The Gathering at Gull Island: Labrador's Innu return to the land to reclaim traditions

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Every year, the Sheshatshiu Innu Nation hosts a celebration that's about disconnecting from technology and the distractions of life, and returning to the land that once supported its members' ancestors for generations. 

The Gathering at Gull Island is also about breaking down walls and rebuilding community. 

This year, people had their own reason for attending, and for re-connecting with loved ones. 

"I"m happy but emotional — I'm still coping,"  said Tenesh Nuna, who lost both of her parents in a four-month span earlier this year. 

In the community, she said, "it's really closed. I don't see my nephews a lot when I'm in Sheshatshiu but when we're here, they're always here. I'm right next door, and they can call out to me and I can call out to them."

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Tents are set up at the edge of the forest surrounding the open land where the main tent is located. 

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"It takes a whole community to raise a child and if you can do that, a child will have a better future and a better outlook," said Gabriel Rich. 

Alcohol and drug abuse are critical issues for Rich, who has been alcohol-free for about 18 months.

"I've been struggling with that — relapsed, recovered, but you know, it's all part of a journey," he said.

Music, games, meals

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The main tent hosts events that range from music to bingo, movies to meals.

It's a place where everyone comes together.

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Everyone also looks after one another at the Gathering. Kids are free-range but looked after by all. 

"Sheshatshiu is now evolving into a community where we were raised in a white society, and where we have to learn and live like a white society, so we're not doing what we used to do," said Gavin Nuna. 

"We're getting back into our roots, I guess you would say," he said.

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While there are organized games and activities for the kids, the Gathering is a chance for them to use their imagination, unplugged as they are power, phones and the internet.

"They don't know the Innu on the island, they may have heard about the Beothuk and the Conne River band but they don't really associate with us all that much because the community is so far away," said Greg Nuna.

"Education will open up a whole new avenue of communication with the communities."

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