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Atikamekw SnowShoe Expedition 2014

CommunityJames Hipkiss

Between June 1999 and March 2001, Bert Poff and Kiki Nrdiz travelled several times to Atikamekw Gerald Ottawas bush camp where he taught them, both in summer and winter, many traditional skills and bushcraft techniques. Geralds wilderness camp was located on the shore of Lake Kempt, about 22 km from Manawan. Thanks to him, Bert and Kiki were later introduced to many other families of Canadian First Nations.

For over 13 years Bert and Kiki have kept in touch with Manawan always dreaming of the day when they would be able to return to this magical land. Now its high time for a new adventure in their beloved Atikamekw area. In February 2014 Bert and Kiki will travel unsupported and in traditional Attikamekw style in the midst of the Canadian winter through Attikamkw territory in Qubec. They will make use of ancient means of travel, developed by generations of First Nations and Voyageurs: traditional mukluks, babiche snowshoes and handcrafted wood toboggans and a lightweight heated winter wall tent and wood stove, all still of great use even in the 21st century.

They will be travelling for about twenty days through Northern bush country and frozen lakes in an extremely cold and windy climate and among the Atikamekw communities Obedjiwan and Manawan. Members of the Atikamekw communities will walk together with them through the land, sharing knowledge and history of their ancient land. The goals of this adventure are: Explore and teach the traditional Atikamekw ways of winter traveling and their history and culture Promote sustainable eco-tourism on the Atikamekw territory Inspire people to go outdoors and discover the beauty of our planet Promote GoodPlanet Belgium, France and Switzerland Tourisme Mananwan (www.voyageamerindiens.com) will take care of the logistics and organisation The Atikamekw are the indigenous inhabitants of the area they refer to as Nitaskinan (Our Land), in the upper Saint-Maurice River valley of Quebec (about 300 kilometres (190 mi) north of Montreal), Canada.

Their population currently stands at around 4500. One of the main communities is Manawan, about 160 kilometres (99 mi) northeast of Montreal. They have a tradition of agriculture as well as fishing, hunting and gathering. They have close traditional ties with the Innu people, who were their historical allies against the Inuit. The Atikamekw language, a variant of the Cree language in the Algonquian family, is still in everyday use, making it therefore among the indigenous languages least threatened with extinction.

But, their homeland has largely been appropriated by logging companies and their ancient way of life is near extinct. Their name, which literally means Whitefish, is sometimes also spelt Atihkamekw, Attikamekw, Attikamek, or Atikamek. A small number of families still earn their living making traditional birch bark baskets and canoes. "