In our culture, you have to have dreamt of the drum three times before being allowed to play it. According to a belief, those who play it without having had the dreams will die younger. Amongst the Innu, the Teueikan is first and foremost a survival tool, a direct link with the land of dreams. It’s the dreams that launch the drum making process. As far as I know, you haven’t had those three dreams.Read Aline Fontaine 's The Sacred Object
Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam
I am an Innu from the Uashat mak Mani-Utenam community. When I was born, I was adopted by a couple from that village. My biological mother is from the Naskapie region of Kawawachikamach. She had ten kids, and I was the ninth of the family. I always felt lucky to have been raised by these people. I am their first kid. Today, I realize that this is the best gift life has ever offered me. I don’t deny my roots: two nations live in me and I am really proud of it.
My adoptive father brought me to write this text. At school, when I write texts, they always have something to do with him. He died almost four years ago. My dad inspires me every day. To me, he’s more than simply a man who raised me. I am thankful that God put him on my path. As a kid, I wasn’t aware of how important his work was. I just remember being his biggest fan. Now, I realize that he was a lot more than simply a singer, and I regret that I haven’t asked him more questions. My dad has a huge place in my life, even though he’s in a different world now.
Around here, almost all musicians play the guitar. Very few people play the drums, apart from the elders. In our culture, you have to have dreamt of the drum three times before being allowed to play it. According to a belief, those who play it without having had the dreams will die younger. Amongst the Innu, the Teueikan is first and foremost a survival tool, a direct link with the land of dreams. It’s the dreams that launch the drum making process. As far as I know, you haven’t had those three dreams.
You were born in Maliotenam, you lived in Maliotenam, you died in Maliotenam. You weren’t shy when it came to showing how proud you were of your origins. It all started for you with a traditional dance group. You were in your twenties. In very little time, you became the soul of the Carcajou band. You did many concerts in Québec and in France, and success was always there with you. After about ten years spent in their company, you decided you wanted to keep doing this project with young people. Because of you, many had the chance to travel and to live such an experience. The one who was called a savage in the schools he attended was determined to help and set and example, as best as he could. You wished for all the First Nations youth to be proud of their origins and not to let go of their culture.
In your Montagnais songs, you liked to say things as they were. So you sang your people, your worries and your survival for over 30 years. The message you were sending out reached the people, and your music naturally led to traditional dancing since your rhythms were so inspiring. Three words were the foundation of all your texts: culture, language, tradition. Even though you have six in total, you asserted your story, you dedicated your work to your grandparents and you talked about Indian solidarity concerning the land the Whites had stolen. On stage, you gave yourself, your body and soul, to your audience.
Here, people called you Mishtamek. In Innu, that means “whale”. The day before your funeral, I had no clue where that name came from. People, talking about you, actually said “Ka Utapanashkutshet”. That nickname refers to one of your most famous songs. You know, since you’ve been gone, many singers like to sing that one to pay tribute to you. My favourite however is the one you wrote for us, your two daughters. In that song, you say how much you love us, and that you will never hurt us. You also say that you pray God every night that he will take care of us. Now I know you’re the one watching over us.
Today, I think you're the one who chose this instrument, not him. Despite the elders forbidding it, you followed your heart and chose to express yourself with the Teueikan. Your destiny was to be a drum singer and to die without being done living. Before your death, I didn’t understand why people say the best ones go first. Now I do. Did our creator want to punish you for not having believed in this belief? I don’t know... I guess he needed you in the land of the spirits.
Your voice, your rhythms when your Teueikan would resound have left unforgettable traces in the memory and the heart of people throughout the cities you have visited across the world.
Rest in peace Nuta.