Pakatakan means portage in the Innu language. On the ancestral lands of the Innu communities of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekosh-Lac-John, a series of sacred natural sites has been identified, connected by hundreds of kilometres of portage trails. A silent witness to a unique biocultural heritage, this vast expanse of boreal forest also contains numerous lakes and rivers and provides shelter to a rich boreal fauna.
Why protect this place?
Since time immemorial, the Innu have travelled this land through each passing season, pursuing the caribou that provided them with food, clothing, tools and the materials to make the drum (teueikan) that let them to communicate with the ancestors. Over hundreds of kilometres, from the mouth of the Moisie River on the Côte-Nord to the George River in northern Quebec, they travelled by canoe, on foot or on snowshoes. The Innu group UAPASHKUSS has identified eight sacred sites along this ancestral path – five of them in Quebec – that represent part of the traditional Innu circular way of life. Through this project, the members of UAPASHKUSS, in partnership with CPAWS Quebec, are working towards the protection and recognition of these sacred natural sites as Indigenous protected areas.
Protection of unique sites essential to the cultural continuity of the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekosh-Lac-John
Protection of the habitat of 9 species at risk on a territory of 8,000 km2 including several species that are sacred to the Innu, such as the woodland caribou and the Labrador tea
Establishment of Aboriginal-initiated protected areas for the benefit of local Innu communities
Contribution to the safeguarding of the world's cultural heritage and biodiversity as well as the rights and responsibilities of indigenous peoples towards these places
CPAWS Quebec's work
This project is led by the Innu group UAPASHKUSS, made up of the guardians of sacred natural sites, whom CPAWS Quebec has been supporting in their efforts since 2017. For the past 2 years, the two organizations have been working closely on various aspects of the project, which is focused on getting the Indigenous sacred natural sites identified by UAPASHKUSS recognized and legally protected by the Quebec government, and on implementing an awareness campaign and promoting the sites.
In December 2020, UAPASHKUSS and CPAWS Quebec saw their work come to fruition when it was announced that three of the sacred sites, including the Mushuau-nipi, would be protected. The two organizations had also lobbied intensely and mobilized other stakeholders to create a new category of Indigenous protected area, efforts that were likewise rewarded when Indigenous Initiative Protected Areas were added to the new version of the Loi sur la conservation du patrimoine naturel du Québec.
CPAWS Quebec's projects for the protection of nature and its biocultural significance are made possible through financial contributions from various organizations. The Pakatakan project benefits from the support of several foundations and private companies, including Earth Rated.