form the most populous Indian nation in Quebec. Before colonization,
they occupied a vast area along the North Shore and in the
Saguenay region and inland as far as Schefferville. According
to oral tradition, the Montagnais lived side by side with
the Inuit in relatively harmonious manner until the Inuit
moved farther north in 1760.
In the 15th century, the Montagnais established the first
contacts with French whalers and cod fishermen. They quickly
developed relations with the Europeans based on the fur
trade. The Montagnais abandoned a number of traditional
practices to devote themselves almost exclusively to trapping
Montagnais oral tradition preserves many details about the
impact of the Europeans'arrival. It is said that the Montagnais
and the French concluded an agreement to allow the French
to occupy certain areas in exchange for flour to protect
the Montagnais against the periodic famines. The tales thus
refer frequently to the "pre-flour era".
In the "pre-flour" era, the Montagnais lived primarily
on the plentiful faunistic ressources of their territory.
They used pelts and bones to make clothes and weapons. In
the "post-flour" era, they traded their furs for
lard, tea, butter, cloth and weapons. The cleargy quickly
established themselves near the trading posts in order to
increase the size of the Christian family. As early as 1632,
the Jesuits opened their first mission among the Montagnais.
At the end of the 18th century, the Hudson's Bay Company
was operating several trading posts on Montagnais territory.
During the 19th century, forestry operations replaced the
fur trade. This new activity, combined with the movement
of people into the Saint-Lawrence valley, deprived the Montagnais
of many hunting grounds. They thus moved farther north,
but in vain, because colonization soon reached as far as
the Lake Saint-Jean region. It was at this time that the
Canadian government created the first villages: Mashteuiatsh,
Les Escoumins and Betsiamites. In the early part of this
century, mining operations and the construction of hydro-electric
dams further transformed the rest of the Montagnais's traditional
territory. Private clubs occupied the best sites for hunting
and fishing on the salmon rivers, with the result that the
Montagnais had trouble gaining access to the resources that
had previously provided their livelihood.
Around the 1950s, the federal government created new reserves:
Uashat and Maliotenam, Natashquan, La Romaine, Matimekosh
and Mingan. The Montagnais also settled in Pakua Shipi,
although the area does not have the "Indian Reserve"
In recent decades, the Montagnais have recovered some of
the outfitting operations that had belonged to big companies.
The economy of the communities of Mingan, La Romaine and
Natashquan is closely linked to the salmon fishery. The
Montagnais are aware of the economic potential of the tourism
industry on their land. To get the most out of it, the Atikamekw
and the Montagnais are negociating with the federal and
the provincial governments for an equitable share of the
ressources they used to have and for a new division of powers
on their ancestral land.