Слике страница
PDF
ePub
[graphic]
[ocr errors]

THE

MARITIME MONTHLY.

A Magazine of Literature, Science, and Art.

VOL. II.

OCTOBER, 1873.

No. 4.

THE ACADIAN INDIANS.

BY JAMES HANNAY, ESQ.

(From an unpublished History of New Brunswick.)

THE HE Indians of North America inhabiting the region between the Mississippi, the Atlantic, and the country of the Esquimaux, were divided into eight great families, each speaking a language radically distinct from all the others. Of these, the Algonquins were by far the most numerous; they occupied nearly half of the territory east of the Mississippi, and extended from Labrador to North Carolina. It is to this family that the Indians of New Brunswick belong. When the French first visited Acadie they found it divided between two tribes who differed considerably in language and in their mode of life. The whole of the peninsula of Nova Scotia and the Gulf shore of New Brunswick was occupied by the Souriquois, which was the tribe now known as the Micmacs, while the Etchemins occupied the territory from the river St. John to the Kennebec. The latter tribe are now known as Malicetes, and they call themselves Wabannakai, or Men of the East. There is reason to believe that the Etchemins, or Malicetes, did not originally occupy any portion of New Brunswick, but that they intruded themselves into the territory of the Micmacs about the beginning of the seventeenth century, and gradually spread themselves along the northern coast of the Bay of Fundy and up the river St. John, pressing the Micmacs back to the gulf and the peninsula of Nova Scotia. The Malicetes were a very warlike people, much more so than the Micmacs, and they were generally

in league with the Indians of Maine and Canada in their wars against the Colonists of New England.

Although the Indians, from their peculiar mode of warfare and their contempt for peaceful pursuits, were at all times dangerous enemies, there is reason to believe that their numbers have been greatly exaggerated. By the census of 1861 it appeared that there were in New Brunswick twelve hundred and twelve Indians, and fourteen hundred and seven in Nova Scotia, or twenty-six hundred and nineteen in all. Of these, four hundred and forty-one, most of whom reside on the St. John river, may be set down as Malicetes, so that the Micmacs of Acadie number upwards of two thousand, which would represent a force of from four to five hundred warriors. It is doubtful if their numbers were ever much greater. In 1607, when Membertou assembled all his Micmac warriors, from Gaspe to Cape Sable, to make war on the Armouchiquois at Saco, their whole number amounted only to five hundred. In 1694, when the Malicetes and Canibats, under Matakando, made their grand raid on Oyster River and the other settlements of New Hampshire, the whole number engaged in the expedition was only two hundred and fifty; and two years later, when Fort Nashwaak was besieged by the English, thirty-six warriors was the whole number that the Indian settlement of Aukpayne could spare for the assistance of the garrison. It appears from a memorandum made in 1726 by Capt. Gyles, who had resided many years with the Indians, that the number from sixteen years of age and upwards on the river at St. John, was one hundred; and at Passmaquoddy, thirty. A letter written in 1753 by Governor Hopson to the Lords of Trade, states that there were about three hundred families of Micmacs in the country; but he could not find any person who had been among them who had ever seen two hundred Indians under arms together. From these statements it may be safely inferred, that the whole force of the Micmacs and Malicetes combined never exceeded seven or eight hundred warriors, and that no material decrease has taken place in their numbers since the first settlement of the country.

Excellent reasons existed to prevent the Indians from ever becoming very numerous. An uncultivated country can only support a limited population. The hunter must draw his sustenance from a very wide range of territory, and the life of hardships and privation to which the Indian is exposed, is fatal to all but the strongest and most hardy. The Indians of Acadie were

essentially a race of hunters and warriors. Like most Indian tribes, they despised agriculture, and considered it a pursuit only fit for women and slaves. Some of the northern Indians cultivated the ground to a small extent, and it is certain that the Indians of Acadie did during the French occupation, but their operations in tilling the ground were on a very limited scale; and to this day, our Indians are averse to the steady labor of the field. They had no domestic animals except the dog, and he was useful only in the chase.

During the summer, the Micmacs drew a large portion of their subsistence from the sea. Every bay and islet swarmed with fish, and there they might reap an almost unfailing harvest. The Malicetes, although living inland, were not without their share of the same kind of food. Fish were abundant in every stream and river, and the salmon was pursued with torch and spear over the shallows by the savage denizens of the St. John. In this way, from one to two hundred salmon would be sometimes taken at a time. The Indians also used hooks of bone or shells, and lines and nets made of a coarse kind of hemp. They had also weirs, in which they at times captured great quantities of fish; but the torch and spear were the favorite implements of fishing with them.

Notwithstanding the allowance of fish at certain seasons, the savages were at all times principally dependent on the forest for their food. Game is believed to have been much more abundant in former times then it is now, and about the time when Latour and D'Aulnay were fighting with each other for the possession of Acadie, as many as three thousand moose skins were collected on the St. John river each year. Wild fowl of all kinds gathered in incredible numbers along the shores, in the marsh lands, and up the rivers. Charlevoix states that near St. John, geese laid their eggs so abundantly that they alone might have sustained the whole population; and the same, according to L'Escarbot, was true with regard to the St. Croix. Denys speaks of immense flocks of wild pidgeons passing his camp on the Miramichi every morning and evening for eight days together; and he adds, that it was hardly possible to sleep for the noise made by the salmon. going over the shoals and the immense flocks of geese and ducks. At Bathurst and all along the northern shore of the Province their number was such as almost to exceed belief.

The habitations of the Indians were generally huts or wigwams

made of poles, and covered with bark, but in some instances they erected dwellings of a more permanent character, and surrounded with poles, so as to form a sort of fort or stockade. There were several structures of this description on the St. John in early times; one at Aukpayne, another at Medoctec, and a third at Madawaska. Denys speaks of one which the Chief of Richibucto had erected on the shore, and in which he describes him as receiving strangers sitting on the ground, looking like an ape with a pipe in his mouth, and preserving his dignity by being very taciturn and getting drunk only in private.

The Indians cooked their meat by broiling it on live coals, or roasting it on a sort of spit in front of the fire.. But soup was their favorite delicacy: they boiled it in a capacious wooden cauldron made out of the butt of a large tree and hollowed out by fire. As such a vessel was not easily made, they frequently regulated their camping ground in some measure by the conveniences for establishing such a soup-kettle. The soup was boiled by dropping red hot stones into the cauldron, which when cooled, were immediately replaced by others, hot from the fire, until the meat was cooked. The soup thus made was their great drink, for Denys says "they drank as little water then as now;" and he adds, "thus they dined without care or salt or pepper, and quaffing deep draughts of good fat soup, lived long, and multiplied and were happy."

Yet, although at certain seasons they luxuriated in abundance of food, at times they were subject to the greatest privations, and on the verge of starvation. Then, no sort of food came amiss to them; reptiles, dogs, and animals of all sorts were eagerly sought after and greedily devoured: roots* of various kinds were in great demand, and sometimes they were forced to boil over the bones of their former feasts to appease their hunger. Wild grapes also it appears formed a portion of the food of the St. John Indians.

* Mrs. Rowlandson, who was captured during King Philip's war, says, "their chief and commonest food was ground nuts. They eat also nuts and acorns, artichokes and lily roots and ground beans. They would pick up old bones and cut them in pieces at the joints, scald them over the fire to make the vermin come out, boil them, and then drink the liquor."

+ See narrative of John Gyles' captivity. He was taken by the Indians when the Fort at Pemaquid was captured in 1689, and was a captive on the St. John river nine years,--six with the Indians at Medoctec, and three with Lewis d Amours Sieur des Chauffours at Jemseg. The latter treated him very kindly and finally gave him his liberty.

« ПретходнаНастави »