This section is updated as new information is received and adapted to the content.


Innu-aimun of Montagnais is an Algonquin language spoken by over 10,000 Innu in Labrador and Quebec in eastern Canada. It is a member of the Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi dialect continuum and is spoken in various dialects depending on the community.

Traditional Clothing

Historically, the skin of the caribou was used for parkas and jackets. The hair of the caribou is long, dense and hollow making it ideal for insulation in the extreme cold climate of Labrador. Garments worn in warmer months were made from the hide of the caribou with the hair stripped bare.

Innu Hunter, Cabot front

This tradition lives on. Innu women would dry, scrape and soften the hide, a laborious and repetitive operation but one which produced a long-lasting skin.

Drying caribou hide – Philomena Pokue in Sheshatshiu

The Innu are especially known for their painted jackets and coats. Each required about three caribou skins, the best ones bleached white and painted with intricate patterns in yellow, red, brown, black and blue. Today, those colours dominate the spectrum of traditional Innu costume that is worn for festivals and special events.


See also the Nametau Innu site

Housing: The Innu Tent

In the past, the Innu constructed long rectangular tents from Caribou hides that were carried with them during the hunt. Today the Innu tents are made of heavy canvas with a small woodburning stove in the centre that is used for cooking as well as warmth. The floor is made of soft spruce boughs. The images below are taken from Philomena (Testu) Pokues’s tent in Sheshatshiu 2011 where she was making Innu doughnuts on the woodstove.

Today, the Innu tent is still widely used, especially during trips to the country known as Nutshimit.

See also the Nametau Innu site

Traditional Crafts

The Innu Tea Doll is one of the best known traditional crafts. When the Innu were a nomadic people the women made tea dolls for a dual purpose; to store their tea and to double as toys for their children who accompanied them on the hunt. Caribou were the life blood of their culture – they ate the meat and made clothing and other useful things from the hides such as slippers and gloves. Now that caribou is not so readily available they have substituted caribou with heavy canvas and other leather hides.

The Innu Drum

The Innu Canoe

The Innu canoe is central to the history and culture of the Innu. For thousands of years it carried families who navigated the waters in warmer months. Its strength is in the planking where each one can be individually replaced should any damage occur. In years gone by, the skin of the canoe was birchbark but today it’s replaced by PVC canvas that is painted in green or white paint that was historically purchased from the Hudsons Bay Company in North West River. The tradition continues today as elders pass on their skills to the younger generation.

This link takes you to a pictorial account of the making of a canoe by Pien Penashue and his son Melvin and nephew Allister Pone.

See also

Innu Art

In this section we profile artists from Sheshatshiu. Please contact us if you would like to be included.


Born and raised in Labrador, Mary Ann Penashue is celebrated as Sheshatshiu’s leading visual artist.  A master of modern colour and technique she has married it with traditional images that depict the life and ways of the Innu. Mary Ann won numerous awards and commissions including “Emerging Artist of the Year” in 2007 from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. In 2011 she enrolled at the Ottawa School of Fine Art from where she graduated in 2016. Her work lives in collections and with aboriginal organizations throughout Labrador and Quebec. Among her vast body of work are over 500 portraits of the Tshenut (Elders). Mary Ann resides in Sheshatshiu with her husband Peter and their children and grandchildren.

See also

Our Children Our Future

See also the Nametau Innu site
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