Territory division in the Pessamit region: “We no longer feel at home”

This report is part of a series on territory. This is the theme chosen by the Indigenous Spaces team for the National Day of Indigenous Peoples 2022 Edition.

His house is one of about sixty bordering this lake, located in the Innu territory, about thirty kilometers from Pessamit (Côte-Nord).

Coexistence between the whites and the Innus is not always peaceful in Nitassinan, the territory claimed by the Innus of Pessamite, which stretches 84,000 miles (138,424 km).2.

Mr. Pelletier seems to be doing well.

Pierre Pelletier lives in a hut on territory claimed by the Innus of Pessamite.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

When Pessamit’s territory agents arrive, the atmosphere is relaxed. Benoît Labbé, one of the agents, pets Pierre Pelletier’s dog, Rex. It’s about snow removal and tank.

The Indians are fine… I have no problem with themsays Mr. Pelletier.

My family has had this vacation home for 40 years. There is also an Innu that lives around the lake and we have no problem with himsays Karine Tibo, owner of three chalets around Taillardat Lake.

Michael Canapé and Benoît Labbé are Innu territorial agents. They traverse the territory to ensure it is respected.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

Around Pearl Lake, same story, but on the Innu side. The Kanape family have their camp amidst some huts of non-natives. We help each other, they monitor our facilities when we’re not around, and we do the same with theirssays Michel Kanape.

Most people are fine… but there are always bad apples. We often have issues with locals, less so vacationers coming from Montreal or Quebecsays Benoît Labbé.

Even in winter, it is a point of honor for the Innu to return to their territory.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

This area has been teeming with houses and chalets in recent years and the pandemic has only sped things up a little further. Quebecers want to go green, recharge their batteries.

Today, the Manicouagan MRC has already issued 3,000 resort leases (including basic accommodation leases) around Lac à la Loutre, Lac Migneault and Lac du Chardon. These are public lands.

In short, they find themselves all in Innu territorysays Philippe Poitras, Head of Land Administration at the MRC Manicouagan.

The Innu don’t understand why non-Aborigines put up ‘private property’ signs.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

It is here MRC which issues these leases on behalf of the Quebec Department of Energy and Natural Resources.

For several years, Mr. Poitras has shown Quebecers’ interest in finding a little piece of paradise on the North Shore. % d’inscriptions pour les baux offerts au tirage au sort”,”text”:”Ce ne sont pas tant des nouvelles demandes qu’on reçoit, car il y a beaucoup de transferts de baux, mais on a vu une augmentation de 300 à 400% d’inscriptions pour les baux offerts au tirage au sort”}}”>It’s not that many new inquiries that we’re getting because there’s a lot of lease transfers, but we’ve seen a 300-400% increase in registrations for leases offered in the rafflehe explains.

Thus, 17 parcels were allocated in 2021.

A problem for the Innu. We don’t feel at home anymore, but we go anywayreplies the leader of Pessamit, Jean-Marie Vollant, who summons barricades, fences and signs private property planted in front of these houses installed on the Nitassinan.

The Innu of Pessamit do not receive royalties on vacation rentals granted by the MRC Manicouagan.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

I understand the principle, but I didn’t force anyone. This is a problem that goes beyond mereplies Karine Tibo and throws the ball into the camp MRC.

This sense of dispossession of one’s territory leads to arguments.

As early as the 1960s and 1970s, the Innu stopped hunting during the hunting season that was open to whites. It was too dangeroussays Adelard Benjamin, project manager at the Bandrat, pointing to the dilettantism of some non-Aborigine hunters.

Adelard Benjamin says some holidaymakers are unaware that the Innu occupied this area long before they did.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

He remembers, for example, that one of them once killed a caribou thinking it was a moose…

Benoît Labbé himself has already had an argument with a chalet tenant. He says while he was conducting an operation in the area, a man appeared, gun in hand, and explained that he had been hunting there for 40 years and that he owned the salt marshes, which were designed to attract game.

Benoît Labbé himself was in conflict with a non-Aborigine on Pessamit territory.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

Mr Labbé said he then explained to him that he was not there to hunt, just to do his job as a precinct agent. They’ve been here for 40 years, but our ancestors have used the area for hundreds and hundreds of years.he answered.

consultations required

If the MRC receives a lease application, it is for Quebec to consult the Innus of Pessamite.

The community of Pessamite is located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, on the north shore.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

We are asked if we are in favour, if we have concerns. Then we meet those directly affected. The majority tells us that they do not agree with this because it limits their own access to the territory, that it affects the game and that there are already many holidaymakers in this sector.explains André Côté, Director of the Territories and Resources sector at the Pessamit Band Council.

The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MERN) declined to answer the Espaces creators’ questions in an interview.

Many maps depicting Nitassinan hang on the walls of the building housing the Band Council’s department dedicated to the area.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

He did, however, hint at this via email MERN à l’égard du terrain demandé. Les représentants du MERN agissent de manière à favoriser la cohabitation la plus harmonieuse possible entre les divers usagers du territoire public”,”text”:”les consultations offrent une occasion à la communauté concernée de faire part de ses préoccupations au MERN à l’égard du terrain demandé. Les représentants du MERN agissent de manière à favoriser la cohabitation la plus harmonieuse possible entre les divers usagers du territoire public”}}”>Consultations provide an opportunity for the affected community to voice their concerns about the MERN in relation to the requested property. The representatives of MERN act in such a way that the most harmonious possible coexistence between the various users of public land is promoted.

The problem, says André Côté, is that the department doesn’t seem to take Inu opinion into account. They tell us we didn’t clearly explain how it would affect ushe continues.

André Côté, Director of the Territories and Resources Section of the Conseil des Innus de Pessamit.

Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Laure Josselin

A misunderstanding between two cultures. The Innu do not occupy a square territory, but a vast space. One year he will be there, the next a little furtheradds Mr. Côté to illustrate that the concept of boundary is not obvious in Aboriginal mentality.

Word Border does not even exist in the Innu language. Proof that the actual concept is basically completely foreign to them.

Chef Jean-Marie Vollant is aware of the situation. We want those who own these leases to respect the Innu and stop building barricades. We are at home and will still continue to go therehe said.

Pessamit band boss Jean-Marie Vollant wants the non-natives to show a little more respect for the Innu.

Photo: Radio Canada / Benoit Jobin

money stories

But behind all this there is also a question of money. Each year, the Department collects a portion of the taxes associated with all of these leases. The other part comes back to the MRC.

These taxes depend on the value of the building. According to Philippe Poitras, it’s about $300 for resorts and $100 for basic accommodation.

Aside from not having ownership rights, we, says chef Vollant. Translation: The Innus of Pessamite receive absolutely no money in return for these leases established on the territory they claim.

Territorial agents sometimes patrol the Innu and non-Indigenous people.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

Is that normal? Asked this question, the MERN first stated that he was simply going by what the law dictated.

Subsequently, when Indigenous Spaces asked for clarification, the MERN recalled that Quebec and Ottawa have agreements with Pessamit, among others, to share these royalties the exact conditions are negotiated in the contracts.

Territory agents sometimes have to use a snowmobile to get into the territory.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

Only in 2005 Pessamite left the negotiating table. A choice that explains accordingly MERNthat the community does not receive royalties.

In fact, Pessamit chose to go to court to assert his ancestral rights in his territory. In 2005, a long legal dispute began that is still ongoing today.

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