Opitciwan, QC

Historical profile

Opitciwan was formerly located at the tip of Mékiskan, a site that is accessible by water and that is one hour by canoe from the spot that the community occupies today. The families were nomads and economic activity was centred on barter, the fur trade and logging. The opening of the Hudson Bay trading post attracted a few families who settled in the vicinity for the trade but also for the food supply. In 1919, many families settled on the point not far from where the community is located today. At the time, there were many houses, a church and a general store. One year later, in 1920, the Gouin Dam flooded the community causing the families to move closer to the bay. The people settled slowly in the territory where the rising rivers meet, hence the name "Opitciwan".

Opitciwan, also called Obedjiwan, is one of the Atikamekw communities living in the ancestral territory of Nitaskinan.

Nitaskinan territory
Source: www.Opitciwan.ca

The Atikamekw nation has three communities: Manawan, Wemotaci and Obedjiwan-Opitciwan.  Atikamekw means "white fish" and refers to the whitefish, a species that has been eaten for ages. There are six seasons in the Atikamekw culture, pre-spring (March-April), spring (May-June), summer (July-August), autumn (September-October), pre-winter (November-December) and winter (January-February).

Opitciwan is the exact pronunciation in the mother tongue and it means "The meeting place of the rising rivers". Today, culture and traditions are centred on wellbeing. Re-appropriation of the medicine wheel is one of the cultural approaches of the population. Craftwork remains one of the community's own riches, as shown in the baskets and birch bark canoes decorated with magnificent drawings. 

Craftwork
Source: www.Opitciwan.ca

Moose hide tanning is still being practiced today, and moose hide is being use in the making of mitts and slippers. 

Moose hide tanning
Source: www.Opitciwan.ca

Craftwork
Source: www.Opitciwan.ca

Gathering blueberries is a traditional activity for some families, who also engage in trapping, fishing and hunting.

In 2006, the mother tongue was spoken regularly by 96% of the total population and French was the second language. Teaching activities are done in the French language. 


Location

Opitciwan is located in the heart of the Province of Quebec, more precisely, north of the Gouin Reservoir in the region of La Mauricie. It is accessible by a 166-kilometre logging road, linking the reserve to Highway 167 in Lac-Saint-Jean. Opitciwan is also accessible by La Tuque (logging road #10) and by Chibougamau (logging road Barrette-Chapais).

Opitciwan location
Source: Google Map

At the crossroad toward Opitciwan
Source: Aviva, Innu Meshkenu website

Opitciwan location
Source: Radio Canada website


Population and living conditions

According to the 2011 census, Opitciwan had a population of some 2,031 people. The medium age of the population was 20 years. The community is young; there is a strong concentration in the 0-to-20-year age group and there are more men than women. As for lodging, there is overpopulation in the houses of the community. According to data from 2006 from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and housing needs assesment made by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, there is a need for 356 new housing units.


 Infrastructure

With access by road and with streets in the community, Opitciwan has many infrastructures to ensure quality service. There is the administrative centre where the various service sectors are grouped in the same place to meet the needs of the clientele.

CAO head office
Source: www.Opitciwan.ca

There is the health centre offering nursing services, home care, follow-up and consultation for physical and mental health.

Opitciwan Health Services
Source: www.Opitciwan.ca

There are two schools: Niska primary school, offering services from the 1st to the 3rd cycle and Mikisiw secondary school offering pre-secondary to secondary 5, and also offering programs such as carpentry and forestry that are aimed at the labour market.

Mikisiw secondary school
Source: www.Opitciwan.ca

Niska primary school
Source: www.Opitciwan.ca

The police station has many police officers maintaining peace, order and safety in the community, while promoting crime prevention and respect for the principles of legal justice. 

Opitciwan Police Station
Source: www.Opitciwan.ca

The service station provides oil, propane and gasoline. The early childhood centre, governed by the ministère de la Famille, has 160 places for children between the ages of 3 and 48 months in order to meet users' needs. The sports centre meets recreational needs. The mission of the recently built youth centre is to provide young people with a place of mobilization.   

Opitciwan Youth Center
Source : Opitciwan Petapan Newspaper

A trailer ensures the continuity of the business training activities of income security with   catering and sewing services. Tepatcimo Kitotakan, the community radio station, broadcasts information to all the households of the community.   

"Axep" the general store, has a butcher service and caters, thus supplying food to the community.

Axep General Store
Source: Opitciwan Petapan Newspaper


Public administration

The band council not only ensures quality service to its members, but also handles the political aspect. There is a chief and 6 counsellors elected democratically for a 4-year mandate. It is with the council that the federal government deals for any issues stemming from decisions on the allocation of the operational budget and infrastructure files. All the money from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs or from any other fund provider is handled directly by the band council under an agreement procedure supported by resolution. It is also the council that handles internal transactions such as rent payments, internet service and invoice requisitions involving the council and outside services.  


Economic activity

Most of the economic activity is carried out in the public sector. Indeed, 70% of activities are concentrated in that sector, but there is also a part in the private sector. The private sector has created a limited partnership with Résolu (www.pfresolu.com), a forest products company. Since the creation of the partnership, the community has enjoyed considerable development. Opitciwan Forest Services, another partnership corporation, offers lodging and catering services to forest workers and contractors. The service station is managed by economic development. Axep, the general store, contributes to economic activity. 

The creation of a cooperative forest company, the Coop Inter-Nations, generated several new jobs. Moreover, an agreement between a forestry company and a family led to contracts, job creation, as well as the family-owned new business.

The initiative of two families led to the establishment of a snack-bar service. The revenues of most families come from these activities, either in the public or private sector.