The word “Naskapi” refers to both the Naskapi people and the Naskapi language. Naskapi is a language in the Cree-Innu (Montagnais) branch of the Algonquian language family. That means it is related to languages like Plains Cree, Woods Cree, and Innu. There are two varieties of Naskapi: Western Naskapi (spoken in Kawawachikamach) and Innu-aimun (spoken in Natuashish). This course uses Western Naskapi. Naskapi is currently spoken by more than 1000 people, most of whom live in Kawawachikamach, Quebec.
Historically the Naskapi people lived in small independent groups as nomadic caribou hunters. Their territory spanned the northern part of the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula of Canada. Over the years the Naskapi people began using different trading posts. Those who hunted in the northern and northeastern areas of the interior went to Fort Chimo and Fort McKenzie. Those hunting farther south and east traded at Davis Inlet. This difference contributed to the Naskapi people becoming less nomadic and eventually settling into two separate groups. In 1978 the Naskapi signed the Northeastern Quebec Agreement. This agreement gave them rights to certain lands as well as development services provided by the government. Part of this agreement required the Naskapi to move their community to a location of their choice. By 1983, the Naskapi had relocated to Kawawachikamach, about 8 km northeast of the town of Schefferville.