The Atikamekw are the Indigenous inhabitants of the subnational country or territory they call Nitaskinan ('Our Land'), in the upper Saint-Maurice River valley of Quebec (about 300 kilometres (190 mi) north of Montreal), Canada. Their current population is around 8,000. One of the leading communities is Manawan, about 160 kilometres (99 mi) northeast of Montreal. They have a tradition of agriculture, fishing, hunting and gathering. They have close traditional ties with the Innu people, their historical allies against the Inuit.

The Atikamekw language usually considered a variety of Cree in the Algonquian family, is closely related to that of the Innu. It is still in everyday use, among the indigenous languages least threatened with extinction. However, their traditional ways of life are endangered as logging companies essentially take over their homeland. Their name, 'lake whitefish,' is sometimes also spelt Atihkamekw, Attikamekw, Attikamek, or Atikamek. The French colonists called them Têtes-de-Boules, meaning 'Ball-Heads' or 'Round-Heads.'

A small number of families make their living making traditional birch bark baskets and canoes.

Early French historical documents begin to mention the Atikamekw at the beginning of the 17th century when they lived in the boreal forest of the upper Mauricie. In these early documents, the French colonists recorded the Atikamekw as "Atikamegouékhi" to transliterate their name for themselves. The Atikamekw were described as a group of 500 to 600 people who made up "one of the nations more considerable of the north."

For food, they fished, hunted, and trapped. They supplemented their diet with agricultural products made and processed by women, such as corn and maple syrup. The latter was boiled to reduce as a syrup after sap was tapped from maple trees. Both men and women made tools from wood and animal parts, such as bone and tendon. The women made clothing from tanned animal hides. Tribal members traded with other native peoples in nearby areas, but trading networks connected along long distances. In summer, the Atikamekw would gather at places like Wemotaci. In the fall, they would pack for the winter season and disperse into smaller encampments through the boreal forest.

After the French entered the trading network, they introduced new, European manufactured goods, such as metal tools. The Atikamekw traded furs for such goods, becoming increasingly dependent on European goods in the fur trade. They were described as peaceful, sharing the region with the Innu (Montagnais) in the east, the Cree in the north, and the Algonquin to the south. The Mohawk of the Iroquois Confederacy, whose five nations were based south of the Great Lakes, competed with them for the lucrative beaver trade and over hunting grounds. Through their Innu allies, the Atikamekw caught new infectious diseases that were endemic among the Europeans. Around 1670-1680, a smallpox epidemic devastated the Atikamekw tribe.

The French pulled the Atikamekw into a trade war between the Montagnais (Innu) and the Mohawk, in which the Atikamekw and Innu did not fare well. The more powerful Mohawk killed many Atikamekw who had survived the smallpox.

However, at the start of the 18th century, a group called "Tête-de-Boule" by the French reappeared in the region. While there exists no certainty as to the origin of this group, they may have been a regrouping of the few Atikamekw survivors who were possibly associated with other indigenous nomadic tribes. But they are considered unrelated to the former Atikamekw even though they lived in the same area and took on the same name.

Today, the Atikamekw, like their historical allies, the Innu, have suffered from mercury poisoning due to contamination of their water supply by the operations of the central electric power companies before much environmental regulation.

The Atikamekw recognizes six seasons in the year, each with a principal activity. The seasons begin with Sîkon, in late winter. The Atikamekw use this time to make bark baskets, which they can use to hold the maple sap gathered at this time of year. After Sîkon is Mirôskamin, what European Canadians would call Spring. In this season, the Atikamekw generally fished and hunted for partridge. These activities continue through Nîpin (Summer).

During Takwâkin (autumn), the Atikamekw would go hunting for moose. A successful hunt required the careful removal of the skin of the moose, making offerings, and processing the meat for preservation through smoking and drying for moose "jerky." Women worked to make the hides usable: remove the hairs from the moose hide; soak, deflesh and tan the hide; and cut it into thin, flexible strips to weave snowshoe netting. During the onset of winter or Pîtcipipôn, the men would trap for beaver. During the winter or Pipôn, the men would make nets to fish under the ice, while others produce snowshoes.

The Atikamekw divides the year into 12 months in conjunction with the seasons. The month names are based on the primary activity or observation of nature in that period. The months are:

Gilles Moar, porteur de traditions Atikamekw