The Atikamekw are the First Nations 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 7,000. 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 variety of the Cree language in the Algic family, is in everyday use, making it therefore among the indigenous languages least threatened with extinction.[2] But their home land has largely been appropriated by logging companies and their ancient way of life is almost extinct. Their name, which literally means "lake whitefish", is sometimes also spelt "Atihkamekw", "Attikamekw", "Attikamek", or "Atikamek". The French colonists referred to them as Têtes-de-Boules, meaning "Ball-Heads" or "Round-Heads".

A small number of families make their living making traditional birch bark baskets and canoes.

À la rencontre de deux générations
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Canada ( Quebec)
Atikamekw, French
Catholic Church, Other, None
Related ethnic groups
Native American


Constant Awashish - Assermentation
Constant Awashish is the Chief of the Atikamekw Nation since 2014.
Atikamekw Population of Quebec as of September 2012 [3]
Communities First Nation official name Total Registered
Residents Non-residents
Manawan Les Atikamekw de Manawan 2,576 2,197 379
Obedjiwan Atikamekw d'Opitciwan 2,683 2,225 458
Wemotaci Conseil des Atikamekw de Wemotaci 1,730 1,358 372
Atikamekw (Total) Attikamekw Sipi - Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw 6,989 5,780 1,209


Autochtones de la Manouane vers 1900
Members of the Atikamekw Nation from the Manawan community, circa 1900.

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, and obtaining other necessities through trade with tribes in nearby areas. In summer, 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.[4]

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 Mohawks. 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.[4]

The French pulled the Atikamekw into a trade war between the Montagnais (Innu) and the Iroquois in which the Atikamekw and Innu did not fare well. Those Atikamekw who had survived the smallpox were slaughtered by the Iroquois.[4]

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.[4]

Today, the Atikamekw, like their historical allies the Innu, 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.[2]

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 had 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.[2]


The making of hunting equipment (bows, snowshoes, sled dog) 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 were the bells covering their ceremonial robes that were made of bones emptied of the marrow.[2]

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". 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.[2]

The seasons and the division of the year

Among Atikamekw, the year is divided into six seasons. In every season, there is a principal activity. The seasons begin with Sîkon, a pre-Spring in which the Atikamekw used to manufacture bark baskets, which can contain maple-sap gathered in this time of year. After Sîkon is Mirôskamin, Spring proper. In this season, the Atikamekw would go fishing and partridge hunting. These activities continue through Nîpin (Summer). During Takwâkin (autumn), the Atikamekw would go moose hunting. A successful hunt required the careful removal of the skin of the moose, offerings are made, and then the meat is jerkied for preservation. Women would continue to remove the hairs from the moose hide, then soak, deflesh and tan the hide, then make thin strips of leather for snowshoe netting. During the onset of winter, or Pîtcipipôn, the men would go trap for beavers. During the winter, or Pipôn, the men would make nets to fish under the ice, while others produce snowshoes.[2]

In conjunction with the seasons, the Atikamekw divides the year into 12 months. The month names are based on the primary activity the Atikamekw society engaged themselves in. The months are:

  • Kenôsitc Pisimw – January: Longest [Winter] Moon
  • Akokatcic Pisimw – February: Groundhog Emerges Moon
  • Nikikw Pisimw – March: Otter Moon
  • Kâ Wâsikatotc Pisimw – April: Reflects on the Ice Moon
  • Wâpikon Pisimw – May: Flower Moon
  • Otehimin Pisimw – June: Strawberry Moon
  • Mikomin Pisimw – July: Raspberry Moon
  • Otâtokon Pisimw – August: [Bird] Fledges Moon
  • Kâkône Pisimw – September: Porcupine Mates Moon
  • Namekosi Pisimw – October: Trout [Spawns] Moon
  • Atikamekw Pisimw – November: Whitefish [Spawns] Moon
  • Pîtcipipôn Pisimw – December: Winter Arrives Moon


  1. ^ "Aboriginal Ancestry Responses (73), Single and Multiple Aboriginal Responses (4), Residence on or off reserve (3), Residence inside or outside Inuit Nunangat (7), Age (8A) and Sex (3) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2016 Census - 25% Sample Data". Government of Canada. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Cultures et traditions" (in French). Conseil des Atikamekw d'Opitciwan. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2010-03-09.
  3. ^ "Tribal Council Detail". First Nation Profiles. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Archived from the original on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d "L'histoire des Atikamekw" (in French). Laurianne Petiquay C.A.W. Éducation. Retrieved 2010-03-12.

External links

Atikamekw language

Atikamekw, which the endonym is Atikamekw Nehiromowin, literally the "Atikamekw Native language", is an Algonquian language, Cree, is the language of the Atikamekw people of southwestern Quebec. It is spoken by nearly all the Atikamekw, and therefore it is among the indigenous languages least threatened with extinction according to some studies. The Atikamekw reflex of Proto-Algonquian liquid ("L" sound) *l is [ɾ] (spelled 'r'). The corresponding sound in other Cree dialects is [n], [j], [l], or [ð] (it is consistently one of these depending on the dialect). Another way in which Atikamekw is distinctive among dialects of Cree is in having many loanwords from the Anishinaabe language.

Atikamekw of Manawan

Atikamekw of Manawan (French: Les Atikamekw de Manawan) are an Atikamekw First Nation in Quebec, Canada. They live primarily in the Atikamekw community of Manawan, an Indian reserve located in Lanaudière. In 2016, the band has a registered population of 2,892 members. It is governed by the Manawan Atikamekw Council (French: Conseil Atikamekw de Manawan) and is affiliated with the Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw, the Atikamekw tribal council.

Atikamekw of Opitciwan

Atikamekw of Opitciwan (French: Atikamekw d'Opitciwan) are an Atikamekw First Nation in Quebec, Canada. In 2016, it has a registered population of 2,937 members. They live primarily on an Indian reserve, Obedjiwan 28, located in Mauricie.

Bible translations into Cree

Bible translations into Cree can be subdivided by dialect of the Cree language. The main dialects are Plains Cree language, Woods Cree language, Swampy Cree language, Moose Cree language, Northern East Cree language, Southern East Cree language, Kawawachikamach, Atikamekw language and the Montagnais language (Western Innu and Eastern Innu).

Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw

The Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw (CNA) (French for "Council of the Atikamekw Nation"), officially named Atikamekw Sipi - Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw, is a tribal council in Quebec, Canada. It is composed of the three Atikamekw bands: Manawan, Opitciwan and Wemotaci. Together, the three bands have a total registered population of 7,747 members in 2016. It is headquartered in La Tuque, Quebec. The role of the CNA is to officially represent all Atikamekw Nehirowisiw. In September 2014, the CNA declared its sovereignty on its ancestral territory, the Nitaskinan, covering approximately 80,000 km2.

Constant Awashish

Constant Awashish (born in 1981 in La Tuque, Quebec) is an Atikamekw chief. Since 2014, he is the Grand Chief of the Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw (CNA), the tribal council uniting the three Atikamekw Nations. He is known to have declared the sovereignty on their ancestral territory, the Nitaskinan, with the other Atikamekw chiefs.

Coucoucache Indian Reserve No. 24

Coucoucache (officially designated as Coucoucache 24A) was a tiny First Nation reserve, in Cloutier Township, on the north shore of Reservoir Blanc on the Saint-Maurice River in the Mauricie region of Quebec, Canada. It belonged to the Atikamekw First Nation of Wemotaci but had no permanent population in recent decades.The reserve was an enclave within the City of La Tuque, approximately 48 kilometres (30 mi) north-west of La Tuque's town centre, but it was dissolved on January 2, 2010, and added to the city.

Cree language

Cree (also known as Cree–Montagnais–Naskapi) is a dialect continuum of Algonquian languages spoken by approximately 117,000 people across Canada, from the Northwest Territories to Alberta to Labrador. If classified as one language, it is the aboriginal language with the highest number of speakers in Canada. The only region where Cree has any official status is in the Northwest Territories, alongside eight other aboriginal languages. There, Cree is spoken mainly in Fort Smith and Hay River.

Grand-Remous, Quebec

Grand-Remous is a town and municipality in La Vallée-de-la-Gatineau Regional County Municipality, Quebec, Canada. The municipality is south of the Baskatong Reservoir, spanning both sides of the Gatineau River. The town is situated at the intersection of Route 117 and Route 105.

"Grand-Remous" is French for "great eddy" and is a reference to a large whirlpool on the Gatineau River near the Grand Remous Chute. This name matches the Atikamekw name "Obémiticwang", also meaning "choppy waters" or "big stir."Its territory consists of low hills which vary between 200 meters (660 ft) and 380 meters (1,250 ft) above sea level, and which are partly cleared, mostly around Grand-Remous and along highway 105.

Indigenous peoples in Quebec

Indigenous peoples in Quebec (French: Peuples autochtones du Québec) total 11 distinct ethnic groups. The 10 First Nations and the Inuit communities number 141,915 people and account for approximately 2% of the population of Quebec, Canada.

Jacques Newashish

Jacques Newashish (1958) is a Canadian film actor, filmmaker, painter, and sculptor. Newashish is a member of the Atikamekw nation and is from Wemotaci, Quebec. He was born in La Tuque, Quebec where he learned traditional values and ways of living. His father was a trapper and hunter and the language and culture of the Atikamekw people. Newashish incorporates elements of Atikamekw culture into his artistic practice and is concerned with the preservation of the Atikamekw language and culture in the community.As a multidisciplinary artist, Newashish works across a variety of mediums, including sculpture, painting, film, and storytelling. His work includes installations which frequently use natural materials which reflect Atikamekw culture.Newashish garnered a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 5th Canadian Screen Awards for his performance in Before the Streets (Avant les rues).

Kwena Bellemare-Boivin

Kwena Bellemare-Boivin is a Canadian film actress, who garnered a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 5th Canadian Screen Awards for her performance in Before the Streets (Avant les rues).A member of the Atikamekw nation from Wemotaci, Quebec, she is the sister of Rykko Bellemare, who played the film's lead role. She also sings and dances with the Atikamekw traditional music group Northern Voice, and has appeared in the APTN television series Brigade des Nations and Le rythme.

List of Indian reserves in Quebec

The following is a list of Indian reserves in Quebec, Canada. This list only includes the reserves that are officially designated as Indian reserve and fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, a department of the Canadian Federal Government. Therefore, the northern villages and associated reserved lands of the Cree and Inuit are not included, as they are governed under separate law. The Naskapi village and reserved lands of Kawawachikamach and the Indian settlement of Oujé-Bougoumou are also not include as reserves.

First Nation settlements on Crown Land are:

Kitcisakik (Grand-Lac Victoria) - Algonquin

Pakua Shipu (St-Augustin) - Innu

Winneway - Algonquin


Manawan (named Manouane until 1991), officially named communauté Atikamekw de Manawan (French for "Atikamekw Community of Manawan"), is a First Nations reserve on the south-western shores of Lake Métabeskéga in the Lanaudière region of Quebec, Canada. It belongs to the Atikamekw of Manawan band of the Atikamekw Nation.The 5 kilometres long by 2 kilometres wide reserve is an enclave within the Baie-Atibenne unorganized territory, approximately 72 kilometres (45 mi) north of Saint-Michel-des-Saints. It is accessible by gravel road.

The reserve takes its name from the Manouane River that has its source nearby. The standardized writing of the Atikamekw language spells it as Manawan, and this form was adopted on January 8, 1991. It means "place where they gather eggs".


Nitaskinan is the ancestral homeland of the Atikamekw people. It is located in the valley of the Saint-Maurice River in Quebec, Canada. It covers an area of 80,000 km2. On 8 September 2014, the Conseil de la Nation Atikamekw declared unilaterally the sovereignty of the Atikamekw Nation on the Nistaskinan. The objective of this is mainly to obtain a right of review for the projects exploiting the natural resources and to highlight the Atikamekw's identity. Nistaskinan means "our land" in the Atikamekw language. From a legal perspective, according to the Indian Act, the Atikamekw have self-administration on three Indian reserves, Manawan, Obedjiwan and Wemotaci, but the Nitaskinan covers an area much wider.

Obedjiwan, Quebec

Obedjiwan (officially designated as Obedjiwan 28) is a First Nations reserve and village on the north shore of Gouin Reservoir in the Mauricie region of Quebec, Canada. It belongs to the Atikamekw d'Opitciwan band of the Atikamekw Nation.

Rykko Bellemare

Rykko Bellemare (born 1991) is a Native Canadian film actor, best known for his lead role as Shawnouk in Before the Streets (Avant les rues). He won the Prix Iris for Revelation of the Year, its award for debut performances, at the 19th Prix Iris for his work in the film.A member of the Atikamekw nation from Wemotaci, Quebec, he is the brother of Kwena Bellemare-Boivin, who played his character's sister in the film. He is a dancer, drummer and singer with the Atikamekw traditional music group Northern Voice.


Wemotaci (designated as Weymontachie 23 until 1997) is a First Nations reserve on the north shore of the Saint-Maurice River at the mouth of the Manouane River in the Mauricie region of Quebec, Canada. Together with the Obedjiwan and the Coucoucache Indian Reserve No. 24, it belongs to the Atikamekw First Nation.The reserve, an enclave within the City of La Tuque, is bordered to the west and south by the Saint-Maurice River, whereas its eastern boundary is about 3.8 kilometres (2.4 mi) long, and its northern boundary is 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi). It is accessible by gravel road from La Tuque's town centre through the hamlet of Sanmaur that is on the opposite shore of the Saint-Maurice River. Also at this location, the Canadian National Railway crosses the river and has a siding at Sanmaur.

Wemotaci Atikamekw Council

Wemotaci Atikamekw Council (French: Conseil des Atikamekw de Wemotaci) is the band council of the Atikamekw of Wemotaci, Quebec. In 2016, the band has a registered population of 1,918 members. It has two Indian reserves: Coucoucache 24A and the community of Wemotaci where it is headquartered.

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