Veronica Ells, AVC 2020, traveled to Nain and Natuashish in 2019 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing.
On our drive from the Natuashish airport to town, our local contact Dustin talked about the town. After dropping off our gear he showed us around the town. Natuashish is a town of about 1000 people. The town itself is built on sand and the roads are all made of dirt. The landscape was a bit drab with no grass, very few trees and everything was brown and dusty. Apart from some beautiful mountains in the distance, the town of Natuashish is a pretty baron looking place.
Dustin then drove us to an Innu tent he had put up just outside of town. He told us that when community members are in town, the stresses of everyday life are evident on their faces, but when they come out to their tents outside of town; they are a completely different people. Upon arrival to the tent, it is easy to see why the mood is so different. The tent is set up next to a small lake surrounded by evergreen trees and is made of white canvas material and sturdy wooden branches. We stepped through the door and were enveloped immediately by the soothing smell of fir trees. The floor of the tent was covered in a thick layer of evergreen boughs and there was a wood stove in the corner. Light filtered through the canvas walls, making the space bright and inviting. By stepping into that tent, like magic, any stress we had about setting up our clinic or how the community would receive us, was washed away.
On our last evening in Natuashish we were invited to the lake where the Innu were celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day. After packing up our clinic, we piled into the truck and drove to the lake. The sun had come out and it was looking like it would be a beautiful evening. We arrived at the lake just as the sun was beginning to set. There was a large sandy lot surrounded by an evergreen forest on three sides and bordered by a large lake on the other. There were majestic snow topped mountains across the lake. Innu tents were set up around the perimeter of the lot and along the lake shore. A large entertainment tent was set up in the center and there were happy people everywhere. There were children riding bicycles and four wheelers laughing and chasing each other. There were people outside their tents singing and playing guitars. It was hard to believe that these were the same people we saw in town. It was incredible that changing the surroundings could change the sense of community and the mood of the people so much. Seeing this was so uplifting and gave me so much hope for the community. When I think of the Innu of Natuashish, I think of the joy the outdoors brings them, the sense of community and the welcoming environment of the magical Innu tents.