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.