The indigenous people of Labrador, the Innu, have voted to ratify the ‘New Dawn’ (‘Tshash Petapen’) agreement, says Survival International, the NGO campaigning gfor the rights of tribal people. The Innu's land claim has been in negotiation with the provincial and federal governments for more than 20 years.
The agreement includes the approval of the Lower Churchill hydro project, which will provide the Innu with royalties, give them hunting rights in large parts of Labrador and provide compensation for flooding caused by the construction of the Churchill Falls dam in the 1960s. The Innu were not compensated or consulted at the time. Some Innu oppose the project; Elizabeth Penashue, for example, told CBC News, "The Churchill River is going to die. No life anymore. Money, and all kind of houses, all kind of money … the river’s going to die. Finished."
The Innu are the northernmost Algonquin-speaking people of North America. They have occupied a vast area of sub-arctic forests, rivers and tundra on the Labrador/Quebec peninsula, which they call Nitassinan, for approximately 7,500 years,
Until the second half of the 20th century, they lived as nomadic hunters. For most of the year, the waterways of Nitassinan are frozen, and the Innu would travel in small groups of two or three families on snowshoes, pulling toboggans. When the ice melted, they would travel by canoe to the coast or a large inland lake to fish, trade, and meet friends and relatives.
As one Innu man said, "My identity, my religion, is in the country. Out there I am a worker, a fisherman, an environmentalist and a biologist."