Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach


The Naskapis and their ancestors have occupied the interior of the Québec-Labrador Peninsula since time immemorial. The Naskapis 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.

The Hudson's Bay Company and other interests subjected the Naskapis to several relocations between the mid 1800s and the mid 1900s, according to their commercial needs and interests. The major relocations can be summarized as follows: to Fort Chimo (located across rivière Koksoak from modern Kuujjuaq) in 1831; to Fort Nascopie (located near Petitsikapau Lake), in Labrador, in 1842; to Fort McKenzie (located in the vicinity of chute du Schiste on rivière Caniapiscau) in 1915; to Fort Chimo in 1948; to Schefferville in 1956.

Between 1956 and 1983, the Naskapis co-existed with the Nation Innu Matimekush-Lac John at Lac John until 1972, and thereafter on the Matimekush Reserve.

In 1983, the Naskapis moved to Kawawachikamach, located near the 55th parallel of latitude in northern Québec, next to the Labrador border. It is approximately 15 km north-east of Schefferville and 525 km by rail north of Sept-Îles.

Kawawachikamach was built between 1980 and 1983 following the signing, in 1978, of the Northeastern Québec Agreement (“NEQA”), Canada's second modern treaty, between the Government of Québec, the Government of Canada and the Naskapis de Schefferville Indian Band, among others.

The Category IA-N land on which the community is located covers 41.44 km2. It is similar to a reserve, in that it is provincial land that has been transferred to the administrative control of the Government of Canada for the exclusive use of the Naskapis.

In 1984, the Cree-Naskapi (of Québec) Act, Canada's first Aboriginal self-government legislation, was signed, transferring to the newly-created Naskapi Band of Québec many of the powers of local government formerly exercised by the Government of Canada, thereby granting to the Naskapi Band substantially more autonomy than that enjoyed by Indian bands under the Indian Act. The Naskapi Band of Québec replaced the Naskapis de Schefferville Indian Band, which had been created under the Indian Act by order-in-council in 1971. In April 1996, Council authorized changing the name to Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach. That change came into effect in May 1999.

The NEQA had been negotiated to an important degree under the assumption that Schefferville would continue to be a thriving mining centre for the foreseeable future. The closing of the mines only five years following its execution led to the signing of an Agreement Respecting the Implementation of the Northeastern Québec in 1990. Among other things, said Agreement established the model for funding capital and operations and maintenance expenditures over five-year periods and created a working group to address Naskapi employment.

The NNK Council consists of one chief and five councillors. The NNK acts through its Chief and Council, who are elected for a term of three years.

The members of the NNK numbered 1,128 on March 31, 2011. Of those, 842 lived on Category IA-N land on March 31, 2011. The population has roughly doubled in the past 20 years. It is young, as approximately 60% are under 30 years of age.

Most Naskapis speak their mother tongue (Naskapi). All but the older Naskapis speak English. Many of them also understand and speak innu aimun (Montagnais). A few Naskapis have a good knowledge of French.

The Naskapis still preserve many aspects of their traditional way of life and culture. Like many northern communities, the Naskapis 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 Naskapi spirituality.

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