The Laughing People, translated from the award-winning Le peuple rieur, conveys the richness and resilience of the Innu while reminding us of the forces – old and new – that threaten their community. This memoir and tribute tells the tale of the very long journey of a very small nation, recounting both its joie de vivre and its crosses borne.
Readers follow Serge Bouchard, a young anthropologist in the 1970s, as he arrives in Ekuanitshit (Mingan, Quebec) and comes to know its residents. His observations and questions document a community weathering yet another season of change – skidoos replace dogsleds and forests are bulldozed for prefabricated housing – while nonetheless defying external pressures to assimilate or disappear altogether. Returning to these texts fifty years later, Bouchard moves beyond platitudes of strength and dives into wide-scale injustices to present the sacrifices and beauty of the Innu people on individual terms.
Whether recounting the impact of the residential school system on Georges Mestokosho, the wave of Innu activism inspired by An Antane Kapesh, or the uncelebrated work of women like Nishapet Enim, The Laughing People presents an opportunity for readers to be part of the preservation and proliferation of these important stories.