toboggan - shumin-utapanashku

Over the last century, the Innu have used three types of vehicles to transport food and belongings; atim-utapanashku (komatik), ush-tetanakanashku (sled or catamaran), and shumin-utapanashku (toboggan). The first of these, the komatik, was obtained from the Inuit and Settler people on the coast of Labrador, and was hauled by a dog team. The sled or catamaran was used at the beginning and end of the winter season when the snow was slushy and there was lots of water on the ice. The platform of this sled helped to keep food and clothing dry because it was attached on top of two runners, 10-15 cm above the traveling surface. It was also used to transport firewood and canoes during the freeze-up and break-up periods. Like the toboggan, it was usually pulled by the Innu themselves without the help of dogs.

Shumin-utapanashku (toboggan) was used after freeze-up, but always with a caribou hide or canvas sheet strapped on the top that would protect the contents from the snow and ice. The toboggan was usually made out of two thin planks cut from a tamarack or spruce tree using a sharp axe and a crooked knife. The ends were then soaked with hot water and bent to give their upturned, toboggan shape.

Listen to what Innu Elders from Natuashish and Sheshatshiu have to say about the toboggan.

Audio Matinen (Rich) Katshinak

Audio Etuat Mestenapeo

Audio Pinashue Benuen

Audio Munik (Gregoire) Rich

For information on how Innu made toboggans, visit

For a description of the Innu toboggan going back to the early 1890s, see

 Top of page