Built on the shore of Pekuakami (Lac Saint-Jean) in 1977, the mission of the Native Museum of Mashteuiatsh (Musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh, in French) is to protect, develop and promote Ilnu cultural heritage and transmit it to future generations.
When visiting the museum, located less than 300 kilometres north of Quebec City, you are transported to a time when the Innu/Ilnu people of this region — living today on the Mashteuiatsh reserve — traversed the waters in their canoes and enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle governed by the seasons.
Some 6,000 years ago, following the melting of the glaciers, the Tshishennuatsh (ancestors of the Ilnuatsh) penetrated the heart of the Canadian Shield. The first humans to set foot there, they gradually occupied the entire watershed that drains into the Saguenay and Pekuakami. Their fur coats and boots protected them from harsh winter winds. Intricately beaded jackets and dresses spoke of a creative outlook. And feathered headdresses reflected a love of ceremony.
Today, near the museum — which features temporary exhibits, a boutique souvenir store and a permanent installation called “The Spirit of Pekuakamiulnu” — one can paddle the well-travelled rivers by canoe or walk the Nuhtshimitsh interpretation trail and learn about traditional shelter, travel, food and medicine in the boreal forest.