Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Innu, also known as “Montagnais-Naskapi,” are a small group of indigenous people in Canada whose traditional homeland included a vast area of the Labrador Peninsula characterized by barren coasts, a spruce dominant forested interior, and a glaciated plateau dotted by numerous lakes, swamps, and bogs. They earned their living mostly by hunting, trapping, fishing, fowling and fur trading.


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North America --Arctic and Subarctic



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

In addition to this culture summary, the NH06 Innu collection consists of 17 documents, all of them in English, covering a variety of historical, geographical and cultural information, circa 1600 to 1970s.

The earliest systematic ethnographic information on Innu culture was compiled by Lucien M. Turner who traveled and lived in the Hudson Bay Territory in 1882-1884. Turner's work describes Innu environment and culture, with particular emphasis on their diet, clothing, dwelling, handicrafts, means of transportation, tools and weapons, and method of hunting as observed in 1880s (Turner 1894, no. 3). The works of Frank Gouldsmith Speck discuss organization of bands (Speck 1931, no. 6) and religion (Speck 1935, no.2) among the Naskapi, one of the main divisions of Innu society, in 1908-1932. Other general and brief descriptions of Innu society, history and environment include Turner (1944, no. 10), Lips (1947, no.11) and Lane (1952, no. 18).

The remaining works document and examine more specific aspects of Innu society and culture including ownership and use of hunting territories (Leacock 1954, no. 1; Burgesse 1945, no. 15), residence pattern and organization of bands (Leacock 1955, no. 12), concepts of status and differentiation (Leacock 1958, no. 38), law and order (Lips 1947, no. 8; 1937, no. 27), seasonal migration of bands (Henriksen 1973, no. 19), medical use of plants and animals (Tantaquidgeon 1932, no. 9), status of women and child rearing practices (Burgesse 1944, no. 13), kinship terminologies (Hallowell 1932, no. 15), mythology and oral tradition (Desbarats 1969, no. 23). Over all, most of the works in the collection document and examine selected themes as observed in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1970s. For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Atcakwuci'ts - souls - use ANIMISM (774)


Birchbark - use FOREST PRODUCTS (314)

Canoe building - use SHIPBUILDING (396)

Fur trapping - use HUNTING AND TRAPPING (224)

Fur trading - use FOREIGN TRADE (439)

Hunting territories - use REAL PROPERTY (423)

Lodge groups - use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621) with HOUSEHOLD (592) and/or EXTENDED FAMILIES (596)

Mantu - state of transcendence, or spiritual being - use GENERAL CHARACTER OF RELIGION (771) with SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)

Scapulimancy - use REVELATION AND DIVINATION (787)

Wigwam - tent-like huts built from birch bark or skin and canvas - use DWELLINGS (342)

This culture summary is based on the article "Montagnais-Naskapi" by Gerald F. Reid, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 1, North America, Timothy O'Leary and David Levinson, eds. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall &Co. 1991. Teferi Abate Adem wrote the synopsis and indexing notes in April 2007.

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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