Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

 

 

MI'KMAQ (MICMAC) CULTURE

 

Because of a lack of archaeological information about the late prehistoric period in the Maritimes it is difficult for us adequately to describe Mi'kmaq culture on the eve of European arrival in the area. Much of the coastline of the Maritime provinces has been sinking, relative to the sea, and as a result many late prehistoric coastal sites are now under water. In fact, we do not have good documentary evidence about the Mi'kmaq until the first decade of the 17th century, and by that time the Mi'kmaq had been in contact with European fishermen, fur traders and explorers for about a hundred years. This means that the missionaries and other Europeans who wrote about the Mi'kmaq after 1600 were actually describing people who had begun to acquire European goods and whose way of life may have been significantly different from that of their ancestors.

With this caution in mind we can look at the first European accounts of the Mi'kmaq. The earliest reasonably full descriptions were produced by people such as Father Pierre Biard, a French Jesuit missionary who was in Nova Scotia (then part of what the French called Acadia) from 1611 to 1613, and Nicolas Denys, a French trader and entrepreneur who lived in Acadia from 1632 to about 1670. These writers describe a people whose territory included the present-day provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, the eastern portion of New Brunswick, part of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula, and a portion of Newfoundland. (In the early 20th century, Newfoundland Mi'kmaq informed the American anthropologist Frank Speck that they had occupied the island in prehistoric times.) Estimates of the size of the aboriginal Mi'kmaq population vary considerably, but it is likely that the figure fell between 10,000 and 20,000.

The Mi'kmaq spoke a language which was a member of the Algonkian family. It was closely related to that spoken by their neighbors the Malecite and Passamaquoddy, and distantly related to other Algonkian-speakers such as the Beothuk and the Innu. In the early historic period, the fundamental unit of Mi'kmaq society was the extended family, which could consist of a leader (sagamaw) of a group of related people including the sagamaw's immediate family, his married children and their families, and other relatives who lived with him. At times and places where food was plentiful, a number of these local groups could form bands which in the summer could range up to two to three hundred people. On occasion, the sagamaws came together in a kind of council to discuss important matters, especially those having to do with peace and war. A traditional account of the Mi'kmaq people also holds that their land was divided into seven regions and that each region was led by a chief. The Cape Breton regional chief was considered a Grand Chief. It is not clear if this arrangement existed in prehistoric times, and most authorities believe that Mi'kmaq society was essentially an egalitarian one whose leaders were chosen because of the prestige and status that they had earned. Their leadership, it is argued, largely consisted of being able to create agreement within a band about what to do. Such leadership was particularly important in resolving conflicts within a group, negotiating alliances with other people, going to war with enemies, and making decisions about when and where to hunt and fish.

Since the Mi'kmaq lived a bit too far north to be able to depend upon aboriginal crops such as corn, beans, and squash, they relied upon the resources of the forests and the sea. To do so, Mi'kmaq groups had to follow precisely-timed schedules. According to Father Biard, in January they hunted seals on the coasts and off-shore islands, while the period from February to the middle of March was spent inland hunting moose, caribou, beaver and bear. In the last half of March, the people moved out to the coasts and estuaries to catch smelt, and by the end of April herring were available. The spring also brought migratory sea birds and salmon. From May to the middle of September the Mi'kmaq fished and gathered shellfish. Then they moved to the tributaries of the larger rivers to take eel, and in October and November groups moved inland to hunt moose, caribou and beaver. In December, young cod were taken under the ice.

It should be noted that this pattern might not have existed before the coming of Europeans. Biard, after all, was describing the Mi'kmaq seasonal round at a time when the people had to hunt fur bearers in the interior in winter when their furs were at their thickest. Similarly, the Mi'kmaq had to plan to be on the coast in the warmer months in order to meet European fishing vessels and to trade those furs for European goods. It is quite possible that the prehistoric seasonal round would have varied depending on the availability of local resources. Perhaps some groups might have spent more time in the interior than others, while other bands may have lived for much of the year camped at the mouth of one of the larger rivers.

The Mi'kmaq used a variety of weapons and tools to kill and process the game and fish upon which they depended. Spears and bows and arrows were used to take larger animals, while snares were employed to capture rabbits and partridge, and deadfalls were used for predators such as foxes and bears. Birchbark "callers", which looked something like an old-fashioned megaphone, were used by skilled hunters to imitate the call of a moose. Three-pronged fish spears called leisters were used to spear and hold fish, but the Mi'kmaq also made use of hooks, nets, and weirs. On the water, harpoons were commonly used to take seals. When the Mi'kmaq began to trade with Europeans in the 16th century, they modified some of these tools and replaced others. For example, in the historic period arrows and spears were tipped with iron, rather than bone and stone, and iron fish hooks were substituted for the traditional ones of bone. For travelling, however, the Aboriginal inventions often proved superior to the new European items.

Constructing Snowshoes
Damien Benoit of Conne River constructing a pair of snowshoes.  Courtesy of the Newfoundland Museum, St. John's, Newfoundland. Photo ©1983

Snowshoes, which the Mi'kmaq employed when the snow was deep, were so well-adapted to the North American environment that they were adopted by latter European settlers as was the hand-drawn sled known as the toboggan. Europeans also quickly recognized the superior qualities of the birch bark canoe, which was light, seaworthy, and easily repaired. The Mi'kmaq made a number of different types of canoes, some for interior travel on rivers and lakes, and other, larger, sea-going canoes which were capable of making the 100 km or so trip from Cape Breton to the Magdalen Islands or possibly even to Newfoundland. 

Canoe Construction

Michael Joe and Martin Jeddore of Conne River completing the construction of a Mi'kmaq skin canoe.  This canoe, now in the Newfoundland Museum, is a replica of the caribou-skin canoes constructed by Mi'kmaq while travelling in the Newfoundland interior.  Courtesy of the Newfoundland Museum, St. John's, Newfoundland.

 

 

Sea-going Birch Bark Canoe

A replica of a large sea-going birch-bark canoe.  This canoe was built by the Mi'kmaq of Conne River, some of whom intend to paddle it to Cape Breton.  Courtesy of Gerald Penney Associates, St. John's, Newfoundland.

 

At a very early date, perhaps sometime in the 16th century, however, the Mi'kmaq learned to use small European sailing vessels such as the shallop which would have made long-distance trips much easier and safer.

Birchbark was also used at home for containers and to cover wigwams. The Mi'kmaq built several types of wigwams, most common was a conical "tipi"-shaped structure made by erecting a framework of poles and covering it with skins or sheets of birch bark. 

A Mi'kmaq Wigwam 

Used by hunters and trappers early in the 20th century.  From J. G. Millais, Newfoundland and its Untrodden Ways (London: Longmans, Green, 1907) facing 16.

 

With the advent of European fishermen in the region, canvas sailcloth was sometimes substituted for the traditional coverings. Similarly, trade kettles made of copper were preferred to birchbark and wooden kettles in which water had to be boiled by heating stones and placing them in the water. By contrast, a copper or brass kettle could be placed directly over the fire. Perhaps because of their reddish colour (red may have been associated with blood and life), copper kettles also appear to have had some spiritual significance for 16th-century Mi'kmaq.

 

Birch Bark Box

This is a fine example of a Mi'kmaq birch-bark box decorated with porcupine quills collected in Newfoundland in the early 19th century.  Since porcupines are not found on the island of Newfoundland, the quills on the box would have likely come from Nova Scotia.  Courtesy of the Newfoundland Museum, St. John's, Newfoundland.

 

 

Root Box

An example of a Mi'kmaq container, probably from the 19th century.  It is decorated with dyed spruce roots rather than porcupine quills.  Courtesy of the Newfoundland Museum, St. John's, Newfoundland.

 

 

Aboriginal Mi'kmaq clothing was made from the skins of the animals they killed. Deer and moose skins were fashioned into leggings, sleeves, breechclouts and moccasins, all of which were worn by both men and women. In winter fur robes would be added. Skin clothing was sometimes beautifully decorated with dyed porcupine quills (largely supplanted by glass beads once the Mi'kmaq began trading with Europeans). Clothing was sewn together using deer or caribou sinew (tendons) and bone awls and needles. European traders brought metal awls and needles, which we know were much in demand by the Mi'kmaq women who made the clothing. Over time, Mi'kmaq clothes (with the exception of moccasins) tended to be made out of European trade cloth, but the Mi'kmaq long retained a style of dress that distinguished them from their Euro-Canadian neighbours. Skin robes were replaced by wool blankets, which by the 19th century were (for men) in turn replaced by military-style greatcoats. Women came to wear woolen jackets, skirts, and in the 19th century, the large, unusual-looking peaked caps, often ornamented with the distinctive double-curve motif.

We know more about traditional Mi'kmaq material culture than we do about their traditional beliefs. Because French Catholic missionaries had been working among the Mi'kmaq since 1611, it is certain that some elements of the pre-European belief system were lost before they were recorded. Nonetheless, it is possible to partially reconstruct the way Mi'kmaq people looked at the world. It is likely, for example, that the Mi'kmaq did not make a distinction, as Europeans did, between what was natural and what was supernatural or spiritual. On the contrary, not only people, but animals, the sun, rivers, or even rocks, could have a spirit--could be a person. The sun had special significance, but the Mi'kmaq believed that all of the universe was filled with a spirit called mntu or manitou. The universe had become understandable to the Mi'kmaq in part because of Glooscap or Klu'skap, who taught the people how the world had come into being and how it worked now. In the 19th century, a Nova Scotia Baptist missionary named Silas Rand collected many of the oral traditions of the Mi'kmaq, including a number of tales recounting Glooskap's exploits.

Like most hunter-gatherer peoples, the Mi'kmaq had shamans, religious specialists, who lived among them. These individuals, called puoin, had the power to cure ills (and to cause them), and they were relied upon to interpret the spiritual world to the people. Although Christian missionaries tried to discredit the puoin and the world-view that they represented, many traditional beliefs and practices persisted, some down to the present day.

Today, Mi'kmaq culture has changed considerably since the days when the first European vessel arrived off the shores of Mi'kmaq country, but we should remember that all cultures, including our own, change over time, and today's Mi'kmaq are no less Indian simply because they wear the same clothes as other Canadians, drive cars, and watch television. Glooskap still lives in today's Mi'kmaq.

Mi'kmaq (Micmac) Culture

Historians and archaeologists differ as to when the Mi'kmaq first came to Newfoundland. Newfoundland Mi'kmaq oral tradition holds that the Mi'kmaq were living in Newfoundland prior to European contact. There is some historical evidence that the Mi'kmaq were living in Newfoundland by the 16th century, and by the 17th century there are increasing references to the Mi'kmaq in the historical record.

Traditional Mi'kmaq hunting territory by Frank Speck. From Frank Speck, Beothuk and Micmac, Indian Notes and Monographs series, vol. 22 (New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, 1922). End Map. Illustration by Tina Riche.

During the 16th and 17th centuries the Mi'kmaq had created what one historian calls a "Domain of Islands" in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Mi'kmaq traders who had adopted the small European sailing boat, the shallop (or chaloupe), had constructed a network of exchange which ranged from the Strait of Belle Isle between Newfoundland and Labrador to the coasts of Massachusetts. These Mi'kmaq acted as middlemen in the exchange of European goods for furs.

During the colonial period, the Mi'kmaq were allied with the French. As a result, when the French were defeated by the British in 1763, the Mi'kmaq in Newfoundland were regarded with suspicion by British authorities.

By this time, the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq had developed a distinctive way of life hunting caribou, trapping furs, and exchanging them for necessities such as guns, kettles, knives.

In the 19th century, the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq often acted as guides; for example, the explorer William Cormack, was guided by Mi'kmaq in his attempt to locate the Beothuk in the interior of Newfoundland in 1822 and in 1829. Throughout the 19th century, the 150 or so Mi'kmaq people in Newfoundland made their living as guides, trappers, mail carriers, and as sellers of basketry.

A Deserted Wigwam, ca. 1890.
Humber River, western coast of Newfoundland. The influx of European hunters and trappers during the 19th century greatly altered the traditional way of life for many Mi'kmaq.  Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL VA 13-19).

 

 

Life became much more difficult for the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq with the completion of the trans-island railway in 1898. The railway brought a flood of caribou hunters to the interior of the island, and by 1930 the caribou had been hunted almost to extinction. The world-wide decline in fur prices coupled with the Depression of the 1930s spelled the beginning of the end of the old way of life. By 1945 there were no full-time trappers left in Conne River (Miawpukek), the largest Mi'kmaq community, and seasonal logging for low wages represented one of the few sources of cash for the community. Hunting, fishing, and gathering berries remained a necessary part of most families' lives.

Despite their early conversion to Catholicism, many Mi'kmaq retained their traditional beliefs. Although use of the Mi'kmaq language declined drastically in the 20th century, in recent years the Conne River community has worked valiantly to revive it.

In 1972 the people of Conne River formed an elected band council, and in 1973 the Federation of Newfoundland Indians was formed to work toward Federal recognition of Newfoundland's Mi'kmaq. In 1984 the Federal Government recognized the Conne River Mi'kmaq as status Indians under the Indian Act, and in 1987 Conne River was recognized as a status Indian Reserve.

Although the Conne River Mi'kmaq have yet to have their land claims accepted by the federal or provincial government, the community has become a model of aboriginal enterprise, including, among others, a flourishing aquaculture programme, hunting and fishing lodges, and a logging operation. In an effort to promote and sustain Mi'kmaq culture, the Miawpukek Band Council sponsors a variety of cultural events and programmes, many of which can be seen on the Miawpukek Web Site


History of the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq

In what is now Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, a part of the Gaspé Peninsula and eastern New Brunswick, the Aboriginal people who greeted the first European visitors to their coasts were the Mi'kmaq (Micmac). Human occupation of this region extends back to more than 10,000 years ago, during which time its Native inhabitants adjusted to dramatic climatic change, significant technological development, and the arrival of new groups from the south. None of these things, however, would have as great an effect upon Aboriginal people as the coming of strangers from Europe. In the century after John Cabot's 1497 voyage to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Mi'kmaq would trade furs for copper kettles, woolen blankets, iron knives, and the other products of early modern Europe, as well as shallops (small sailing vessels) to carry the new goods to other Native peoples throughout the Gulf and as far south as New England. During this period, if not earlier, the Mi'kmaq reached the island of Newfoundland.

Scattered references in English and French historical records suggest that during the 17th century (1600-1700), Mi'kmaq families hunted, fished, and trapped from Newfoundland's southwest coast to Placentia Bay. Travelling back and forth between Cape Breton and Newfoundland, these Mi'kmaq incorporated the island of Newfoundland into what one researcher has aptly called a "domain of islands" (Martijn 1989).

The question of the nature of Mi'kmaq relations with the French, with the English, and with the Beothuks is a contentious one. The French, who long fished off Newfoundland's coasts, were sporadically at war with the English from the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century, and it has been argued that French authorities brought the Mi'kmaq over from Cape Breton as allies in the war with England. This is clearly not the case. The Mi'kmaq who came to Newfoundland did so of their own accord, and only after their arrival on the island did the French ask for their assistance. Not surprisingly, Mi'kmaqs had fought for years against English settlers in New England.

It has also been alleged that the French paid a bounty to the Mi'kmaq to collect Beothuk heads. This charge also does not hold up under close examination. French records reveal no indication of such a bounty; rather, it is probable that as the Mi'kmaq presence on the island increased, the Beothuks, as they did with European settlers, avoided the Mi'kmaq. (In this regard it should also be noted that Mi'kmaq oral tradition includes examples of friendly relations with the Beothuks, including the belief that the Mi'kmaq provided a haven for refugee Beothuks.)

The question of the nature of Mi'kmaq occupancy of Newfoundland during the 17th and early 18th centuries is another controversial question. Mi'kmaq oral tradition holds that the Mi'kmaq have continuously occupied the island since prehistoric times and that this original population was later joined by a group from Cape Breton. Other authorities argue that Mi'kmaq occupation of the island was not permanent until the 1760s (Bartels and Janzen 1990). These authors contend that, while Mi'kmaq from Cape Breton hunted, fished and trapped in Newfoundland on a seasonal basis from a very early date, during the 1760s, the "insensitivity and indifference" of the British, combined with their "resistance to Mi'kmaq demands that a Roman Catholic priest be appointed to serve their spiritual needs" were the most powerful factors influencing a group of Cape Breton Mi'kmaq, led by Chief Jeannot Pequidalouet, to take up permanent residence in Newfoundland (ibid., 86). Martijn (1989), however, cautions that we are imposing our own ideas of how and where people lived centuries ago when we employ terms such as the "Cape Breton Mi'kmaq" or "Newfoundland Mi'kmaq" for early historic Native people. Rather, Martijn argues, the period was a time when a group of Mi'kmaq sometimes lived and hunted in what we now call Cape Breton and sometimes that same group exploited the resources of what we now call Newfoundland. Both islands, in other words, were part of the group's traditional territory. Indeed, given the movement back and forth between these two islands until the beginning of the 20th century, perhaps this is the best way to think of the ancestors of today's Newfoundland Mi'kmaq.

For Mi'kmaq everywhere, however, the defeat of the French by the British, and the loss, in 1763, of all French territory in North America (except for the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off Newfoundland's south coast) were traumatic experiences. When there were two imperial powers fighting for control of the continent, the Mi'kmaq were valued--and subsidized--as military allies of the French. With the loss of those subsidies and the decline of the fur trade in the northeast, the Mi'kmaq of the Atlantic region faced a grim future. That was particularly true in the Maritime provinces where British settlers occupied the lands and waters which had once been Mi'kmaq. For those Mi'kmaq living in Newfoundland, however, the late 18th century and much of the 19th century was a kind of "Indian summer", a period when the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq were able to hunt, fish, and trap in the interior of Newfoundland--a region then relatively unknown by Newfoundlanders of European ancestry.

Mi'kmaq Camp, Sydney, Nova Scotia, 1857.
Mi'kmaq families were still traveling back and forth between Cape Breton and Newfoundland in the middle of the 19th century.  "Micmac camp. Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia" photographed by Paul-Émile Miot in 1857. Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada/coll 1995-084/PA-194632. 

With the demise of the Beothuks in the early 19th century, Mi'kmaq trappers and hunters expanded their range from the southern region of the island to include much of the interior of the main portion of the island. Mi'kmaq camps were to be found in St. George's Bay and the Codroy River in the southwest, White Bear Bay and Bay d'Espoir on the island's south coast, and Bonavista Bay, Gander Bay, and the Bay of Exploits in the northeast. In 1857, Newfoundland census takers recorded Mi'kmaq families in St. George's Bay, Codroy River, Grandy's Brook (on the south coast), Conne River, Bay d'Espoir, and in the Bay of Exploits.

At the beginning of the 19th century, a British naval officer indicated a Mi'kmaq village of about 100 people in Bay St. George, and by the 1830s, Newfoundland missionaries were referring to a Mi'kmaq village in Conne River of about the same size. It is possible that the number of Mi'kmaq living in Newfoundland at any one time in the 19th century was about 150 to 200 people, but population figures for Native people in this era must be regarded with caution. It is not at all clear that European observers took into account the fact that families moved seasonally between home villages, hunting territories, fish camps, and traplines. Census-takers, too, were not always reliable, nor is it likely that they could always win the trust of Native informants.

Newfoundland Mi'kmaqs ranged throughout the interior of the island, trapping beaver, otter, fox, lynx and muskrat which they exchanged for guns, knives, flour, tobacco, and other things which they could not make. Although families laid claim to specific trapping territories, hunting for meat, especially caribou (an essential part of Mi'kmaq diet), was open to all.

Although the major portion of the Mi'kmaq food supply consisted of the fish and game of the country, and the bulk of the people's income came from trapping, other activities were also important. For example, the Mi'kmaq's intimate knowledge of the interior meant that they were in great demand as guides for explorers and sportsmen. William Cormack's 1822 expedition across Newfoundland to search for the remnants of the Beothuks has been lauded as the first traverse of the island by a white man, but it could not have been done without his guide, a Mi'kmaq named Sylvester Joe. Significantly, the two encountered Indians in the interior several times during their journey. After Cormack, missionaries such as Edward Wix, geologists such as J.B. Jukes, Alexander Murray and James P. Howley, and sportsmen and naturalists like the noted J.G. Millais, all relied upon Mi'kmaq guides.

Mi'kmaq Guide

Joe Jeddore, a Mi'kmaq guide.
From J. G. Millais, Newfoundland and its Untrodden Ways (London: Longmans, Green, 1907) facing 202.

Mi'kmaq knowledge of the country served them in other ways, as well. In the 1850s the colonial government hired Mi'kmaq guides to survey a route for a telegraph line which was to run the length of the island from St. John's to Port aux Basques. After the line was completed in 1856, Mi'kmaqs were retained as repairmen. Because Newfoundland's ice-bound northern coasts prevented delivery of the mail in winter, the government decided in the 1860s to hire Mi'kmaq men to deliver the mail overland through a network of trails reaching the northern communities. In the 19th century the interior of the island was essentially a Mi'kmaq preserve and nothing illustrates this better than the decision by governments, geologists and sportsmen to rely on Mi'kmaqs to lead them through unfamiliar territory.

That situation, however, would change with a growing population of European descent and with greater intrusion by this larger society into the interior. Perhaps the greatest threat to the Mi'kmaq way of life was the completion of a railway across the island in 1898. Now, for the first time, it was possible for large numbers of settlers and sportsmen to have quick access to the huge interior caribou herds. By all accounts the slaughter was appalling. Population figures for the caribou stocks can only be approximations, but it is estimated that the herds fell from 200,000-300,000 in 1900 to near extinction by 1930. The effect on the Mi'kmaq was catastrophic. Caribou meat had always been a mainstay of the Mi'kmaq diet, and with the decline of the herds it became much more difficult for families to live in the interior and to follow traplines. As a result, the 20th century brought new challenges and new hardships for the island's Native people.

By the beginning of this century, the woods and barrens of the interior were becoming more crowded. Where once only Mi'kmaq had travelled, now there were settlers hunting, trapping, and fishing for salmon, and sportsmen and market hunters taking an increasing toll of the declining caribou herds. In 1905, the Newfoundland government gave the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Corporation a huge amount of land in the interior and a site on the Exploits River (Grand Falls) where the company built a large, modern mill. Logging crews not only cut over the country, they also accelerated the destruction of the caribou by killing them for meat.

Mi'kmaq Leader

Reuben Lewis, a Mi'kmaq leader in the early 20th century, with Souliann and Ben Stride.  From J. G. Millais, Newfoundland and its Untrodden Ways (London: Longmans, Green, 1907) facing 213.

Mi'kmaq culture as well as their economy came under attack in the first half of the 20th century. The Mi'kmaq had been Roman Catholics since the end of the 17th century and Newfoundland's Mi'kmaq had maintained their ties with the church through visits to French priests in St. Pierre, off Newfoundland's south coast, and to Cape Breton, especially for the July 26th feast of St. Anne. It is probable that as long as contacts between the church and the Mi'kmaq were brief and seasonal, the impact upon day-to-day life would not be traumatic. Things would change, however, with the arrival in the early 20th century of a priest at St. Alban's, near Conne River. His attempts to eradicate "pagan" beliefs and practices, his high-handed dismissal of a Conne River leader, and his attempts to ban the use of Mi'kmaq created a resentment that persists in the community today.

Perhaps even more destructive to the Mi'kmaq way of life, however, was the decline of the world market for furs. A downward spiral of fur prices began in the 1920s and accelerated in the world depression of the 1930s. Although some Mi'kmaq were able to find work as loggers in the 1930s, the period was one of real hardship for most. World War II, however, brought a measure of improvement for some Mi'kmaq, as it did for many other Newfoundlanders. Some men joined the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit as loggers, while others took jobs with the Bowater's pulpwood operations working in the Conne River area.

Nonetheless, in the 1950s and 1960s the living standard of Conne River appears to have fallen below that of their neighbours. While no one actually starved, in 1958, as one authority noted, "only 30 per cent [of Conne River's people] were functionally literate" (Jackson 1993:168). Newfoundland's Mi'kmaq received no federal benefits during this period because, when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, the Mi'kmaq were not recognized as "status" Indians. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, Newfoundland Mi'kmaq were a part of a general movement by Aboriginal peoples throughout North America to reclaim their rights as First Nations. This might have been expected since the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq were experiencing some of the same difficulties encountered by Native people elsewhere. For example, older Mi'kmaq today from the west coast recount how their neighbours stigmatized them as "Jackatars", and how some people hid their Native ancestry for fear of ridicule. In Conne River, the flooding resulting from the massive Bay d'Espoir hydroelectric project and the construction of new roads to the south coast further depleted the caribou hunting and fur trapping of the region. Partly in response to these factors, the people of Conne River elected a chief and band council in 1972; a year later Mi'kmaq from the entire province came together in an organization called The Federation of Newfoundland Indians, the purpose of which was to achieve recognition by the Federal government. In the 1970s, the Innu and Inuit split from the Federation to form their own organizations. While the Conne River community achieved federal status under the Indian Act in 1984, the quest for federal recognition for Mi'kmaq outside Conne River continues.


CREDITS:

http://www.heritage.nf.ca/aboriginal/micmac_history.html

© 1998, Ralph T. Pastore
Archaeology Unit & History Department
Memorial University of Newfoundland

 

 

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