Tagged indigenous

innu people

Innu: The Sub-Arctic Hunters

Everything you need to know about the indigenous nomadic Canadians…


GEOGRAPHY

The Innu inhabit a region in Canada that they themselves refer to as ‘Nitassinan’, which means ‘our land’ in their ancient language, covering a section of Quebec and parts of Labrador on the east side of the country.  The Nitassinan covers a vast subarctic area of forests, lakes, rivers and rocky barrens .

The communities in Labrador consist of Sheshatshiu, the meeting point of the Grand Lake and Lake Melville, and Utshimassit, which is an island just off the north coast of Labrador.

innu geography

POPULATION

They’re comprised of roughly 18,000 people in eleven communities in Quebec and two in Labrador, although these are spread out across different regions. Sheshatshiu contains 1000 Innu people, while Utshimassit holds around 500.

They are normally split into two groups. The first are the ‘Neenoilno’, sometimes called the ‘mountain people’ or the ‘Innu proper’, who reside lower down on the north shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Quebec. The second are the far fewer Naskapi, who live further up north in the Quebec and Labrador regions.

The primary language of the Innu is ‘Innu-aimun’, but they also speak English and French, which is one of the native languages in Quebec. Most Innu are Christians and are members of the Cree, one of the founding nations of the aboriginal Canadians.

CULTURE

innu cultureTraditionally, the Innu people live in cone-shaped skin tents, relying on the caribou, a moose-like creature, as the primary resource for their materials in making their housing, clothing and other objects.

They also eat the caribou, along with squirrels, hares, geese, ducks, salmon, trout and many others. The Innu and their ancestors have always been known as hunter-gatherers, summed up by their tendencies to hunt for animals and use their skin to sustain life and shelter. They sometimes used the hides of the animals they hunt to create buckskin- used for boots, house covering and storage.

Another key tradition in Innu life is crafting, and it is custom that children are given the classic tea doll, which is a toy made out of cloth and caribou hide. The idea behind the tea doll is that children could play with it whilst also carrying small, yet important goods, such as tea, inside the doll.

CONTROVERSIES

While the Innu are a peaceful people, this has not prevented other groups, organisations and governments from innu strugglesattempting to sabotage their tranquil environment.

In a conflict known as the Beavers Wars in the 1600s, the Innu were subject to attacks from the Iroquois, a powerful Candian region at the time, and enslaved their women and warriors defending the tribes, as well as raiding their materials they had gathered over time.

More recently, the New York Power Authority has come under criticism for its contract with the province of Quebec to buy power from their hydroelectric dams, because the construction of electric transmission lines to harness the power would disrupt the Innu’s hunting lifestyle.


Article written by Oli Gamp

chiapas people

Misunderstood, Excluded and Abused: Who are the indigenous people of the Chiapas?

Pope Francis has spoken out against those who have mistreated and taken advantage of the indigenous population of the Mexican south: the people of the Chiapas, but who are they?

GEOGRAPHY

chiapas people

Chiapas is located in south-west Mexico- right a the foot of the country and near the border of Guatemala. It is the eighth-largest state in the country and neighbours the states of Tabasco, Veracruz and Oaxaca.

It has 111 villages, 12 towns and 18 major cities, the largest of which is San Cristobel de las Casas, where the Pope made his speech about the Chiapa

It is home to some notable geographical landmarks, such as the Lacandon Jungle, the beautiful Miramar Lake, the waterfall at Agua Azul and the Tacana Volcano, which is still considered active and a threat to the indigenous populations that reside nearby.

POPULATION

chiapas people

In the history of the indigenous people of Chiapas, there have been three known groups: the Mixes-Zoques, the Mayas and the Chiapa. It’s thought that there are roughly 3.5 million indigenous people in this state, which accounts for 13.5% of Mexico’s entire indigenous population. That makes it the fifth most ‘indianised’ state in the country.

It is thought that most of the indigenous groups in the state descended from the ancient Mayans, and their speaking language has been derived from them. Although the Chiapa people all fight for the same cause, they are split up into several closely related native languages. These include: the Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Ch’ol, Tojolabal, Zoque, Chuj, Kanjobal, Mam and Lacandon. 

CONTROVERSIES

chiapas people

Chiapas is Mexico’s poorest state. While widespread poverty is suffered across Latin America, the people of the Chiapas are the ones who are suffering particularly badly with 76% without homes, and the balance of wealth between its indigenous people and the rest of the population is becoming more uneven with every day that passes.

In 1994, the indigenous people of Chiapas revolted as a group known as the Zapatistas rose up against the government after tensions grew when fears emerged that their independence and agriculture felt threatened. The initial uprising was crushed by the government, but has been prolonged for decades, and indigenous groups have rebelled against the Mexican government as recently as 2014.

In some communities, tensions have also been at a high level between Catholics and Protestants. In some residential areas, people who have converted to Protestantism have been expelled from their homes, excluded and had their land taken over. They’ve also been known to have been denied their basic rights to water and electricity.

LEGACY

chiapas people

The indigenous people of Chiapas have been protected by many leading figures throughout their history, but their most well-known and beloved defenders were Samuel Ruiz and Bartolome de las Casas, who were both Bishops in San Cristobel.

Bartolome de la Casas was alive in the 16th century, and was known by his title ‘Protector of the Indians’. He was born in Spain but moved to Mexico and felt strongly opposed to slavery and was soon appointed Bishop of Chiapas, and set out specific laws to protect indigenous people, which outlined that anyone who mistreated them would be ex-communicated from the church.

Samuel Ruiz died as recently as 2011, and was also Bishop in Chiapas. He is held in high regard by people in Chiapas for acting as mediator during the infamous Zapatistas Uprising- attempting to calm the violence and encourage peace talks between the two parties. He was eventually forced to resign in 1998 after accusing the government of ‘simulating’ a peace resolution.

Hope For the Future

While the Chiapas people have certainly had their fair share of suffering, not only in last few decades, but continually over centuries gone, if ever there was someone they needed to vouch for their support, it was Pope Francis.

The Pope is one of the most influential figures on the planet, as well as one of the most respected. Hopefully, now that Pope Francis has spoken out about the terrible manner in which the Chiapas people are being treated, action will now be taken.

The indigenous population can at least rest assure that more awareness to their cause has been raised, as sometimes the only way to send a message is to get the world talking. The revelations made by the Pope were truly shocking and together with other campaigners across the world, there might be optimism that the Southern state of Mexico can find the independence and the freedom that they crave.


Article written by Oli Gamp