Montagnais [key], aboriginal peoples originally from Labrador, Canada. Because they both spoke almost identical Algonquian languages and had similar customs, the two groups are often linked. The Montagnais covered their conical wigwams with birch bark and hunted principally moose during the winter months, moving down the rivers in the spring to spear salmon and eels, and to harpoon seals along the shores of the St. Lawrence. The Naskapi covered their wigwams with caribou skin and hunted caribou from midsummer until early spring, when some of them moved down the coast, like the Montagnais, while others remained inland to fish in various lakes and rivers and to hunt hares, porcupines, and other small game. Contact with Europeans was disastrous to both peoples, leading to a precipitous population decline, the disappearance of cooperative hunting on communally exploited territory, and the emergence of an economy based on private property, fur trapping, and commercial exchange. Some 12,000 descendants of the Montagnais and the Naskapi now live on large reserves in Quebec.
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