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Coming Together to Think about Indigenous Habitat: Three Days of Sharing in Uashat mak Mani-utenam

The Living in Northern Quebec research partnership held its third General Assembly in the Innu community of Uashat mak Mani-utenam, hosting co-researchers, partners, collaborators, students and guests from May 30th to June 1st, 2017. The Shipit area, a traditional Innu campsite on the Moisie River, was the host of the majority of activities. These highlighted the rich collaboration of some 60 participants of all backgrounds, from the villages of Nunavik, the Innu communities of Côte-Nord and Lac-St-Jean, Sept-Îles, Quebec City, Montreal, Sudbury, and Strasbourg.

Apart from the General Assembly itself, the members participated in several activities spread over three days, spawning collaboration, emotion and reflection: a co-design workshop, a public exhibition at the Galeries Montagnaises, an outdoor sculpture contest, various Innu cultural activities, and a symposium on construction in northern communities.

Here are the highlights:

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On Tuesday May 30th, participants were welcomed to the Teueikan Hall to participate in a co-design workshop entitled Shared Visions for a Culturally Significant Amenity, which concerned the Uikanishitshuap Family House in Mani-utenam. After a warm welcome by Carmen Rock (ITUM), Marika Vachon (Trinord), and Geneviève Vachon (partnership director), three introductory presentations outlined the role of such an amenity in Innu and Inuit communities. Marie-Andrée McKenzie, Louise Rock and Nathalie Ouellet, who work in the Uikanishitshuap House, presented the situation and needs; Sandrine Tremblay-Lemieux, a graduating student at the Laval University School of Architecture, presented her final project Aqsarniit: Safe House for Young Inuit from Nunavik; and Maggie Emudluk and Alice Unatweenuk, from Qarmaapik House in Kangiqsualujjuaq, presented the organization's work, which promotes the transmission of Inuit values ​​and the support of youth within the families of the community. Qarmaapik House received the prestigious Arctic Inspiration Award from ArcticNet in 2016. A simultaneous translation service in Inuktitut, French and English enabled everyone to participate with enthusiasm.

Following the presentations, the participants walked to the nearby Family House for a guided tour, to better grasp its context, role and current state, and to spark discussions and reflections for the activity to come. All were then transported to Shipit for a meal in a shaputuan, where caribou and Canadian goose meat was served.


Back in the Teueikan Hall, four multidisciplinary and multicultural teams had the challenge of reflecting on the ideal qualities of a Family House, as well as an architectural program for a potential enlargement of the Uikanishitshuap House – often exchanging in several languages. A second challenge was to put their ideas into shape using plans and other tools. The benefits brought by the collaboration between members of the Inuit and Innu communities, professionals, and students were highlighted by all: such a mix of ideas and knowledges allowed the four groups to imagine several interesting avenues.

For the report on the co-design workshop, including the presentations and results, click here.

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On Wednesday, May 31, the General Assembly was held in Shipit, under a shaputuan, where the 2016-2017 annual report, budget and financial statements were presented, marking the completion of the partnership’s second of five years. Among the topics discussed were the 95 publications and other varied outlets for different publics, including refereed papers and conferences, compendiums, master’s theses and essays, as well as exhibitions. Thirty-three additional research and mobilization projects, including design workshops, various mobilizing activities and multiple student projects, also add to this exciting outcome. The partnership welcomes three new co-researchers – Émilie Pinard, Caroline Hervé, and Geneviève Cloutier – three new collaborators – Bernard Duchaine, Bettina Koschade, and Marika Vachon – as well as three new partners – Katsuaq, the Nothern Village of Inukjuak, and the Matimekush Band Council. It was also an opportunity to nominate members of the Scientific Committee and the Steering Committee for the third year of the partnership. For this coming year, a strong emphasis will be placed on mobilization and the proliferation of ‘horizontal’ – ie interdisciplinary, intercultural, intersectoral – work among partners, in order to offer greater visibility and promote the sharing of expertise and knowledge.


Members of the partnership may access the full report in the Partners section.

Meanwhile, on the shores of Uashat, 18 students from the Manikanetish High School braved the rain and cold to participate in the contest Ça nous ressemble: raconte, construis ou habite, a friendly competition of temporary artistic installations which required them to reflect upon – or imagine – their relationship with the land and the way they inhabit it. Five teams, accompanied by student-mentors from the Laval University School of Architecture, have therefore devised original and environmentally responsible constructions, which they have made using wood, poles, rope, and sapinage. Their creative minds and youthful insight sparked many discussions among the jury members, impressed by the poetic way in which the sculptures recalled the traditional Innu shelter.


For the full report on Ça nous ressemble, including pictures of all the installations, click here.


This second day included several cultural activities. After the Assembly, the participants met again under the shaputuan for a moving presentation by Véronique André, which told the history of the occupation of the Moisie River and exhibited some traditional medicine, among other subjects. A memorable salmon meal, concocted by Albert Vollant and his family, was then served in a more festive atmosphere, ending with a musical performance by Bryan André and a traditional dance, thanking the host of the event.


Later in the evening, a few participants had the chance to experience a sweat lodge. The more adventurous ended their day by camping in a teepee.

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On Thursday, June 1st, more guests gathered with the partners for the SHQ Symposium on innovation in construction and planning in Aboriginal communities. After a brief overview on some urgent issues, presented by Gaëlle André-Lescop for the case of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and by Mayor Pauloosie Kasudluak for that of Inukjuak, fourteen concise and rich presentations fed discussions. All in all, in light of the reflections of the three themes – Housing: Respecting Cultures and Territories, Governance and Mobilization, and Innovation and Construction – participants raised the critical importance of placing Innu and Inuit women at the heart of considerations and discussions, promoting more inclusive governance structures, and encouraging the sharing of knowledge and skills among communities, which includes promoting local labor. There is also a need to realize the partnership’s more theoretical or conceptual proposals: more collaboration between professionals and the construction of prototypes are good avenues in this sense.


For the report on the symposium, including an abstract of all presentations, click here.

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To conclude these three days of activities, a final performance of teuaikan, a traditional innu drum, was presented under an emerging sun.


The fourth General Assembly of the partnership will take place in Montreal in the summer of 2018 and will be accompanied by an important workshop.

Photos and images :

Mathieu Avarello

Mona Belleau

Antonin B. Cartier

Melissa Mailhot

Maxime Rochette

Sandrine Tremblay-Lemieux

Marika Vachon

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