English: Davis Inlet, August 1903. An early 20th-century photograph of Innu traders gathered outside the Hudson's Bay Company post in Davis Inlet, Labrador.

Français : Davis Inlet, août 1903 Sur cette photo du début du siècle, des Innus venus traiter sont réunis devant le magasin de la Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson de Davis Inlet, au Labrador.

Date August 1903

The Innu / Ilnu ("man", "person") or Innut / Innuat / Ilnuatsh ("people"), formerly called Montagnais from the French colonial period (French for "mountain people", are the Indigenous inhabitants of the territory in the northeastern portion of the present-day province of Labrador and some portions of Quebec. They refer to their traditional homeland as Nitassinan ("Our Land", ᓂᑕᔅᓯᓇᓐ) or Innu-assi ("Innu Land").

The Innu are divided into several bands, with the Montagnais being the southernmost group and the Naskapi being the northernmost.

Their ancestors were known to have lived on these lands as hunter-gatherers for several thousand years. To support their seasonal hunting migrations, they created portable tents made of animal skins. Their subsistence activities were historically centred on hunting and trapping caribou, moose, deer, and small game.

Their language, Ilnu-Aimun or Innu-Aimun (popularly known since the French colonial era as Montagnais), is spoken throughout Nitassinan, with certain dialect differences. It is part of the Cree language group and is unrelated to the Inuit languages of other nearby peoples.

The "Innu / Ilnu" consists of two regional tribal groups, which differ in dialect and partly also in their way of life and culture:

Both groups are still called "Montagnais" in the official language of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Development Canada. The Naskapi ("people beyond the horizon", ᓇᔅᑲᐱ), who live further north, also identify as Innu or Iyiyiw.

Today, about 18,000 Innu live in eleven settlements within reserves in Québec and Labrador. To avoid confusion with the Inuit, who belong to the Eskimo peoples, today only the singular form "Innu / Ilnu" is used for the Innu, members of the large Cree-language family. The plural form of "Innut / Innuat / Ilnuatsh" has been abandoned.

Labrador Communities

Although Sheshatshiu and Natuashish are home to most of the province's Innu people, some also live at Labrador City, Wabush, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, St. John's, and elsewhere.

Quebec Communities

More of 3,300 members

1 Innus of Ekuanitshit || Ekuanitshit || 682

2 Montagnais de Natashquan || Natashquan ||1179

3 Montagnais de Pakua Shipi ||Pakuashipi (Saint-Augustin) || 394

Reserve community: St. Augustin Indian Settlement, Population: 398

4 Montagnais de Unamen Shipu || La Romaine ||1225

Reserve: Romaine #2, c. 40 ha, Population: 1,232

Conseil tribal Mamuitun

Around 17,000 members

1 Bande des Innus de Pessamit || Pessamit || 3,962

2 Innu Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam || Sept-Îles || 4,687

Reserves: Maliotenam #27A, c. 16 km east of Sept-Îles, Uashat #27 in the City of Sept-Îles, c. 6 km2, Population: 4,813

3 Innue Essipit || Essipit || 790

4 La Nation Innu Matimekush-Lac John || Schefferville || 1014

5 Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation || Mashteuiatsh || 6,761


(Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach), Reserve: Kawawachikamach, c. 49 km2, Population 2020: 639

The Innu were historically allied with neighbouring Atikamekw, Maliseet and Algonquin peoples against their enemies, the Algonquian-speaking Mi'kmaq and Iroquoian-speaking Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (known as Haudenosaunee. During the Beaver Wars (1609-1701), the Iroquois repeatedly invaded the Innu territories from their homelands south of the Great Lakes. They took women and young males as captive slaves and plundered their hunting grounds in search of more furs. Since these raids were made by the Iroquois with unprecedented brutality, the Innu themselves adopted the torment, torture, and cruelty of their enemies. 

The Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, of Quebec, signed a comprehensive land claims settlement, the Northeastern Quebec Agreement; they did so in 1978. As a consequence, the Naskapi of Kawawachikamach is no longer subject to certain provisions of the Indian Act. All the Innu communities of Quebec are still subject to the Act.