Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

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First Nations

The Innu are the indigenous inhabitants of an area they refer to as Nitassinan, which comprises most of what other Canadians refer to as eastern Quebec and Labrador, Canada. Their population in 2003 includes about 18,000 persons, of which 15,000 live in Quebec. They are known to have lived on these lands as hunter-gatherers for several thousand years, living in tents made of animal skins.

Their subsistence activities were historically centred on hunting and trapping caribou, moose, deer and small game. Some coastal clans also practised agriculture, fished, and managed maple sugarbush. Their language, Innu-aimun or Montagnais, is spoken throughout Nitassinan, with certain dialect differences. Innu-aimun is related to the language spoken by the Cree of the James Bay region of Quebec and Ontario.

A well-known example of a traditional Innu craft is the Innu Tea Doll. These beautifully crafted children’s toys originally served a dual purpose for nomadic Innu tribes. When traveling vast distances over challenging terrain, nothing was left behind. They beleved that crow would take it away. Everyone needed to help with the transportation of essential goods - including young children. Innu women developed intricate dolls made from caribou hides and scraps of cloth. These dolls were filled with tea and given to young girls to carry on long journeys. The young girls played with the dolls while simultaneously transporting important goods on behalf of the tribe.men would carry bags and women would carry young kids.