Seven of the nine Innu communities in Québec are located along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River: Essipit, Pessamit, Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, Mingan, Nutashkuan, Unamen Shipu (La Romaine) and Pakuashipi. Another community, Mashteuiatsh, is located in Lac-Saint-Jean, while Matimekush-Lac John is adjacent to Schefferville. The Innu Nation boasts more than 16,000 members, making it the third-largest Indigenous nation in Québec, after the Mohawk Nation and the Cree Nation.
Innu is the first language spoken by most members, their second language being French. The community of Pessamit has earned an enviable reputation for promoting its culture and language. It was there that the first Innu-French dictionary was created.
The Innu traditionally lived off hunting, fishing and gathering. Following the establishment of trading posts in the 18th century, they turned trapping fur-bearing animals. With the expansion of mining, forestry and hydroelectricity in the 20th century, the Innu increasingly settled along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, as well as inland.
Each Innu community is unique in terms of geography, size and socioeconomic development. Mashteuiatsh, located near Roberval, has several shops and businesses, a credit union, a museum and a community complex with an ice rink.
Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, near Sept-Îles, has a shopping centre and a museum.
Unamen Shipu and Pakuashipi, located in the Basse-Côte-Nord region, are not served by the road network. Their residents hunt and fish, speak Innu and have kept their traditions alive. The same is true of Matimekush-Lac John, located 510 km north of Sept-Îles.
The Innu of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam signed an agreement with Hydro-Québec regarding the hydroelectric development of Rivière Sainte-Marguerite.
For their part, the Innu in Pessamit signed a partnership agreement with Hydro-Québec concerning hydroelectric projects in the Côte-Nord region, namely the dam on Rivière Toulnustouc and the diversion of Rivière Portneuf, Rivière Manouane and Rivière Sault aux Cochons.
Hydro-Québec has also signed agreements with the Indigenous communities of Mingan, Nutashkuan, Pakuashipi and La Romaine regarding the construction of a hydroelectric facility on Rivière Romaine. Essipit, La Romaine, Mingan, Nutashkuan and Pessamit manage outfitters, some of which offer access to large salmon streams. In addition, many communities participate in traditional and commercial fishing activities.
The Innu have created several organizations and infrastructures, including the Institut Tshakapesh, to help safeguard their language and promote their cultural heritage. For more than 20 years, Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam has hosted Innu Nikamu, a festival celebrating traditional and contemporary Indigeneous music. Nutashkuan holds the Festival annuel du conte et de la légende de l’Innucadie, an annual festival featuring stories and legends.