Atanukans: Exploring Innu Cosmogony - McCord Stewart Museum

Storytelling Show

From November 3 to 6, 2022

Atanukans: Exploring Innu Cosmogony

The Montreal Intercultural Storytelling Festival, in collaboration with the Museum, invites you to a new, exceptional series of legends narrated in the Innu language by Charles Api Bellefleur. He will be joined on stage by poet and writer Joséphine Bacon, who will provide simultaneous translation into French.

Charles Api Bellefleur is a hunter, musician and dreamer. He is also one of the last storytellers of the Innu oral tradition, which reaches back nine thousand years. He is the custodian of a complete cosmogony forged by the Innu people over millennia.

Although the Innu people had no writing before the arrival of Europeans, they have a rich, prolific and complex oral literature. Innu legends make up one of the world’s great cosmogonies, on par with the better-known mythologies of the Greeks or the Egyptians. However, colonization has caused this rich tradition to fall into obscurity.

Like most peoples in the large Algonquian linguistic family, the Innu distinguish between two types of stories: atanukans and tipatshimuns. A traditional Innu storyteller described the atanukan to anthropologist Rémi Savard as “what must be recounted.” In this category we find creation myths and all the events that took place in the period when humans and animals were not yet differentiated. Charles Api Bellefleur will share five of the fifteen atanukans in the Innu language.

The late Serge Bouchard nicknamed the Innu “the laughing people.”  These intimate gatherings are sure to be filled with the hearty and joyful laughter of Charles Api Bellefleur and Joséphine Bacon as they share their legends about humans’ place in the universe.


  • Thursday, November 3, 2022, at 7 p.m.: Mee
  • Friday, November 4, 2022, at 7 p.m.: Tshakapesh
  • Saturday, November 5, 2022, at 7 p.m.: Auash kautikumit
  • Sunday, November 6, 2022, at 2 p.m.: Aiaeshe
  • Sunday, November 6, 2022, at 7 p.m.: Mishukuekuatsheu – atshen atshenukue

Learn more


A different atanukan will be narrated each evening. It is therefore possible to attend more than one evening.

Paid activity presented from November 3 to 6, 2022.
Duration: 60 to 120 minutes, depending on the story
Location: J. Armand Bombardier Theatre at the McCord Stewart Museum
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Space is limited, reservation required.


  • Adult (18+): $10
  • Senior (65+): $8
  • Teen (10–17): $8
  • Museum Member: $8

Billetterie Weezevent

This series was initiated by the Montreal Intercultural Storytelling Festival and is supported by the Government of Canada via the Re-engaging Audiences Fund for Professional Arts Presentation Organizations.

Thank you to Productions Innu Assi for their support.


Thursday, November 3, 2022, at 7 p.m.

Mee is the first tale in this larger cycle of five atanukans; it recounts the creation of the world, thanks to a fish coming out of the water and growing feet and fur… Darwin who? Add a meeting with a wolf pup, the discovery of fire and even a giant flood, and you’re well on your way into the world of Innu cosmogony!

Friday, November 4, 2022, at 7 p.m.

At the centre of this cycle, there is the foundational tale of Tshakapesh, a hero who introduces us to the dream world, the only one who is able to access all the other worlds.

Saturday, November 5, 2022, at 7 p.m

Auash kautikumit
In Auash kautikumit, or The Child Covered in Lice, we hear about the arrival of summer in a country where only winter exists, through a child with lice, abandoned by his parents, who goes searching for summer birds.

Sunday, November 6, 2022, at 7 p.m

This tale tells the story of Aiaeshe, a child abandoned on an island by his father, who will break free by escaping on the back of a giant insect. His adventures will lead him to confront his father. A fantastical, strange and infinitely rich tale…

Speakers Biographies

Charles Api Bellefleur

A member of the Innu people from Unamen Shipu (La Romaine) in Côte-Nord, Charles Api Bellefleur is the keeper of his people’s legends. As an important custodian of traditions and defender of Innu-aitun, his culture, and Innu-aimun, his language, he recounts his stories in a colourful and descriptive language.

He is also a hunter, a dreamer, and a musician, and accompanies himself on the accordion and the teueikan, a sacred and revered drum among the Innu. With respect, sensitivity and pride, he tells stories about the period when humans and animals shared absolutely everything, including the mysterious dream realm. He shares his art across the province and the country, and is a source of inspiration for generations seeking a deeper connection to their identity.

Charles Api Bellefleur visits Innu community events and participates in any opportunity to share his art and the traditions that he carries. In 2021, he was a winner of the Maîtres de traditions vivantes, a national program of the Conseil québécois du patrimoine vivant that recognizes artists and artisans with exceptional talent who have mastered a practice or technique handed down from generation to generation.

Joséphine Bacon

Joséphine Bacon is an Innu poet from Pessamit. In addition to being a filmmaker and songwriter, she is considered one of Quebec’s leading authors. She has worked as a translator-interpreter for seniors, who hold traditional knowledge, and has had the wisdom to learn to listen to their words. Joséphine Bacon often says that she is not a poet, but that in her nomadic and generous heart, she speaks a language filled with poetry where the voices of the elders who have marked her life resonate.

Her first poetry collection, Bâtons à message/Tshissinuatshitakana, about nomads who love wide open spaces, was published in 2009 by Mémoire d’encrier and translated in English as Message Sticks. In 2010, she received the readers’ choice award from the Marché de la poésie de Montréal for her poem “Dessine-moi l’arbre.” Again with Mémoire d’encrier, in collaboration with José Acquelin, she published Nous sommes tous des sauvages (2011) and Un thé dans la toundra/Nipishapui nete mushuat (2013, finalist for the Governor General’s Award and for the Grand Prix du livre de Montréal). Her most recent collection, Uiesh – Quelque part (2018), earned her the 2019 Prix des libraires.

Joséphine Bacon is also a songwriter and wrote for Chloé Sainte-Marie’s show Nitshisseniten e tshissenitamin, in addition to working in film. She has taught Innu-aimun for over 40 years.

Watch the trailer produced by the Montreal Intercultural Storytelling Festival.

Not to be missed!

In collaboration with

Be an insider!

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the inside scoop on upcoming exhibitions and cultural events.

Subscribe now

Activities Calendar


All activities

Not to be missed!