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Page 24 - European Impact on the Micmac Culture

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1982/6/1 (1292 reads)
 

time than formerly; as for the beaver, "few in a house are saved; they (the Mic? mac) would take all. The disposition of the Indians is not to spare the little ones any more than the big ones. They killed all of each kind of animal that there was when they could capture it." In short, the game which by all accounts had been so plentiful was now being system? atically overkilled by the Indians them? selves. A traditional explanation for this ecological catastrophe is neatly summar? ized by Peter Farb, who conceives of it in mechanistic terms: "If the Northern Atha- baskan and Northern Algonkian Indians hus? banded the land and its wildlife in prime? val times, it was only because they lacked both the technology to kill very many ani? mals and the market for so many furs. But once white traders entered the picture, supplying the Indians with efficient guns and an apparently limitless market for furs beyond the seas, the Indians went on an orgy of destruction." The Indian, in other words, was "economically seduced" to exploit the wildlife requisite to the fur trade. Such a cavalier dismissal of northeastern Algonquian culture, especially its spiritu? al component, renders this explanation su? perficial and inadequate. One can argue that economic determinism was crucial to the course of Algonquian cultural develop? ment (including religious perception) over a long period of time. Yet from this per? spective European contact was but a moment in the cultural history of the Indians, and it is difficult to imagine that ideals and a life-style that had taken centuries to evolve would have been so easily and quickly discarded merely for the sake of improved technological convenience. As we shall see, the entire Indian-land relation? ship was suffused with religious considera? tions which profoundly influenced the econ? omic (subsistence) activities and beliefs of these people. The subsistence cycle was regulated by centuries of spiritual tradi? tion which, if it had been in a healthy state, would have countered the revolution? izing impact of European influence. Tradi? tion would doubtless have succumbed eventu? ally, but why did the end come so soon? Why did the traditional safeguards of the northeastern Algonquian economic system of? fer such weak resistance to its replace? ment by the exploitive, European-induced regime?... In the case of the northeastern Algonquian, and the Micmac in particular, the fur trade was but one factor--albeit an impor? tant one--in the process of acculturation. Long before they felt the lure of European technology, these littoral Indians must have been infected with Old World diseases carried by European fishermen, with cata? strophic effects. Later, the Christian mis? sionaries exerted a disintegrative influ? ence on the Indians' view of and relation to their environment. All three of these factors--disease, Christianity, and tech- nology--which may be labeled "trigger" fac? tors, must be assessed in terms of their impact on the Indians' ecosystem. Among the first North American Indians to be encountered by Europeans were the Mic? macs who occupied present-day Nova Scotia, northern New Brunswick and the Gaspe Penin- Education In Nova Scotia The Department of Education is continually involved in improving the quality of the educational services provided to all Nova Scotians, including native people, francophones, newcomers to Nova Scotia and immigrants who have come to Canada. We believe that by encouraging multicultural learning experiences in Nova Scotia we will also develop multinational perspectives that will deepen our international understanding. Le ministere de I'Education continue a faire son possible pour ameliorer la qualite des services educationnels a tous les Neo-ecossais, y-inclus les autochtones, les Acadiens, les nouveaux-arrives dans notre Province et les immigrants au Canada. Nous croyons que c'est en encourageant I'education multiculturelle en Nouvelle-Ecosse que nous developperons aussi une perspective multinationale qui fera croitre nos ententes internationales. Tha Roinn an Fhoghlum daonnan a sas ann a bhi a leasachadh stait nan Seirbhisean Foghlumach do mhuinntir Albainn Nuadh; nam measg Innseannaich, Franngaich, feadhainn a tha air ur thighinn a dh'Aibainn Nuadh agus daoine o dhuthchannan eile a tha air an dachaidhean a dheanamh ann an Canada. Tha sinn a' creidsinn gun uraichear seallaidhean iomadh-naiseantach le bhi a brosnachadh foghlum iomadh- culturach, agus gun doimhnich seo 'ur tuigse eadar-naiseanta. Education departmentaq me'pemi kwtnu'kwalsijik kisi naji klu'lka'tunew kina'matnewey wjitmstNova Scotiaewaq ma'w Inu'k, wenujk, natel pejita'te'wk aqq qame'kewaq naji wikultijik Canada. Ketlamsimek kisi apoqnmatmek kina'nasin wen pilu'tlqamiksuti'l Nova Scotia, naji wli nsiatultitesnu qame'kewaq. Nova Scotia Departinent of Education Hon. Terence R.B. Donahoe Gerald J. McCarthy Minister Deputy Minister
Cape Breton's Magazine
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