Between June 1999 and March 2001, Bert Poffé and Kiki Nárdiz travelled several times to Atikamekw Gerald Ottawa’s bush camp where he taught them, both in summer and winter, many traditional skills and bushcraft techniques. Gerald’s 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 it’s 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 Québec. They will make use of ancient means of travel, developed by generations of First Nations and Voyageurs:traditional mukluks, babiche snowshoes and handcraftedwood 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.
Patron of the ATIKAMEKW SNOWSHOE EXPEDITION 2014: Paul Emile Ottawa Chef de Conseil de Manawan
Explorers: Kiki NARDIZ & Bert POFFE
Basecamp: Organisation, communication and logistics
It is with eagerness and enthusiasm that I accept to become the patron of Bert and Kiki’s Atikamekw Snowshoe Expedition 2014 which will pass through the Atikamekw territory. The whole Atikamekw nation is proud and honored to put its territory at the disposal of this important event which will bring together leading actors in issues of nature conservation and sustainable development. It is with great excitement that I await this adventurous and important initiative being launched by Bert and Kiki Paul Emile Ottawa Council Chief of Mananwan
C'est avec empressement et enthousiasme que j'ai accepter de parrainer l'expedition hivernale de fevrier 2014 et qui traversera leTerritoire Atikamekw. Toute la Nation Atikamekw est fiere et honoree de mettre son territoire a la disposition de cet evenement important qui reunira des acteurs de premier plan en matiere de preservation, de conservation et de developpement durable. C'est avec beaucoup de febrilite que j'attends Bert et Kiki.
Paul Emile Ottawa Chef de Conseil de Mananwan
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.
The early documents begin to mention the Atikamekw at beginning of the 17th century, when they lived in the boreal forest of the upper Mauricie. They had formed themselves into a group of 500 to 600 people, thus present themselves as “one of the nations more considerable of the north”. In these early documents, the Atikamekw were recorded as “Atikamegouékhi”.
For food, they fished, hunted, and trapped, supplementing their diet with agricultural products such as corn and maple syrup that the Atikamekw made by boiling the sap extracted from maple trees. Implements would be made of wood and clothing of animal hides. Other necessities were obtained through trade with tribes in nearby areas. During the summertime, the Atikamekw would gather at places like Wemotaci. Then, in the fall, they would pack up and disperse through the boreal forest for the winter. When the French arrived in the region, the Atikamekw became increasingly dependent on externally controlled trade, particularly the fur trade. They were considered a peaceful people, sharing the region with the Innu (Montagnais) in the east, the Cree in the north, and Algonquin to the south. But they had conflicts with the Mowhaks Through their Innu allies, the Atikamekw caught devastating diseases that were brought over by the Europeans. Around 1670-1680, a smallpox epidemic devastated the Atikamekw tribe. The French pulled the Atikamekw into a trade war between the Montagnais (Innus) and the Iroquois in which the Atikamekw and Innus did not fare well. Those Atikamekw who had survived the smallpox were slaughtered by the Iroquois. However, at the start of the 18th century, a group called “Tête-de-Boule” 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 and who were possibly associated with other indigenous nomadic tribes. But they are considered to be 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 Innus, suffer from mercury poisoning due to the central electric power companies that had contaminated the water supply. Despite all these events, the Atikamekw were not moved off their traditional grounds.
The Atikamekw have their own traditional culture, language and rituals, though they had strong influences from the neighboring peoples. From this grouping, three prominent communities developed, where each of the three communities spoke the same language but with unique dialects reflecting each of the three. Members of the tribe as a whole generally speak the Atikamekw language, but the majority do not write it.
Traditionally, the Atikamekw lived in dome-shaped homes, covered with bark called “piskokan”. The floor was carpeted with spruce boughs and furs were used as beds and blankets. The Atikamekw developed a technique for preserving meat by smoking and drying, a process still practiced by some families. Collected berries were processed into a paste that could be preserved for several weeks.
The making of hunting equipment (bows, snowshoes, dogsleds) as well as clothing and blankets, was in former times a task necessary for survival. Like all First Nations, the Atikamekw stood apart by a special way to decorate their clothing. One distinguishing feature was the bells covering their ceremonial robes that were made of bones emptied of the marrow.
The Atikamekw have been recognized for their skill in crafting birch bark items such as baskets and canoes, decorated with beautiful designs. These skills were always transmitted from generation to generation so that even today they are still practiced, giving them the nickname “people of the bark”. Interestingly, handicrafts made from birch bark is less practiced in Obedjiwan than in other communities since it is located in the boreal forest where conifer trees dominate.
Expedition logo, created by artist VIVIANNE FRIEDBERG
Vivianne’s life was full of traveling, moving and work. She has seen and lived through many experiences and expressed her personality through her writing, dancing and painting. Vivianne worked as an international marketing professional for many years. She survived a broken neck and a dangerous, complicated surgery and as a consequence was not able to return to the regular job market. Her gift of being a painter has given her back her sense of life.
Vivianne now works as an artist and has had several exhibitions, TV interviews and newspaper reports in Germany. Currently she is living in Sweden.
Vivanne: “I wanted to make this logo for Bert and Kiki’s expedition because I am fascinated by their work and projects. I love nature and feel more then comfortable to be in it. If it were not for my damaged neck, I would give the world to join them on the Atikamekw Snowshoe Expediton”.
Since 1997 GoodPlanet Belgium has taught youngsters and adults how to lead a sustainable life. 50 employees and dozens of volunteers from all corners of Belgium share their know-how and passion for sustainable development every day.
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On February 2nd, 2014, we will be flying from Brussels to Montreal, from which we will be heading north along with a team from Tourisme Manawan. The ATIKAMEKW SNOWSHOE EXPEDITION 2014 will take off in Obedjiwan, one of the three Atikamekw communities at about 625 km north of Montréal. After the expedition, Tourisme Manawan will drive us back from Manawan to Montréal (260 km) to fly back home to Brussels on Saturday the 22nd.
Unfortunately, all flights and transport have and leave and important carbon footprint and thus, an impact on climate change. In order to reduce this impact, we will offset the CO2 emissions of this expedition by supporting a Gold Standard certified project with CO2logic. Along with Antoine , the co-founder of our long term partner, C02logic, we have decided to support the followingWoodstove project in Uganda
Thank you Antoine Geerinckx and co2logic for your support!