The Naskapi Nation has approximately 1,450 members, more than 930 of whom live in Kawawachikamach, the only Naskapi village in Québec, which is located in northern Québec, about 15 km from Schefferville.
Naskapi is spoken by the entire population and English is the second language.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Naskapi lived mainly off hunting caribou. This animal, from which they obtained their food, clothing and tools, helped them survive in the harsh conditions of the Arctic tundra. They lived as nomads and followed the migration patterns of the caribou. However, some years, caribou was scarce.
Beginning in 1893, a series of famines decimated the Naskapi Nation. Around 1950, the federal government intervened, providing health care and transporting food rations to Fort Mackenzie, south of Kuujjuaq, where the Naskapi had settled. Two years later, they returned to Fort Chimo (the former name of Kuujjuaq), where they had previously lived. Finally, in 1956, the Naskapi agreed to live with the Innu of Matimekush, near Schefferville, in the hope of improving their living conditions.
In 1978, the Naskapi signed the Northeastern Quebec Agreement, which gave them the means to take control of their future. Under this agreement, which was based on the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the Naskapi, like the Cree and Inuit, benefit from a land regime that provides them with exclusive hunting, fishing and trapping rights. This agreement also grants them other benefits in consideration for the Indigenous rights, titles and interests they ceded in Québec.
The Naskapi Development Corporation manages an outfitter, road maintenance services, an arts and crafts store and a construction company, among other businesses. In 1984, the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act removed the Naskapi Nation from the Indian Act and granted it considerable administrative autonomy.
Today, the village has well-equipped community buildings, including an elementary and high school, a CLSC, a fire station, a police station, a community centre, a recreation centre and a radio station that broadcasts shows in the Naskapi language. The community’s main economic activities include adventure tourism, construction, fur trapping and arts and crafts.
The Naskapi, together with the Innu of Matimekush-Lac John and Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, established a company called Tshiuetin Rail Transportation Inc., which has provided passenger rail service between Sept-Îles and Schefferville since 2004. In 2009, the first satellite cell phone network was set up in Kawawachikamach, thanks to a partnership between Naskapi Imuun and high-tech firms in Québec.
On October 19, 2009, the Naskapi signed an economic and community partnership agreement with Québec, which was based on the Paix des Braves and Sanarrutik agreements signed with the Cree and the Inuit, respectively, in 2002. For the 25-year term of the agreement, equal annual payments will be made to the Naskapi Nation and the Naskapi Development Corporation. This money will be used to fund community and economic projects and implement certain aspects of the Northeastern Quebec Agreement.