The Atikamekw, with a population of approximately 8,000, live mainly in Manawan, in the northern part of the Lanaudière region, as well as in Wemotaci and Opitciwan, in the Haute-Mauricie region.
Atikamekw is spoken by the entire population, while French is used as a second language.
In the early 1900s, industrialization led to the intensive exploitation of the forests in the areas where the Atikamekw lived. The first sawmill opened in La Tuque, leading to the railway being extended to Wemotaci and then to Abitibi. Train service resulted in an influx of workers, hunters and fishers to the Mauricie region. In addition, the Atikamekw moved several times between 1950 and 1972 due to the construction of dams.
Atikamekw Sipi - Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw was founded in 1982 and is dedicated to the social, cultural and economic development of the three Atikamekw communities. Through this organization, the Atikamekw deliver and manage social services in Manawan and Wemotaci. In addition, the organization produces educational material in the Atikamekw language.
The Atikamekw advocate sustainable development through comprehensive resource management with all those who use the forest for social, environmental and economic purposes. In Wemotaci, they created the Services forestiers Atikamekw Aski, which carries out reforestation and silviculture activities and trains Atikamekw workers.
In 1999, the Opitciwan band council, along with forestry company AbitibiBowater, became co-owners of a sawmill located on the community’s land. Today, the Opitciwan Sawmill is a joint venture, which is 55% owned by the Opitciwan Atikamekw Council and 45% owned by Resolute Forest Products.