupine tail as a scrubbing brush.

The exceptional ingenuity of the aboriginal peoples can be seen in their ability to transform available resources into new objects for everyday use.


1-2. Feather dusters (goose wing)
Les Musées de la civilisation, 66-48 et 66-49
Photographs : Jessy Bernier – Perspective

3. Ossicle game
Les Musées de la civilisation, 68-3467
Photograph : Jessy Bernier – Perspective

4. Comb (porcupine skin)
Les Musées de la civilisation, 74-579
Photograph : Jessy Bernier – Perspective

5. Scrubbing brush (porcupine tail)
Les Musées de la civilisation, 92-15
Photograph : Jessy Bernier – Perspective


“Before children could become hunters they had to learn about their prey. They learned to respect the animals instead of fearing them. Respect was essential to be a good hunter. The more the hunter respected his tools, the more likely the animal would come to him. The finer the hunter’s clothes, the more the animal would sense that it had the hunter’s respect, and the greater the chance that it would offer itself to him. The spirits would visit the hunter, passing along wisdom so his quest would be successful.”
Anne-Marie André, Innu


1-3. Hunting willow ptarmigan
John-Thomas Ambroise, Innu, 12 years old
Photographs : Mendy Bossum-Launière


“To communicate with the spirits, you used drums, amulets, a special spyglass (a hollow stick only you could use to see far away), charred bones from the shoulder of the caribou, or a caribou fetus you had to cook and offer to the elders.”
Anne-Marie André, Innu

The use of bones to foretell the future—called scapulimancy—was an important practice for families living on the land.

“One time my father and brothers had to leave for three days to set their traps farther inland. After six days they still hadn’t returned. So my mother asked me to go hunt down a grouse.

After we had eaten it, she removed the bone from the middle of its breast and held it over the fire, saying to me ‘you mustn’t watch’.

When the bone was cool she took it in her hands and examined it closely—it was as if she was reading a book. Then she said ‘they’re doing all right, they’ve found some caribou and they’ll be back here tomorrow afternoon. I could be mistaken, but from what I see, they got nine caribou’.

At last, as the sun was going down, I saw my father and brothers appear with all the meat from their hunt. My mother asked my father if he’d seen many caribou, and he said yes. She then asked him how many he had killed, and he said that he’d taken only enough for our needs—nine of them.”
Alexandre Pinette, Innu