Gorsebrook Research Institute

Ashkui Project

1. Publications: Ashkui Project Chapter

2. Environment Canada Feature: Combining TEK and Western Science

The research undertaken to date has included a case study that had examined the feasibility of the Cultural Landscape Unit (CLU) approach. Fieldwork conducted by an anthropologist from the Gorsebrook Research Institute with Innu from Sheshatshiu examined areas known as ashkui in the Innu language. Ashkui are areas of early or permanent open water on rivers, lakes and estuaries. These are frequently the sites of contemporary Innu family camps. Innu oral history and archeological evidence suggests this has been the case for many generations. Ashkui are critical habitats for migratory birds, fish and other animals. The dynamics of the relationship of ice, ashkui, and animals are well known to Innu. Working together, the goal was to understand how these elements of the landscape work and what they indicate about ecosystem vitality and change.

The original concept for this initiative was developed at a planning meeting in Sheshatshiu hosted by the Innu Nation where the ashkui landscape element was identified by Innu elders as being of primary importance. Subsequent to this original meeting comprehensive project proposals have been developed, the indigenous knowledge and oral history research mentioned above was initiated, and several additional planning meetings have taken place. In August of 1998, the Innu Nation hosted an in-country, camp based meeting at an ashkui that brought together approximately twenty researchers with Innu elders to further discuss and develop the project. In the spring of 1999, co-researchers from the Innu Nation and scientists from Environment Canada initiated a water chemistry monitoring program at selected ashkui sites. During the spring of 2000, this work expanded to include research on fish and waterfowl patterns and abundance at these sites and through a partnership with the Canada Ice Center, we will use Radarsat to map spatial and temporal patterns of ashkui in Labrador.

An ashkui based research workshop was held in May 2000 at Seal Lake . The workshop included Innu elders, project partners form the CCRS, Environment Canada, and the Gorsebrook Research Institute. Also present were observers from Innu Environmental, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and the Atlantic Veterinary College. This workshop provided an opportunity for sharing information, generation research questions, and building on existing relationships. Envigorated by the workshop, Innu and non-Innu researchers spent the subsequent months gathering new data and doing analysis. Afterwords, the Gorserbook Research Institute produced reports based on the meeting and publications from fieldwork on ashkui done to date. Additionally, the Institute held an Ashkui Symposium in January 2001on Innu and scientific perspectives on the landscape of Labrador.