Innu Nation, so named in 1990, was formerly known as the Naskapi-Montagnais-Innu Association following its creation in 1976.
Naskapi and Montagnais were names given to the Innu people by Europeans. The Montagnais members live mainly in Sheshatshit and the Naskapi members live mainly in Natuashish (both communities are shown on the figure below).
Both of these groups of Innu stem from one culture, caribou hunters. Their ancestors occupied the interior of the Québec-Labrador Peninsula since time immemorial. The Innu traditionally led a nomadic existence, following the caribou herds from Hudson Bay in the west to the Labrador coast in the east, and from the southern coast of Ungava Bay in the north to the vicinity of Labrador City in the south. Starting in the early 19th century, they congregated temporarily and seasonally at the various posts of the Hudson's Bay Company and at favoured hunting locations, such as Indian House Lake on the George River.
Until the 1950s, the day-to-day administration of Labrador was delegated to religious organizations and trading companies. Indeed, when Newfoundland joined the Canadian confederation in 1947, the status of the First Nations was not even recognized.
North West River originated as a trading post in 1743 and became an important service centre for the region. The Innu used North West River only as a campsite in summer until the late 1950s, after which they began to settle there more permanently. Sheshatshit, located on the south bank of the North West River, formed part of the community of North West River until 1979, at which time the Innu decided to form a separate community that would be distinct from the Euro-Canadian, settler population.
Innu Nation is the political organization that groups the Sheshatshit Innu First Nation and the Mushuau Innu First Nation of Natuashish.
The Sheshatshit Innu First Nation is governed by a council that consists of one chief and six councillors. Its chief sits on the Board of Directors of Innu Nation. Sheshatshit was formally recognized as a reserve in 2006. It covers 804 hectares.
The council of the Mushuau Innu First Nation has a chief and four councillors. Its chief is also a member of the Board of Directors of Innu Nation. Natuashish is a new community, which was first occupied in 2002. Prior to this, its residents lived in Davis Inlet. Situated on the northern coast of Labrador roughly 300 km north of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the reserve covers 4,267 hectares. It is accessible only by water or air.
The population of Sheshatshit is approximately 1,375 persons, while that of Natuashish is about 800.
Most of the members of Innu Nation speak their mother tongue (innu aimun). The second language for most of them is English.
For further details, refer to the website http://www.innu.ca/.