Tshishennish Pasteen

The son of John Pasteen (Mishtauipeu) and Manishan (Kakuishkuess), Tshishennish was born near the former Hudson's Bay Company post of Uashkanikanish (Fort McKenzie) in northern Quebec in 1914 at a time when the Innu still speared caribou as they crossed the George River, hunted with bow and arrow, wore caribou hide clothing, and lived in tepees and shaputuans (multi-family lodges). He married Mani-Tenesh Rich (Mineshkuesh), daughter of the former chief, Shushepish Rich, in 1939, and had 9 children with her. Tshishennish passed away on August 25, 2004, in Natuashish.

A member of the Barren Ground Band that traded at Uashkanikanish, Fort McKenzie, Utshimassit (Davis Inlet) and Emish (Voisey's Bay), Tshishennish was one of the last links to the old nomadic way of life at the edge of the boreal forest. His people often experienced great hardship due to the harshness of the Labrador winters, and periodic failure of the George River caribou herd to migrate along expected paths. Starvation and European diseases such as measles and tuberculosis took their toll.

But Tshishennish survived such tribulations and became a living library of traditional knowledge for his people. He was a vital link between the past and the present, and many younger Innu people benefited from his storytelling and experience. Anthropologists, museum curators, journalists, and filmmakers sought him out to learn about the old ways and how contact with the global culture had changed the Innu.

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