Nation Innu Matimekush-Lac John

NIMLJ Signing
The members of the NIMLJ are the descendants of a population that has occupied much of the Québec-Labrador peninsula for the last 7,000 years. Because of the rarity of caribou in the interior starting in the late 19th century and the closing of a key trading post in the interior, many of the interior Innu moved, at least seasonally, to the coast.

The members of the NIMLJ established a permanent community in Schefferville in the early and mid 1950s.

The NIMLJ has been a Band under the Indian Act since 1973; prior to that, the Innu living in Schefferville were considered by the Government of Canada to form part of the Innu of Sept-Îles Band.

The NIMLJ is governed by a Council consisting of a chief and four councillors, who are elected pursuant to the Indian Act for two-year terms.

There are two Innu reserves on the outskirts of Schefferville: Matimekush and Lac John. Both are located in the North Shore Administrative Region, in the Regional County Municipality of Caniapiscau.

The Matimekush Reserve is adjacent to lac Pearce, while the Lac John Reserve is some 4 km east of Schefferville.

The Lac John and the Matimekush reserves were established in 1960 and 1968 respectively, following the transfer of the land on which they were relocated by the Government of Québec to the Government of Canada. After the closing of the Schefferville mines, in 1982, and the departure of most of the non-Native residents, in May 1998 the Governor in Council expanded the area of the Matimekush Reserve from 14.8 to 70.9 hectares. The Lac John Reserve covers 23.3 hectares.

The lnnu of Schefferville designate themselves by the name “Naplekinnuat”, that is, the “Innu of Knob Lake”. The expression “Schefferville Innuat” is also used. The Elders still identify themselves as “Mishta Shipu Innuat”, or '”Innu of the Great River”, i.e., the Moisie River. The Mishta Shipu Innuat are a sub-group of the Uashau-innuat of Sept-Îles.

The NIMLJ had 838 members in January 2009, 718 of whom lived on the two local reserves. Based on the 2006 Census, approximately 40% of the population was under 20 years of age.

Most of the NIMLJ members speak innu aimun; French is the second language for many of them.

Non-traditional economic activities are concentrated in the areas of crafts, trade, services and construction. Many of the jobs held by the Innu are generated by the Band Council, which manages much of the local economic activity.

The Innu of Matimekush-Lac John still preserve many aspects of their traditional way of life and culture. Like many northern communities, they rely on subsistence hunting, fishing and trapping for a part of their food supply and for many raw materials. Harvesting is at the heart of their spirituality.