By Nnaemeka ALI, OMI
On October 21, 2023, the Superior General, Luis Ignacio ROIS ALONSO, embarked on a visit to the ancestral lands of the Innu people residing along the Moisie and Sainte-Marguerite Rivers.
On his second day on the northern coast of Quebec, Father General was granted a unique opportunity to experience a historic and significant place for our Mazenodian family. Moreover, he had the possibility to engage with the Innu, known as the Laughing People, and experience their legendary hospitality.
Discovering a Historic Place
Ever since the Oblate Missionaries arrived in North America, the Innu along the Moisie and Sainte-Marguerite Rivers have held immense importance for them. In fact, Daniel Vachon recounts, “From their first contacts with Sept-Îles, the desire to build a first chapel on the North Coast was born among the Oblates.” This project, funded by the Propagation of the Faith and designed in 1846 at Father Honorât’s sawmill in Laterrière, shaped the relationship of the Oblates with the Innu of Sept-Îles.
This encounter was a historic moment for Father Chicho, as he had the opportunity to delve into the history of this Innu community that has welcomed the Oblates for almost two centuries. As soon as he arrived, he visited the Shaputuan Museum with Fathers Jacques LALIBERTÉ, Hermann TIMTIM, and Alfred RAVELOMANPISANDRAIBE. This museum is a vehicle for the Innu to share their spirit of resilience and their journey across the lands, through time, and the tapestry of life.
The Legendary Hospitality of the Laughing People
After visiting the museum, they returned to Maliotenam, where Father Chicho would bask in the true essence of Innu hospitality. They began with a mass in the community, and once the Eucharistic celebration was over, the night turned into a grand community feast.
The pastoral team and their collaborators offered Father General a celebration worthy of a sincere pilgrim seeking to connect with his Innu brothers and sisters. Gathered around Father Alfred, their parish priest, the night was spent with sharing stories of the past and present while envisioning a future where Oblate missionaries and the Innu people walk together through the welcoming land of the Laughing People.
At the end of the night, Father Chicho was gifted some traditional items that the first missionaries of this Innu land would have likely received: a Naskapi hat and a pair of Innu moccasins.
Photos by Hermann TIMTIM and Alfred RAVELOMANPISANDRAIBE