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Monday, April 18, 2011


So... a month after I left the place, I'm deciding to give you all a glimpse into an interesting little corner of Newfoundland and Labrador:  the Labrador coastal community of Natuashish.  This is an Innu community that I visited for a week as part of my month-long work/school rotation in Labrador (more Lab posts here and here).

Natuashish is unlike any place I've ever been in Canada.  For those of you who haven't heard of the place... does the name Davis Inlet ring a bell?  Natuashish is the "new" community to which the people of Davis Inlet relocated after social and environmental issues reached a breaking point in the late 1990s.  For more background on Davis Inlet and the relocation, see this article from 2005 (obviously out-of-date with regards to current conditions in Natuashish, but a reasonable history of the community)

Map of Natuashish

[town map with assigned land plots]

The Labrador coast is stunning.  It can be reached only by boat and by air.  During the winter months, small, fixed-wing aircraft is the way to go.  The airport at Natuashish is so tiny that it is actually unmanned - the pilots control the landing strip lights remotely.  When the strip lights go up, you know the next flight arrives in five minutes.


[Air Labrador plane]

labrador river

[coastal Labrador - view from the air]

Wharf in Natuashish

[the dock - out of commission for the winter]

As you can imagine, all larger items have to be delivered to the community by boat.  So do commodities like fuel oil and gasoline.  If you want a new vehicle, you had better get it taken care of before October.

Snow drift

[snow drift]

On a few days, I had to wade to work through hip-deep snow drifts.  I found it hard to believe that this winter was relatively snow-free by Natuashish standards.  Typically, winter transportation is solely by snowmobile because of the massive amounts of snowfall on the coast.  This year, cars and trucks were still fully operational throughout the winter.  It's probably a sign of climate change, but I was secretly glad to drive around in a vehicle with four doors.  Why?  Partly because of the utter cold, partly because of the packs of 10-15 dogs (!) that roamed the town.

Band offices

[Innu band office]

Healing lodge

[healing lodge]

Sweat lodge

[sweat lodge]



Spending only a week in the community does not put me in any position to critique the social, environmental and health issues of the place.  So I won't.  But it has to be said that this community has a lot of challenges facing it:  addictions, safety issues, chronic disease, cultural change.  It's a beautiful place and good people live there.  I really don't know what else to say... I really just wish the best for the people of Natuashish in addressing and overcoming some of these issues from within.

View from Natuashish water station



Tim Gallant said...Best Blogger Tips

Nice pictures Laura, interesting post!

Margie said...Best Blogger Tips

Nice to hear about a place I may never get to visit, only through you ! Thank you for the post !

Anonymous said...Best Blogger Tips

Wow, very cool. I'd love to check it out... but my heart rate goes up just looking at that tiny plane! Still, I could definitely use a healing lodge right about now :)

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