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I Never Knowed it Was Hard

Memoirs of a Labrador Trapper

By Louie Montague
Edited by Elizabeth Dawson
Categories: Indigenous Studies, Autobiography/biography/life Writing, Newfoundland And Labrador Studies
Series: Social and Economic Studies
Series Number: 74
Paperback : 9781894725125, 184 pages, April 2013

Table of contents

Foreword / Keith Chaulk 7

Editor’s Preface 9

Acknowledgements 14

Introduction / Robin McGrath 15

1 Early Memories 21

2 Family History 36

3 Early Trapping Years 43

4 More Trapping 54

5 Naskaupi River 66

6 Working on the Base 82

7 Other Jobs 90

8 Salmon Fishing 104

9 Seal Hunting and Dogs 107

10 Caribou Hunting in the Mealies 122

11 Traplines and Custom Law 138

12 Innu 145

13 Music, Fiddle Playing, and Memories of Fiddlers 152

14 Later Years 160

Appendix 1: Typical Day on the Trapline 167

Appendix 2: Supplies for the Trapline 169

Appendix 3: Trapper’s Tilt 170

Glossary 171

References 179

A vividly crafted portrait of a challenging yet rewarding life spent on the Naskaupi River, from Nunatsiavut Elder Louie Montague.


I Never Knowed It Was Hard, the memoirs of Naskaupi River trapper and fiddler Louie Montague, a 77-year-old Nunatsiavut (Inuit) elder from North West River, Labrador, recounts in rich detail the way of life in “them days. ” Louie has travelled Labrador extensively as a trapper, hunter, prospector, and guide, and as an employee of the provincial forestry and wildlife departments.

His remarkable memory and unique understanding of nature, acquired by study and first-hand experience, is complemented by his being an avid reader who constantly seeks more knowledge of Labrador and Arctic history. Here he talks about his family, trapping, hunting, caring for sled dogs, encounters with Innu in the country, woodworking, and most importantly, life on the Naskaupi River, especially as this has been impacted since the damming of its source for the Upper Churchill project in the 1970s. While Louie Montague’s story tells about and draws from the past—his Great-Grandfather Montague came to Labrador from the Orkney Islands in the nineteenth century—he is very much a man of the present: he still goes to the land whenever he can; he remains busy as an accomplished craftsman; and he is deeply aware of how changes to the land have affected the present and will impact the future. He also describes the changes in life with the coming of the Goose Bay Air Base in the 1940s and his jobs there and elsewhere over the years.


"Louie Montague’s voice rings strong and clear in his 2013 memoir — the result of a natural gift for narrative but also the fruit of a rich and laborious process described by the editor, Elizabeth Dawson. "

- Maura Hanrahan, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies

"It reads as if Louie just dropped in for a cup of tea and starts telling stories. In the process, he paints vivid word pictures of a world that was tough and unforgiving; exciting and rewarding. "

- Sandra Phinney, Atlantic Books Today