Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Canoe Trip 2009 Video

Enjoy this 5 minute video of the 2009 canoe trip on the Mista Shipu (Churchill River).

Monday, November 09, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On the way to Gull Island

We are walking now to Gull Island. We were delayed with starting the walk because of a tragic death of a leader in our community. We started walking on Monday 19 October. Everything is going very well. There are many children and young people on the walk and I am very happy. We have passed Muskrat Falls and will be at Gull Island in a couple days if everything goes well with the weather. We have had sunshine, rain and snow so far. Many people are supporting us. Please remember us as we walk.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Canoe Trip 2009

I’m sorry I didn’t have time to write sooner about the canoe trip. My friend was away and not able to help me until now. I was very happy I made the canoe trip again this year. I am also very happy that this summer we had 11 canoes and 26 people—it was the first time this many canoes, this many people, a six month old baby and 2 small children came along. 12 Innu came on the trip (6 men, 4 women and 2 young boys). Everything went well and everyone was very happy. We didn’t have any problems.

This canoe trip is not just for fun; what I am doing every summer is very important. I want to protect the river, Mista-Shipu, and the animals. I’ve said many times that I don’t want to see what happened at Churchill Falls happen again. When that happened we lost so many Innu things—burial grounds and hunting things (canoes, tents and stoves)—everything was under water. We also lost all kinds of animals (not just the fish, all the animals that drink the water). How much more will be lost if the government builds a dam at Gull Island and Muskrat Falls? How can we know all the important Innu things that will be gone? This is why I go on the canoe trip every summer. I don’t want to see everything die—the trees, water, animals and grass. Every time when I go on the canoe trip I cry in my heart. The river is so beautiful and the animals are everywhere. I wonder how the government could want to make another dam. I think Innu people will be very sad if they see the trees, water and animals die. A long time ago the Innu people lived in the country and ate animals and fish. This is our life. When I look at Mista-Shipu I think about how the Innu have hunted and lived on this river for thousands of years. I wonder if the government has no heart to think about the people. I know the old people can’t hunt any more. The young ones need to be taught how to keep the Innu culture alive. After I am gone I want the young ones to know this.

I was very happy that more people came on the trip this year. I want to show people the river. I want to speak to them, to explain my concerns and help the people understand what I’m doing. On the canoe trip I had a big tent and sometimes we sat in the tent at night and I told them about how important the river is. Now, after the canoe trip, I think they understand this more. The people from away asked many questions and I tried to explain my thoughts.

When the river and trees die, Mother Earth is going to cry in her heart. Sometimes I am very angry when I think that I’ve been doing the canoe trip over 13 years. Does the government see what I’m doing? Do they know me? Every time I go on the canoe trip I always hope something will change. I work hard, volunteering, thinking something will change. I thought the government would see how important the river is. The trees and river are just like human beings. It’s like they talk to me, saying “I don’t want to die.” It’s the same with the animals. Everything in the water and under the ground, the grass, the beach, the mountains—everything is so beautiful!

This summer when I was on the canoe trip, something changed that I will never forget. Every other year I’ve gone on the canoe trip I saw animals—black bears, porcupine, beavers, geese, ducks. But this year I lost the animals! What happened to the animals? It’s like the animals said, “Soon we’re going to die, so we’re going to run away.” I have always seen at least 1 or 2 black bears and this year there were none. I feel the animals are sad. Maybe they stayed in the woods. Innu people have seen animals for years and they understand them, even though animals don’t talk. And when I came home to Sheshatshiu, I discovered I lost my berries too. Every year I pick berries for my family for the winter. Berries are like medicine, they grow from the ground. This summer the berries are gone. Several summers ago I lost the bakeapples (cloudberries), now the red berries and blueberries are gone. I don’t know what happened, but something has happened.

I question why the government only puts up two signs along the whole river saying not to eat the fish because of mercury contamination. If new people come maybe they won’t see the sign. Or if they do, they may only think they shouldn’t fish in that area, but farther down the river it would be okay. They need to know it’s not safe anywhere. They need signs all along the river.

Sometimes I don’t know what I should do. What if the government goes ahead with the dam? My heart feels deeply sad. Innu women do so many things to protect their culture, their people and their children. I wish the government would respect the women. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Sometimes when I stay at home by myself and it is quiet, I cry. My heart is very sad. I wonder, who changed my people? Who took away everything we had? We had everything in the country, the children and people were happy and there were plenty of animals. When the government wanted to change our people, they worked just a little bit at a time every day and we didn’t notice. We didn’t know what was happening. Maybe the government thought, “The Innu people aren’t ever going to know. We’re just going to keep doing this little by little.” I cry many times when I think about that—it hurts, especially when I think about the young children. Sometimes I sit down at my table and I feel like someone is sitting there with me, but I don’t know who it is. I can’t see him clearly. I want to ask him, “What did you do this for? Why? My people didn’t know what was happening.”

When I was young I never understood that the church and the government were working together. We really respected the priest. I remember when the priest came to visit our tent, he said, “What a nice tent. Your daughters must help you a lot.” But then he said to my father, “Why don’t you stop taking your family into the bush all the time when you go hunting? Why don’t you leave your wife and children and just go with the men? If you don’t stop what you’re doing you’re going to lose your family allowance.” My father didn’t say anything. He looked shocked. After the priest left the tent my mom and dad had an argument. My mom wanted to listen to what the priest said, but my father said, “No, we’re going into the bush all together.” I heard all this and was mad at the priest. Why did he come and start this argument between my parents? I went outside to play to get my mind off it. The priest went on to visit all the Innu tents along the beach.

I remember when my mom first had a house she was happy, because when it rained it didn’t drip in the house like it did in the tent and there was water close by. But she didn’t know that this was the start of the government trying to change the people. Long ago the people didn’t understand, they thought the changes would be good.

We had a good life in the country. Everything was clean and alive—the land, rivers, lakes and the Innu people. Everything lived together. Mother Earth never thought, “In a couple years time, I’m going to die. My trees are going to be cut off at the base.” Water never thought, “I’m going to die. Everything that lives in me is going to be gone.” Innu people sometimes see the animals now and wonder, “What happened to the animals? They look very sick. Something happened.” This never happened before. When I was young I thought all these things would be with us forever.

The beaver has a big house. But he knows when someone is trying to kill him, they are going to look for him in his big house, so he builds small houses around the lake to run to when he’s in danger. However, with the dams, all the houses will be destroyed and the beaver will have nowhere to go. It’s not just the beaver. It’s all kinds of animals that live in the water—the mink, marten and otter. These animals have their nest in the woods, but they stay close to the water. They make a small hole near the water and their babies are born there and stay until they can take care of themselves. If there is an old tree with holes in it you will find a nest there, maybe with eggs. The partridge will have its eggs underground. Water animals, though, will always stay near the water.

Animals are just like people. If the government starts to make another dam, they will say, “Look my house is under water, I have to run away.” The beaver will be lost and afraid. The beaver makes dams too, but it is only a small dam, unlike the government. He needs to raise the water level so his small houses are under cover, but it only makes a small change to his environment. With the government, everything will be flooded—the trees, beaches, grass. If the government builds a dam at Muskrat Falls and Gull Island, there will be very big changes.

The Innu people have hunted this land for thousands of years. I will be very sad to see it damaged and the older people even more so. The government workers don’t understand what will happen to the animals, but the Innu know. They know how much the animals will be hurt. When the Innu people see animals, it’s like they talk with each other. Once Francis and I were out in the winter and we saw a partridge. Francis had to go back for the gun, so I stayed with the bird. It was like we were talking. The bird looked at me and cocked his head. It was like the bird was saying, “I want to feed you. I want to help you.” Francis came back and the bird did not fly away. It’s like with your dogs. You can see how they’re feeling, whether they’re happy, sad or sick.

If they start the dams at Gull Island and Muskrat Falls many things will be lost. I have been to Gull Island 4 times so far this summer and already there is so much damage. Big mountains are being ground into tiny bits of gravel for the road. When I go to Gull Island I think about the boat that sunk there and I wonder what kind of damage that caused. I look across the river to the trees and I know the trees on both sides are going to die. The Innu people would put in a net and fish in the river, but if the dam goes in what’s going to happen to the fish.

For thirteen years now I’ve gone on the canoe trip every summer and walked in the country every spring. When I go on these trips I feel sad. I don’t want to go on these trips for nothing. I thought it would help change things. I work hard when I go on the spring walk. It’s hard work to walk every day, but I never give up. The land, animals, and my people, especially the children, are so important. That’s why I never give up. It’s the same with the canoe trip—we paddle every day, sometimes all day. We only stay for the day if the weather is bad. I don’t understand how the government could make a dam on Mista Shipu. The river is so beautiful—the mountains, the rocks, the beaches. This river has belonged to the Innu for thousands of years—we’ve hunted there, camped there, died there, given birth there. Sometimes during the canoe trip when I get time I go for a walk by myself along the beach, I find a quiet place with a rock and I sit down, write in my journal and pray. Sometimes I go walking in the woods and I find the old campsites or the old traps of people who were here before. I can’t just walk by. I look at it and I wonder how many years it’s been there and who used it. I go back to the tent and I tell my people what I found. I feel very sad to think it will be flooded.

When I started writing for my website, I was very happy that I found a friend who was able to help me. I wanted to do this for a very long time. Now you can see my pictures, see my children, see the animals, see the country and read my story. If you see my website, I hope you will support me. I don’t want to see another dam. Years ago when they made the dam in Churchill Falls we lost many things—burial grounds, hunting grounds, old Innu things (tents, canoes, stoves). All these things were lost when it was flooded. People sometimes left things in the country, because they thought they would go back again. I don’t want to go back to how things were before, but I want the children to still have something. I don’t want them to lose everything. The Innu life is so important. This story is important, but even more important is what we do. We have to show the people what we want, not just write about it. Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Life in the country

When I think about Innu life before the government came here, I remember it was a good life—the children were happy, we were all strong and happy. Innu people always used tents. There were no houses or schools. We did have a hospital in Northwest River and a small school in Sheshatshui very close to the church, but we didn’t use them very much because the people were always going to the bush. Sometimes the people came into the community for one month. When I think about it, it hurts because I miss it so much.

We would walk many miles in the country, but people never complained about how far they had to go. No one ever said, “How far is it? Are we there yet? When are we going to go back to Sheshatshui?” The people were happy to go hunting. The men would bring lots of wood and put it just outside the tent. The women would saw it as they needed it while the men were away hunting. The people didn’t need to plan all day for the men to make the trip; they would just talk together for a little bit and then everyone knew what they needed to do.

Innu people’s minds were clear. In the summer the tents were all on the beach at Sheshatshui. Around September, as soon as they knew it was going to be cold, they would move the tents to the woods because it would be too cold along the beach with the wind. They knew everything about living in the country and they were happy there. They ate fresh food and exercised every day. In the summer the men carried the canoes and the women carried the babies and other bags on their backs. I remember my mom having a big bag on her back and on top of that her baby. Now people don’t know what to do in the bush with a small baby. They are always concerned, “What are we going to do with the baby?” My mom always had a baby with her and when it would cry she would stop and breastfeed the baby. She would eat plenty of good healthy food so she would stay strong and well and have enough milk. She never used formula. I would help her with the baby, the bag or the tea pot. I would carry some of her stuff. The young children were always happy to help their parents. The boys would help dad and the girls would help their mom. My father would carry the canoe and as soon we got to water he would put the canoe in with all the stuff and both parents would row, while the baby and the small children rode in the middle and up front. We would row until we came to land again. Then we would portage and walk. While walking I would always think about animals and look for them, hoping to see beaver babies.

Children had everything they wanted to play with in the country. They never asked for toys. They would play with what they found; they’d make their toys. My brother, George, and I were playing outside, pretending to do what our father would do—bring a caribou back and put the meat up on a scaffold. My brother went out and found a squirrel and we pretended it was a caribou. We cut the squirrel just like my dad cut the caribou. We called the skin “caribou skin.” We cut off the meat and made a little scaffold to put the meat on and covered it with boughs to protect it from animals, like the whisky jack. My mom came out and asked what we’re doing. We told her we were preparing a caribou, just like dad did. This is how we played as young children.

The people were never worried or concerned about staying close to the hospital in Northwest River when they went out in the bush. If the baby was sick, my mom would just go into the woods and find Innu medicine. Nobody said, “There’s no hospital in the country, I can’t go too far.” They didn’t need a doctor; they just needed an old lady to help them. I remember all kinds of medicines my mother would make and use. Sometimes the men asked, “What kind of medicine do you need?” After the women would explain, the men would go looking for it. Sometimes the women would go too and then the women would cook and prepare it. There was one small ball we would cut open and squeeze out the sticky liquid. We put the liquid on a paper and placed it where there was pain. If there was a cough, we would put it on the chest. For small babies we only left it on a short time (just until we could smell it on their breath), for older people we could leave it on longer. My mom knew many medicines.

Animals have medicine too, like the beaver and otter. Innu people never used their medicine and then complained about the pain. When they used Innu medicine they would say, “The medicine is so good and so strong, I don’t feel the pain anymore.” You can’t say, “Nothing changed.” You have to support the medicine and say how much it helped you like, “I feel so much better, thank you.” It’s not like that with white medicine.

Caribou skin was used to make moccasins, snowshoes, and mattresses inside the tent. A long time ago they used the caribou skin to make the tent and they even used it for clothing, before there was money and other clothes. The men would kill the caribou and the women would prepare the hides and sew them together for the tent. They would eat all the meat. The caribou has everything in it. It can feed the people. It can dress the people. Even though we don’t make dresses anymore and we use canvas tents, the caribou is still so important.

We always have to respect the animals in the bush. We eat the meat, we use the medicine to help us, and we use the skins for many purposes. If we eat beaver or otter we have to put the bones in the water, because they are water animals. For the caribou, which lives in the woods, we hide the bones in the trees. We would make a small scaffold, one for the meat and one for the bones.

Innu people never used to consider asking the government for money. They would try to find their own food. Sometimes they would charge a little to the Hudson Bay Store if the manager would agree and they would pay him back after they got back from the country. Innu people never bought chips and sweet stuff. We bought flour, sugar, baking powder, tea, oats, rice, or macaroni. Then we went into the bush and my dad would go hunting the next morning. He would take the small tent and stove. He would set 4 or 5 traps and check them every couple days, bringing any animals home for my mom to clean. We would eat the meat from the animals, but sell the firs. When we knew we had enough firs—beaver, otter, mink, marten—the men would take them to Sheshatshui to pay back the manager and buy more food. The trip took 10-15 days. The women and children would stay behind in the tent.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Protecing the land is everyone's responsibility

This Letter to the Editor was published in the June 8, 2009 issue of "The Labradorian."

Dear Editor,
I am still very concerned about Mista Shipu (Churchill River) and what may happen with the dam—I cannot forget! Even thought I haven’t written lately I am still working to protect the land. The old people are very concerned about these things. I know the young people are thinking about money, are worried about money, but money is not going to last. The land and rivers will be there all your life, but money won’t be. I know that my people want to work and make a living—to buy food, clothes, pay the light bill, telephone, everything. People want to work to make a living, but too often these jobs cause too much damage—the dams, the mines, the pollution, the mercury, the big trucks and machines. When we go hunting, we are always very careful not to make a mess, cause damage or kill everything. When we stay on the land we cut trees for the tent and for fire wood, but we don’t damage more than necessary. We just take enough for what we need. If people want to work on the land, it’s okay, but don’t destroy too much. Be careful with the land. Just like white people want to protect their farms—with their animals (chickens, cows, pigs) and vegetables for food—I want to protect the land which provides my food. The Innu don’t have farms, but we must protect the land where caribou, beaver, porcupine, otter, rabbit, goose, partridge and all kinds of fish live. Please slow down and be careful!

Everybody is trying to make a living, but the government is overdoing it and damaging the land. The Lower Churchill, for example, won’t come back to life again once it’s destroyed. We need to create jobs that don’t damage the environment, such as using windmills for electricity. Twenty or thirty years ago when the government was clear cutting, they said they would replant and not damage the land, but they didn’t plant the same trees that were there before and now it’s not grown back in the same way. We don’t know how this will affect the animals and other plants in this area because these new trees are not native to Labrador.

I never thought that there would be so much change in my lifetime—or that it could be changed so fast! I know we are not going to go way back, but I don’t want to let everything go or become lost for the young children. Our life is very important. I remember that everybody was healthy, strong and very happy in the country. Their minds were very clear and they made good decisions. I remember in the fall, the old people would sit together in the tent and say, “It’s time to go into the country again to look for food.” People were eating fresh food everyday and they were healthy. Even when the women were pregnant they would go in the country. When people were in the country and needed medicine, they knew what to do—they would get it from the plants growing around them. In everything, they knew what they were going to do.

My parents didn’t write down anything. They showed us what to do—how to make a shelter, build a fire or make a canoe. Now the young people are using a pencil and paper in school. It is good to go to school, but when they get to be 30 or 40 years old, will they have problems being on the land? Will they get lost or have accidents because they never learned from their parents? Both are important—being in school and being on the land. Also there is so much alcohol and drug use; the young people have lost their lives so fast. People are confused. I never thought I would need to ask the government for money to go in the bush. Before, we were very self-reliant, motivated and determined. We never complained, “Where am I going to get money? What am I going to do today?” We were always busy in the country. Innu people didn’t need to “make a living,” they picked up everything on their own.

Long ago the people across the river in Northwest were good friends of the Innu even though we had no common language and we didn’t speak English. We used short words. I remember, when I was young my father and a man from Northwest River would use short words to try to say, “Are you going hunting? Do you need traps?” Some of the older people from Northwest spoke a little Innu-aimun. Sometimes the Innu would cross the river to Northwest and the people would know he needed sealskin boots and would give him an old pair. Sometimes my father would come back from Northwest with some seal fat/grease in a small bottle and he was very happy because it is good medicine in the country. The two communities shared many things and would help each other with whatever they needed. They were good friends of the Innu and we respected each other. I explained this many times to my grandchildren and children.

The land is so important for all communities in Labrador—everybody uses the land, everyone is hunting, fishing and gathering wood. We all need to protect it. Please slow down and be careful with the land!
~Elizabeth Penashue, Sheshatshiu, NL

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poster for Elizabeth's 2009 Canoe Trip

Click on the photo above to view the poster full size. If you would like to print it, right click on the enlarged poster and select "Save picture as..." to save iAdd Imaget to your computer.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Reflections on life in town... since the walk

When I hear the children in the bush/in the country they are happy, they play easily and want to help the adults. In town they don’t know what to do, they always want the TV or a new toy or a video game.

Before, we didn’t use ‘white’ things and we didn’t use government money. We knew how to live on the land. Everyone knew what to do. The men hunted caribou. While the men were away the women cooked, cut wood, gathered water, boughs and berries, cared for the children, sewed, fished, and hunt rabbit, porcupine and partridge. The older children helped their parents. The middle children watched the small ones. The girls would watch their mother and grandmother and try to be like them. The boys would watch their father and grandfather and try to do what they did. The boys would ask, “Grandpa, where are you going? Can I go with you?” They would go help fish or chop wood. The elders and parents were like teachers.

The people worked hard in the bush. Even when the wind was strong, the storm came in, or the hunt was long. Even then they were happy. The people were very tough. The men felt so good when they were coming home from a hunt with meat for their family and community. They could see what they accomplished, they could feel it, and they knew what they’d done at the end of the day. I remember when my father would leave for several days to hunt or go to town. My mother and my siblings would stay at the tent. We would watch for him and be so happy when he returned with meat or flour for bread.

When I was young I never imagined that this would happen, living like we are today. I always thought we would be happy living in the bush. Now, the only times I hear the children laughing are when we’re in the country. I don’t hear them laugh much in town.

The people are very happy in the bush; in town it is hard to see that happiness. In town you can’t see what you’re doing, you don’t feel like you’ve done anything. There is drinking and drugs and some people see no reason to live. In the bush/in the country your mind is clear, your feelings are clear, you are healthy and happy. This is why it is important for the people to continue to go out on the land. I know we live in the culture and world of today, but that does not mean we have to loose or let go of who we are and where we came from. It is important for the Innu to hold on to some things, to carry those things into the present and the future. Our children need to know both ways.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lower Churchill; More talks needed

This Letter to the Editor was published in the April 27,2009 issue of "The Labradorian."

Dear Editor,
My name is Elizabeth Penashue. I want to talk about the Mista Shipu (Churchill River).I don’t understand and I am confused about how the government will make another Dam. If they do we, the Innu, will loose so many things. Look what happened with the Upper Churchill. So many important things were lost, for example, the burial grounds. In the past when the Innu lived in the country they were far, far away. Women, men and children were buried in the country.

They also left important stuff in the country, like tents, canoes, traps and hunting supplies- all this stuff got lost when the land was flooded. What happened to the animals- not only the fish, the animals too? Many things were killed and damaged with Upper Churchill. They cut a lot of trees, and also when gas was spilled on the ground from the equipment – many things were damaged- the animals never smelled the gas before. What happened to them if they ate what the gas was on – did they die? What about where they lived before- the beaver houses- where did all of these kinds of animals move to when they flooded the land- how many animals died because of the Upper Churchill?

Sometimes when I go to Churchill Falls with my husband and my grandchildren I stop at the Brinco Bridge and explain to my grandchildren what happened. I am very sad when I step out on the bridge- I cry. I show my granddaughter – no water, what does that mean for the fish and the animals? I cry in my heart when I tell my children and grandchildren about it. I tell them we never saw that when we were young. There was a lot of water there.

My father told me about how they could see the mist from far, far away, and how it was used as a marker for them to find the place. Now we don’t see what my parents saw. My father was from Quebec and he always walked or used the canoe for travelling. It makes me sad to think about if this happened when he was alive and he might not be able to find his way because of so many changes-would he have to turn back because he is lost because of all of the changes. He would say where is that mountain, or where is that river or marsh that would help find their way. He would say – who changed everything?

My parent’s hearts would be broken. It was not explained to the people about Upper Churchill- nobody explained it to the Old people- they did not know that all of this would happen.We lost of the names of the places and they were so important to the Innu. I heard my mother on a tape recorder when she was interviewed one time. She was talking like if she was looking at a map- but she wasn’t –it was just from her memory of these places. They never thought these names would be changed- they thought the places would have the same names forever. Many babies were born in the country- I was born in a place called Kanekuanikau- it is in around Churchill Falls area- it is in the Country.

I would like to ask - why would you make another dam when so much damage was done with the first one? We don’t want to drink dirty water - like the animals they want clean water. So many things will be damaged- the trees, the water, the animals and the fish.The Innu have been hunting for thousands of years. What will happen?

I can’t believe they want to do this – it makes me very confused. What about that barge that is under the water in the river? How much damage has this caused? When the government says there will be jobs for the young Innu- it is hard for the older people to say anything bad about it – we might just think we should be lucky that the young people have the jobs- but jobs are not the answer to everything – more jobs/money can also cause more problems.

I will work hard to get the old people to sit down and talk together. We need to know and understand what is going on. We need to do that- and we all need to work together.

Elizabeth Penashue, Sheshatshiu, NL

Spring Snowshoe Walk 2009

The walk went very, very well this year. I was so happy to have completed it, even with a small group at the end. No matter how many people accompany me, I will always keep walking for the protection of the land, trees, mountains, animals, rivers, lakes, for the future of the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, the Innu community and for Innu culture and way of life. I hope more people will join me next year.

The group varied in size throughout the 3 weeks on the land. We had many visitors and were happy when people came out even if their commitments at home kept them from walking this year. One 8 year old grandson walked with me nearly the entire trip, walking some days and helping Francis on the skidoo other days. Many of our children came to visit or stay for a night. We have 9 children, 39 grandchildren (41 this summer) and 9 great-grandchildren. The Chief of Sheshatshui walked for several days. Other grandsons and young men walked and helped Francis. A Cree woman from Manitoba walked for 10 days—we shared many similar experiences, struggles and dreams, and she is preparing to do cultural teaching and healing on the land in her community. A local woman from Northwest River came for one week for the second year in a row. A young Ojibwa/Mi’kmaq woman from Toronto walked for several days. A friend who used to live in Sheshatshui 30 years ago came from Halifax for one week. A friend who recently moved to Happy Valley with MCC walked with me for almost the entire trip. An independent filmmaker from New York City was along the whole time.

The group became like family to each other and living together brought out the best qualities in all of us. We shared everything—food, space, stories, work, and laughter. Francis and I worked together preparing the tent and hunting. We each have our different responsibilities. Living on the land reveals the strong bonds that connect all of life. None of us could live without the earth, water, animals, sun, and our communities. It is important to learn how to live in balance and not take too much or cause damage.

Early in the trip there was quite a bit of wind and snow, but many days were sunny. The weather was very good the last week of walking. Spring arrived and we walked without jackets sometimes and even had the tent door open on days we stayed at camp. We were very fortunate and had no troubles along the way. All members of the group were in good health. One person got sick one evening, but he rested, ate, and was ready to walk again the next day.

Several of my grandsons are very good hunters and caught fish, partridge and rabbit for our meals. We also caught porcupine. When a porcupine was caught we would stay at camp out of respect for the animal and I would prepare it over the fire in the traditional way.

We arrived at Pants Lake on March 25. It was a very special moment for the whole group. Pants Lake is along a traditional travel route for Francis’ family and just miles from where Francis was born. I began going there once we were married. We sang and danced when we came to the place where the river meets the lake. The land, trees and water welcomed us and as did the spirits of the Innu who have walked that way before, the ancestors that have died.

We came back into the community Thursday evening March 26. The adjustment back is quite difficult. Life in the bush is very integrated, while life in town is more disconnected. I feel sad every time I return to the community. I remember the pain my family, along with many others, experienced when we were forced to move from our nomadic life on the land to town life. The two experiences are so different it is almost impossible to find ways to bring them together.

For the first year ever my family organized a large community meal in honour of the 13 years we’ve been doing the walk and canoe trip. No matter how hard it is I am committed to the land, the youth and Innu culture and I try to teach the young people in a good way. I do not do this for profit or fame, but for life—the life of our people and all living things!

Hydro project will wipe out Innu land

This Letter to the Editor was published in "The Labradorian" in January 2009:

Dear Editor:

First of all, I want to express .my feelings about the Hydro Project that will take place soon. I still have not forgotten about Mista-Shipu (Churchill River). There are many elders that are not happy about the Hydro Project that will take place. They talk about the land where our ancestors have lived for thousands and thousands of years. This is where our ances­tors survived from the land and animals.

There will be a lot of destruction and damage done to the land. We are not talking about a small project this will be huge. We will see a lot of big equipment being used, for example: big trucks and tractors that will destroy the trees. The water will be polluted and con­taminated. Once the land is flooded over, there will be no sign of where our people have lived. It will all be under the water. How is the Innu going to feel when they have to look at the land being flooded over again? It will be heartbreaking because it was the Innu and other non-native people that have once hunted in that area.

I keep asking myself ques­tions. Are we just going to stand by and watch this huge project take place? Once Mother Nature is hurt, that is how much our (Tshishenut) elders will feel the pain.
One last example, I want to ask the people who live in Goose Bay, the ones who live by the Churchill River, I know how beautiful it is when I look at the houses that are standing there by the shore, there are sandy beaches and boats tied up, what effect will it have? Already I see changes today. During the summer time we see many sandbars that we didn't see before. I believe this had to do with the new bridge that was built. We will see a lot of changes once the project goes ahead.

These are just some of the concerns the elders and I have. I want to thank the people who will take the time to read this.

Elizabeth Penashue Sheshatshiu, NL

Article about Elizabeth's walk protesting Lower Churchill Developments

This article appeared in October 20, 2008 issues of "The Labradorian."