Acadia and the Mi'kmaq
|| The area that became known as Acadia was inhabited
for thousands of years by Native American tribes. The predominant
tribe that the French found in Acadia was the Mi' kmaq. Though often
written as Micmac, the name should properly be written as Mi'kmaq.
The Acadians called them Souriquois at
first, and later (18th & 19th centuries) ... Mi'kmaq. There were
3000 when the French first arrived. The Mi'kmaq came from the southwest
and drove the Kwedecks (Iroquois) towards the St. Lawrence. The Restigouche
(in New Brunswick) was the northern boundary of the Mi'kmaq. They
allowed Malicites (once part of the Abenaki nation) to have the St. John,
but reserved a village site at the mouth of the river. The Mi'kmaq
were in the Algonquin family of Indians.
The Mi'kmaq were intelligent and honest, and
always were friendly with the French. The Acadians would often trade
with them. In fact, they saw the fertile area of Grand Pre when venturing
there to trade with the Indians. When they outgrew the Port Royal
area, many moved to Grand Pre. Mi'kmaq had homes (at least in the
summer) at the Grand Pre area early on. Burial grounds and a mound
(with clam shells, animal bones, arrowheads, stone implements, rude pottery)
have been found.
One of the most famous Mi'kmaq legends involves
Glooscap ... the Great Spirit of Mi'kmaq tradition. He lived like
other men, but was never sick, never grew old, and never died. Minas
Basin was his beaver pond. Spencer’s Island was his ketle, made of a stone.
Two rocks nearby were his dogs. When the white man came, he was angry
at their treachery, turned his kettle over, turned his dogs to stone, and
left the country ... to return again some day.
The Mi'kmaq had a name for every geographical
feature by the time the French arrived. Silas Tertius Rand spent
40 years with the Mi'kmaq and produced a dictionary with 40,000 of their
words. Some of the place names are:
Annapolis River: Tawopskik, flowing out between rocks
Cape Breton: Oonamaagik
Cobequid: Maycobegilk, end of the flowing water
Cornwallis River: Chijikwtook, narrow river
Halifax: Chebookt, chief harbor
Memramcook: Amlamkook, variegated
Newfoundland: Uptumcook, the mainland
Nova Scotia: Megumaage, Mi'kmaq land
Penobscot: Banoopskep, opening out through the rocks
PEI: Eppayguit, anchored on the wave
St. John River: Olastook, beautiful river
• Mi' kmaq
|| The first mention of the area by name came
around 1524. Verrazano visited the New World and noticed the green
and full of life. He named the area Arcadie, after Ancient Greece.
The area he visited was actually in the Delaware/Maryland/Virginia region.
As the years went by, mapmakers started labeling the Nova Scotia
area as "L'Arcadie". In later maps, the "r" was left off.
In 1548, Gastaldi called it Lacardia, as did
Zaltieri in 1556. Ruscelli used the term Lacardie on his map in 1561.
Andre Thivet called it Arcadia in 1575. Champlain, in his work Les
Sauvages, called it Arcadia. In Clark's book, Acadia,
he gives several sources that discuss the naming of the land.
Exploration of the Area
| In 1534, a French sea captain (Jacques
Cartier) entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Over the next 73 years,
ships from St. Malo, Brouage, and Honfleur made the trip. [Colby, 4] French fishermen (Norman, Breton, Basque, etc.)
had been working in the Atlantic waters east of Canada for many years prior
King Henry IV of France, started giving out
monopolies in 1588. The person receiving it was supposed to bring a certain
number of colonists to New France. In 1597, La Roche planned to colonize
Sable Island (off the coast of Acadia). He planned to take 200 vagrants
from Normanday and Brittany, but he died before the plans could be realized.
Chauvin, a Huegenot from Honfleur, received a monopoly on fur trade, provided
he take 50+ colonists a year for 10 years (but he didn’t live up to that
part of the deal). About all he did was leave 16 at Tadoussac in
1600. That attempt was a dismal failure. [Colby, 119]
In 1603, Champlain traveled up the St. Lawrence
and brought beaver skins and Indians back to France. De Chastes,
who initiated the 1603 expedition, died before the ships returned.
As a result, colonization efforts switched from the St. Lawrence to Acadia.
The efforts were taken over by De Monts, who wanted to establish a colony,
but in a better climate than the Gulf of St. Lawrence. [Colby, 64]
Continue to Origins of the Acadians