Culture & Heritage

The lively history of the Lower North Shore coupled with its remoteness has resulted in a unique local culture that is expressed in language, craft and daily life.

The lively history of the Lower North Shore coupled with its remoteness has resulted in a unique local culture that is expressed in language, craft and daily life. Some 5,000 Coasters live in 14 different villages, many not linked by road. Livelihoods once revolved around harvesting cod and seals, and many people still fish, trap and hunt seal for a living. Of Innu, Inuit, Québécois, Acadian, Newfoundland, British and Jersey origin, today’s local residents speak Innu, French or English, an unusual linguistic mix for the province of Quebec. Culinary traditions reflect these many influences, while making use of local wildberries, game and fish. In the quaint fishing villages of the Lower North Shore, colourful wooden houses perched on rocky outcroppings call to mind Newfoundland fishing outport architecture.


There are two Aboriginal communities on the Lower North Shore: the village of Pakua Shipi and the Unamen Shipu reserve. Residents of both communities belong to the Innu nation. Although the words Innu and Inuit sound similar, they actually refer to two distinct groups of people. The Innu speak Innu-aiman, a language belonging to the Algonkian linguistic family. When the French first arrived to the Lower North Shore, they referred to its inhabitants as Montagnais, or mountaineers, after the rugged landscape where they lived. Today, Innu is the preferred and commonly used name. It means “human being.” The Inuit, called Eskimos by early European explorers, represent a later movement of people in Canada. Although the Lower North Shore bears intriguing traces of Inuit presence, there is no modern Inuit community in the region

The Innu and the Inuit devised ingenious inventions for living on the land. These included snowshoes, kayaks, canoes, dog sleds and toboggans, objects that were crucial to human existence in the region.


French and English pioneers adopted the spirit and techniques of self-reliance from the Innu, known for their handmade birchbark canoes. Many residents all along the Coast still build their own houses, wharves, boats, furniture, dogsleds, and snowshoes. A few women still make sealskin boots, mittens, hats, quilts, and hooked mats. In the early 1900s, the famous medical Grenfell Mission worked with local women to raise the resourceful hooked mat tradition to a world-renowned art form. Today, residents preserve these skills by crafting homemade model boats, furniture, quilts, wall-hangings, mats, knitting, sealskin boots, moccasins and artwork. Craft shops and demonstration sites along the Lower North Shore showcase and sell these traditional objects.


Hospitality and solidarity continue to be key attributes of local culture, enabling families to adapt to the rugged and challenging geography.

Traditionally, entire households moved to offshore islands every summer to be near the fishing grounds. In winter, families retreated inland where they could hunt and cut wood for heating. It was once common to see people towing wooden houses behind boats in summer or across the ice in winter. Innu communities along the Lower North Shore were among the last in Canada to maintain a seasonal, nomadic lifestyle. They travelled upriver in August, spent winters inland, and returned every summer to fish.