Manataka American Indian Council








Shared by White Owl (Gu'gu'Gwes)

The name Micmac or Mi'kmaq (singular: Mi'kmaw) means "my kin; my friends," and has various spellings: Mikmaq , Micmac , Mikmak, Lnu'k and Miqmak.  

The Micmac live in the Maritime Provinces of Canada, including Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Gasp Peninsula of Qebec.  They are also found in Maine and Massachusetts in the United States.

The Canadian Maritimes are located in the Northeastern corner of North America. The combination of rugged Atlantic coastline and the lush green forests is magnificent. The contrast breathtaking.

The Mi'kmaq eat a large variety of seafood found in the ocean and forest animals such as moose, elk and deer.  The first rays of sunrise to touch North America in Micmac country. 

The Micmac are an Algonquian speaking people.  Before the 16th and 17th centuries, the Micmac were semi-nomadic as they followed the seasonal food supplies.

Due to the area in which they lived the Micmacs applied few, if any,  sedentary agricultural practices into their daily lives. The Atlantic seaboard, so far up the northern end of the continent, has long cold winters; this translates into short growing seasons.  

Some archeologists believe the Micmacs grew maize and tobacco. The maize was probably grown for nourishment, and harvested green.  The tobacco was considered a precious commodity, so if grown was probably done so for aesthetic reasons.  

While not being entirely sedentary, they were not entirely nomadic people either; they did have their base camps.  These camps were found in two different environments, depending upon the season. During the spring, summer, and fall months they could be found closer to the coastline than during the winter months.  

Micmacs utilized animal skins for their clothing and lodging materials.  The best time of year to hunt the fur bearing animals was the winter months. It was then that the skins were thicker, as were the fur coats. The winter months were considered the lean months, due to difficulty with hunting in the snow.  They looked upon the move to their summer camps as a beginning of the season of plenty.  They harvested almost all of their protein from marine resources throughout the bountiful season.  They hunted seal whenever possible because the oils and skins were considered invaluable to the Micmacs."

European Influences

There is documented evidence that the first European invaders were Vikings who landed on Newfoundland (where a band of Beothuk lived) as early as the 11th century.  It is also believed Basque fisherman visited the Grand Banks before the infamous voyage of Columbus voyage in 1492. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries French and Scotch traders and trappers made regular seasonal trips to the Canadian Maritimes.  In this same time period the British visited and set up settlements.

Before the arrival of Europeans, Micmac funerals were sometimes held before the person actually died.  Travel and outdoor funeral services were difficult because of the harsh weather, so if a person was believed to have an incurable disease or was near death, the individual gave a farewell speech and then everyone feasted and danced.  This person would no longer be given assistance. Often dogs were killed as a sign of grief.

The Micmac religion believed in one supreme being but included a number of lesser gods, some of whom had human form.  Best known of the Micmac legends are their stories of Glooscap, a cultural hero. 

Almost immediately after French Jesuits arrived in Acadia, the Micmac began to convert to the Roman Catholic faith.  During the early years, the French brought relatively few of their women to North America, so intermarriage between French and Micmac became very common.

These two factors bound the Micmac so closely to the French, that they found it very difficult to accept British rule after France cession of the Maritimes to Great Britain in 1713.

Currently, most Micmac have French surnames, and they have remained among the most firmly converted of all Native American groups.  At the same time, they have also retained much of their language and culture, and their practice of the Catholic religion has incorporated many of their traditional native beliefs.

The Mkmaq National Flag has three colors, white, red, and blue, signifying the three divine persons, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.

The cross signifies Christanity.

The letters: N,A,M,T mean:
N = Nin (I or Me)
A = Alasotmoinoi (being a Catholic)
M = Mento (gisna gil mentoin (devil))
T = Tooe ot Tooa (get out - go out)

Nin Alasotmoinoi gil Mento Tooe (I am a Catholic, you are a devil, get out)

SA = Saint Anne (Patron Saint of the Mkmaq since 1730).
MIGMAG = Mkmaq (The Allies)
LNOG = L'nk (The People)

The flag was first raised in Listukujk, Quebec on October 4, 1900 and in Kjipuktuk, Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1901.

The Micmac language is heavily influenced by the French tongue.  The 1974 Bernard Francis and Douglas Smith Orthography became the official orthography of the M'kmaq Nation in 1980.

Mi'kmaq wigwams at St. Ann's Church
Chapel Island, Nova Scotia. Courtesy
Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax.

Photo by Clara Dennis

White Owl (Gu'gu'Gwes)

Turtle Tracks -

Museum of Nova Scotia 


Related Micmac Web Sites:

Native Lore: MicMac Creation Story
Metepenagiag Where Spirits Live
- metepenagiag means"red banks"
Indigenous Environmental Network