Naskapi Nation vows to protect its paradise in northern Quebec – by Belphine Jung (CB News Montreal – July 7, 2022)

People of Kawawachikamach look for alternatives to hydro development on traditional territory

David Swappie is one of the oldest members of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, 1,150 kilometres north of Montreal, near Quebec’s border with Labrador. No one knows Swappie’s exact age.

The elder, who was born and raised near Fort Chimo — the village now known by its Inuktitut name, Kuujjuaq, at the mouth of the Koksoak River on Ungava Bay — isn’t really sure himself. “I think he’s at least 100 years old,” said his grandson, who bears the same name.

Decades ago, Swappie Sr. and his family moved south, to Fort Mackenzie, known by locals as Waskaikinis. It’s part of the Naskapi Nation’s vast traditional territory, ten times the size of the island of Montreal, and the Naskapi want all of it designated as a protected area.

But the territory — which includes Cambrien and Nachicapau lakes, northwest of Kawawachikamach — is also in Hydro-Québec’s sights. The provincial utility had plans to build a new hydroelectric dam in the area. The 800 people of Kawawachikamach have deep historical ties to the territory, even though it has been uninhabited for generations.

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