Death of an Elder



As we approach the 20th anniversary of the passing of Innu elder, Mani Pasteen, I felt it fitting to honour her and her people. Doubtless this was an important event for Mani’s near and extended relatives, as well as the rest of her community in Sheshatshiu and many others around the Innu Nation of Nitassinan (The Quebec-Labrador Peninsula.)
For me, it was an an extraordinary privilege, and moreover consolidated my understanding of the cosmological inseparability of the Innu from their land, which I suspect could be extrapolated to most—if not all—First Peoples on this planet, and perhaps even to all of us. For no matter where we come from, at some point in the past our ancestors were the original people of those places, and despite our ever more urban separation form the natural world, deep in our DNA, our bodies and spirits know this.
To Manian Penashue, a huge thank you and hug for thinking of inviting me into the middle of her family’s most difficult and private moments, and for gaining permission for me from the family. Indeed thank you Mani’s other relatives, in particular her children for entrusting me with this responsibility. Finally thank you to the community of Sheshatshiu for enduring my presence over those years. .
The photo essay, Death of an Elder, was originally published in in the March/April 1995 edition of Equinox Magazine.