Lake Unite Sajivage, halfway between Schefferville and the labrador coast. A strong north wind often makes canoeing difficult.
When traveling upriver, the Montagnais use a long pole to propel the canoe and to keep its nose pointed into the current. When they reach their destination, they plant the pole into the lakebed, just as others have already planted theirs.
These lakes are called “pole cemeteries.”
The Montagnais Indians
Although they live in a region with an extensive network of lakes and rivers and therefore travel largely by water, the Montagnais do not know how to swim.
They belong to the People of the Snowshoe, a group that also includes the Dene and the Algonquin. Despite differences in topography, climate, and environment which ranges from tundra to subarctic forest, from the Yukon to the Quebec-Labrador peninsulathis part of the north has produced one type of human culture.
Caribou was long the main source of food and clothing for most of these peoples. They followed the caribou migration, camping near their winter grounds to hunt and supply themselves with food. The Montagnais therefore made a long canoe journey every autumn, paddling or poling upriver with their prey. When the rivers were too low or too swift, or had petered out entirely (for instance, between lakes), the Montagnais portaged their canoes and equipment, carrying it all on their backs with the help of a tumpline. Some Montagnais, who today rank among the strongest Indian porters, are able to carry loads of more than four hundred pounds for distances of several miles.
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