The natural paradise that the Naskapis want to protect at all costs

David Swappie insisted on wearing the traditional Naskapi hat for this photo.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

ans”,”text”:”Moi je pense qu’il a au moins 100ans”}}”>I think it’s at least 100 years oldHe launches his grandson who bears the same name. He is the translator as David Swappie only speaks Naskapi.

At the beginning of the last century, David Swappie Sr. traveled with his family from Fort Chimo to Fort McKenzie, waskaikinis, for the Naskapis, further north. This is where many Naskapis meet, primarily to speak with representatives from Hudson’s Bay.

David Swappie Jr. is like his grandfather: he wants the Cambrian Lake area to be protected.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

There is still a camp here today. And a graveyard. Here, too, the Naskapis want to build a large sanctuary, but not only.

Their ancestral territory, they say, does not stop at Fort McKenzie but goes much further: it is the entire region of the Cambrian and Nachicapau Lakes, located northwest of Kawawachikamach.

This huge extension of 5740 km2, more than ten times the area of ​​the island of Montreal, lies in the heart of traditional Naskapi territory. It is a gem for the Naskapis. And it’s not David Swappie who claims otherwise. Not even his grandson, who also cares about this country.

All of his childhood memories before his congregation moved to Kawawachikamach are there. His first hunt, his days playing around the campfire and watching his elders catch and fish.

I fell in love with this country because there is everything‘ said the eldest. Even if life was hard there. David Swappie remembers the light clothing given to them by white people. That sometimes you had to go far, very far to hunt.

Even today he admits: I would rather be there than here and try to assimilate. i really miss it I don’t like following a white guy telling me what to do. »

A quote from David Swappiesenior

To help the community in their efforts to make it a protected area, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has gotten to work. They were commissioned by the Naskapis because this area is coveted for its potentialexplains Alice De Swarte, Executive Director of the Quebec Section.

The region in question is currently spared from any mining or hydroelectric activity.

Photo: CPAWS-Quebec, Benoit Tremblay

Robert Prévost, who is acting as a consultant to the Naskapis, confirms that several mining companies are eyeing the area. Iron, rare earths… The Naskapis are sitting up a gold mine.

And if the Lake Cambrian sector is completely protected from these activities, Lake Nachicapau is not. The mines are exploding everywhere. Quebec did not want to make it a protected area, but a reserve for the statecontinues Mr. Prévost.

Many Naskapis left Kuujjuaq in Nunavik to join Fort McKenzie.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Eye on the Arctic‏/Eilís Quinn

The area is also targeted by Hydro-Québec, which had a dam project in the area. This would result in the entire website being gobbled up. It would be an insurmountable loss for the Naskapiassures Ms De Swarte.

Former leader Noah Swappie agrees. He explains that the Naskapis signed an agreement with the state body in 2018 that stipulates that no dams will be built for the next 20 years. You must then conduct a consultation to obtain our approval. That word, they didn’t like ithe says.

Hydro-Québec confirms this agreement, which also includes the Quebec government and the Inuit.

There are still graves near Fort McKenzie.

Photo: CPAWS-Québec, François Léger-Savard

Even 20 years from now, Noah Swappie doesn’t think the Naskapis will have changed their minds. We will go as far as possible to stop this projecthe assures.

Hydro-Québec always has plans… If we don’t protect our territory, we will be left with nothinghe adds, referring to the Inuit and the Crees, for their part are very advanced in protecting their territory.

Nevertheless, this agreement provides for the search for alternatives to the expansion of hydropower. Francis Labbé, spokesman for Hydro-Québec, specifies that a committee representing stakeholders has been set up for this purpose.

All paths are examinedhe says, naming wind power as an example.

The Naskapis don’t want a dam like this one north of La Tuque on their land.

Photo: Hydro Quebec

Like David Swappie senior, Noah Swappie is very interested in this area. It is often used to organize trips for young people to do healing ceremonies, we camp there. Yes we have moved but we still use ithe says and shows the photos of his last trip there with the snowmobile.

In addition to its cultural importance, the area is also exceptional in terms of its geology and biodiversity.

There are shifting dunes, lakes with turquoise waters, subarctic deciduous forests, while in the north mainly coniferous trees grow. There are endangered species such as the golden eagle and the peregrine falcon. It is important to protect our library of naturesays Alice De Swarte again.

Fort McKenzie is approximately 100 km from the township of Kawawachikamach.

Photo: Radio Canada / Delphine Jung

Biologists and archaeologists have entered the Lake Cambrian region to do research. They should go back in August.

There is an orality problem for the Naskapis because we found ancient tracks thereexplains Mrs De Swarte.

Two archaeologists were accompanied by two Naskapis on this expedition. We have found 22 archeological sites there that testify to an earlier settlementsays Moira McCaffrey, one of the archaeologists, adding that in this vast space it was first necessary to delineate research areas.

There are shifting dunes in the Cambrian and Nachicapau Lakes area.

Photo: CPAWS-Québec, François Léger-Savard

Glass beads, campfire marks, stone tools… Several artefacts were found at the site.

Noah Swappie dreams of this sanctuary for his community, but also for Quebecers. He wants to discover it by creating an ecotourism project.

Because the former boss also knows, a Hydro Quebec project would come with possible royalties to the community, but this ecotourism idea could be an option. You have to find the balance. We don’t want to destroy the whole territory for moneyhe said.

We would get money from Hydro-Québec, that’s for sure, but it’s not just about moneyadds David Swappie.

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