In his Nobel speech on 7th December 2008 Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio declared that literature had become a weapon in the service of the expression of cultural identity. He referred more specifically to the Innu writer Rita Mestokosho and to her commitment to the protection of a certain way of life.
Rita Mestokosho is born in 1966 in Ekuanitshit Innu territory where she is still living today. Her first book of poetry Eshi Uapataman Nukum ( How I perceive life , Grandmother) was published in 1995. Republished in Sweden in 2010 in a bilingual edition. Her latest book Née de la pluie et de la terre was published in 2014 by Editions Bruno Doucey.
As a member of the Innu council, Rita Mestokosho acts as a communicator for her community and is very much involved in cultural and educational projects.
" I am Innu, and Innu means human being. We are almost 15.000 Innus, split into 11 communities, 2 in Labrador with English as their second language, 9 in Quebec with French as their second language. We live between 2 worlds, the modern and the traditional. Finding a balance between them is not easy because our traditional land is always threatened by the bigger forest-industries, the dams for hydro-energy and the mines. Our life and survival are linked to the survival of the rivers, the forest and the lakes. Writing in a language, in the French language is also a necessity. It enables us to reach a wider audience for expressing our fears in a poetical way."
The communities of Pessamit, Essipit, la Romaine, Mashteuiatsh, Matimekosh, Mingan, Natahsquan, Pakuashipi, Uashat Maliotenam which are the 9 communities in Quebec compose what Rita M. names the Innu " nation ".
Rita M. represents indeed a small cultural minority but literature enables her to speak with a universal voice as her poems are published in a multilingual edition. We would like to present here how the fight for the survival of the Innu community reflects the rise of a political native awareness in Québec. We will refer to the interviews we had with Rita Mestokosho during her 2 visits to Stockholm in 2009 and 2014 and to the articles we wrote for the Quebec magazine Littoral/ Côte ouest ( GRÉNOC groupe de recherche sur la l’écriture nord-côtière)