Cree and Innu leaders sign off on caribou hunt to protect herds

Cree and Innu

'For the Innu, the caribou is an integral part of our identity,' says Mike McKenzie, chief of Uashat Mak Mani-utenam.


Cree and Innu chiefs in Northern Quebec signed off on a Traditional Mutual Understanding (TMU) about the caribou hunt to protect it for generations to come.

It establishes how Innu will be able to access caribou on the traditional Cree territory of Chisasibi, Eeyou Itschtee and to prevent caribou herd numbers from dwindling further.

“The reason why we call this historic event a mutual understanding between two nations is because, during the many meetings over the years regarding the caribou file, our Elders continuously reminded us of what our ancestors did long ago. They made efforts to understand one another,” said Chief Daisy House of the Cree Nation of Chisasibi during the virtual signing on Jan. 24.

The TMU is the result of recent years of collaboration and discussion between Indigenous nations in Northern Quebec.

Chief of Uashat Mak Mani-utenam Mike McKenzie, said this understanding was also a response to a request brought forth by Innu and Naskapi Elders in 2019 to figure out how to share the George River and Leaf River caribou herds while preserving the traditional caribou hunt.

“For the Innu, the caribou is an integral part of our identity. As traditional knowledge keepers, our respective Elders have the responsibility for the caribou at heart,” said McKenzie.

While the Leaf River herd’s numbers have remained relatively stable, the George River herd, once numbering up to 900,000 animals, now only has around 8,100 caribou left.

Also, for a community hunt to be accepted by the Cree and Innu, hunters must adhere to the TMU’s terms, including a winter harvest limit of 300 caribou for the nine Innu communities and a prohibition of for-profit hunting.

“Although the more abundant Leaf River herd can enable some access to caribou, the herd still remains vulnerable. We must be very cautious and continue our collaboration to make sure that our harvest is managed sustainably,” said Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty of the Cree Nation Government in a press release.

These terms apply to communal hunting for this winter, until March 1, 2022.

The full text of the Traditional Mutual Understanding on the Harvest of Caribou in Cree Traditional Territory of Chisasibi, Eeyou Istchee between the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee and the Innu Nation in Quebec is available at the involved First Nations’ Chief and Council offices.

Here is a summary of the TMU: 

Download (PDF, 91KB)

Emelia holds a BA in Global Political Economy from the University of Manitoba. Prior to joining the APTN News team in Montreal, she was a reporter and editor for The Manitoban and has worked as a freelance writer. Fournier is a member of the Métis Nation.