"Uetshu" as in "learning from experience
The observation is simple, but not without concern: the disparity of opportunities between the Innu of the community of Pessamit and the population from the rest of the territory is a fundamental issue. Yet, there are only 50 km between Pessamit and Baie-Comeau. And unfortunately, the education, employment, and entrepreneurship prospects are often limited for these young people who were born 50 km away and so is success in general...
We cannot stand by and watch this injustice unfold. As modest as it may be, the Innu Council of Pessamit and the Manicouagan-Uapishka World Biosphere Reserve (MUWBR) felt the need to take concrete action, particularly with young people who are experiencing major challenges in integrating into the workplace.
Thus, the "Uetshu" project was created in 2017. Since then, more than a dozen full-time seasonal jobs have been created at the Uapishka Station, for young people between 18 and 24 years old. Piling potatoes, chopping wood, fishing for supper, fixing a shelf, sweeping a broom, lighting a fire, to name a few, are examples of daily tasks. And beyond these practical responsibilities, the contact with the ancestral Innu territory – the Nitassinan - in a place as mythical and inspiring as the Uapishka (Groulx) Mountains, may raise awareness on the Indigenous heritage’s value, the knowledge of a thousand-year-old people.
In short, we set the conditions for these young adults to reconnect with their identity, build their self-confidence and feel valued in their daily lives.
The result we are most proud of is that 75% of the young people involved in the "Uetshu" project have subsequently returned to the labour market or school. This proves that our goal of offering an experience that challenges predictions and shortens the 50 km is worth it!