The Innu, sometimes known as either Montagnais or Naskapi, are a First Nations located in the Subarctic and boreal areas of Québec and Labrador who are categorized into two groups: (1) Montagnais (mountain people), and (2) Naskapi (Iyiyiw).
Initially nomadic hunters, the growth and collapse of the European fur trade fundamentally altered the Innu way of life. In the mid-20th century, the federal government forced Innu communities into permanent settlements. As of 2014, the total registered Innu population is more than 22,000 with nearly 90 per cent living in Québec.
The Innu language, Innu-aimun, is part of the Algonquian language family. Innu-aimun is spoken by people traditionally known as Montagnais, while Iyuw Iyimuun is a dialect spoken by the Naskapi.
The language is widely spoken among communities and is supported by projects like the Innu Language Project, which promotes Innu language and culture through learning resources. In 2011, the National Household Survey reported that Innu-aimun had more than 11,000 speakers, while Iyuw Iyimuun had nearly 700. The two languages are similar, but variances in dialects and orthography exist. For instance, some communities may use syllabics, while others may use Latin script. Contemporary Innu communities are also largely fluent in either French or English.
The two largest Innu communities in Labrador are the Mushuau Innu in Natuashish and the Sheshatshiu Innu in Tshishe-shastshit. Two tribal councils represent Innu groups in Québec: Le Conseil Tribal Mamuitun (incorporated in 1991) represents Mashteuiatsh, Essipit, Pessamit, Uashat, Mani-utenam and Matimekush; while Mamit Innuat (founded in 1982, incorporated in 1988) represents Ekuanitshit, Nutashkuan, Pakua Shipu and Unamen Shipu. The Innu Nation represents the two Labrador communities.
First Christian contact with the Innu came via Jesuit missionaries. Hence, a large majority of Innu claim Roman Catholicism as their religion. Needless to say, though, they often are either in name only or have mixed traditional religious beliefs and Roman Catholicism to the point that often their lifestyle is entrenched with animistic practices.
Pray for isolated Innu communities that suffer from high rates of alcoholism, substance abuse and suicide.
Pray that Innu Montaganis evangelical Christians will obey the "Great Commission" and make disciples of all nations.
Pray that the comforts of life will not tempt evangelical Innu Montaganis from loosing their zeal for the Christ.
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