I Keep the Land Alive
Labrador Innu cultural and environmental activist Tshaukuesh Elizabeth Penashue is well-known both within and far beyond the Innu Nation. The recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award and an honorary doctorate from Memorial University, she has been a subject of documentary films, books, and numerous articles. She led the Innu campaign against NATO’s low-level flying and bomb testing on Innu land during the 1980s and ’90s, and was a key respondent in a landmark legal case in which the judge held that the Innu had the “colour of right” to occupy the Canadian Forces base in Goose Bay, Labrador. Over the past twenty years she has led walks and canoe trips in nutshimit, “on the land,” to teach people about Innu culture and knowledge.
Nitinikiau Innusi: I Keep the Land Alive began as a diary written in Innu-aimun, in which Tshaukuesh recorded day-to-day experiences, court appearances, and interviews with reporters. Tshaukuesh has always had a strong sense of the importance of documenting what was happening to the Innu and their land. She also found keeping a diary therapeutic, and her writing evolved from brief notes into a detailed account of her own life and reflections on Innu land, culture, politics, and history.
Beautifully illustrated, this work contains numerous images by professional photographers and journalists as well as archival photographs and others from Tshaukuesh’s own collection.
- FEATURED TITLE, NL Reads (Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries) (2020)
- SHORTLISTED TITLE, BMO Winterset Award (NL Arts) (2020)
“Tshaukuesh’s diary is sad, funny, resolute, eloquent, and real. Anyone interested in Innu traditional life and the struggle of the Innu today will want to read about the life of an Innu woman who fights for her people and the land, and who never, ever gives up.“
– Julie Rak, Professor, Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
“Here is the diary of a living legend. It is also a diary for today, an invitation to follow the steps of our ancestors through a single Innu woman whose love for the land never falls apart even within the biggest struggle storms of our time. The Innu people always believed in dream and imagination to travel through lands if physically we couldn’t. We can walk now with Tshaukuesh Penashue.”
– Natasha Kanapé Fontaine, Innu poet and actress
“The book Nitinikiau Innusi: I keep the Land Alive, shows how one woman can make a difference. It shows how Mrs. Penashue protested against Low level flying and gives a first hand account on how it affected her people and the land. She talks of her love of the land and how much she loves it. She shows that being on the land was more healthy for people than it is these days. She shows that there was nothing in their hunting, fishing or gathering that ever caused damage or disease to a person, in fact she shows how the land helped people heal. This is a heart breaking but moving book to read for living in Labrador and helps to understand the Innu way of life.”
“The writing is simple but contains a poignant core underneath its surface. “
“Tshaukuesh (Elizabeth) Penashue’s book is a diary-based account of her efforts to preserve the way of life of her people, the Labrador Innu; it provides a vivid picture of their collective traditions while emphasizing her personal objectives for the work she has undertaken. The format of the book, developed with editor Dr. Elizabeth Yeoman, gives us not only her life but her times, showing the stages of Innu political activism and environmental concerns from the late 1980s until the present day.”
– Martha MacDonald, Labrador Institute of Memorial University, ARCTIC
“In blunt and sometimes deeply poetic language, Tshaukeush [Elizabeth Penashue] narrates the relationships that have enriched her life and fostered her life’s work. She speaks about her relationship with the land and the plants and animals that have provided sustenance for the Innu since time immemorial. […] Unsettling and difficult, life-affirming and joyful, this text and its fundamental message are urgently needed to challenge continuing colonization in Tshaukuesh’s community and all of our communities.”
– Vicki S. Hallett, Canadian Journal Of Native Studies
“Penashue brings readers into her world and allows them to see life from an Innu perspective.”
“The memoir illustrates the range of experiences and emotions that Penashue confronts and endures while advocating for Innu lands; at the same time, the memoir also makes clear that these lands form the author’s sense of identity. The most salient theme throughout the book is the conception of land not as an object or commodity but as the central being through which all is connected and made possible. Indeed, Penashue’s activism and advocacy for Innu culture is intimately wrapped up with how the land is identified and what the land does. People are not separate from the land; rather people work either for or against the land, which makes Penashue’s memoir and activism a touchstone text for land protection and Indigenous resistance.”
About the Authors
Tshaukuesh Elizabeth Penashue is well known as a cultural and environmental activist. Her work has been recognized by a National Aboriginal Achievement award, an honorary doctorate from Memorial University, and numerous media interviews and profiles, articles and consultations.
Elizabeth Yeoman is a retired professor who now works full-time as a writer and activist. She lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.