Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 47 > Page 58 - Introduction to Micmac Hieroglyphics

Page 58 - Introduction to Micmac Hieroglyphics

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1988/1/1 (980 reads)

This day I have the honour of your favour, and beg leave to reply to acquaint you that it was taught by those Indians, and sir, they have a schoolmaster to instruct their children to Wright [sic] and read, and on my making a pen for them the [sic] prefer'd the stick. Their his [sic] in every family a large book make [sic] out of the bark of the birch tree written I should suppose centry [century?] back... I beg to observe I offered any prize for one of these books but they would not part with them upon any account.... There was no schoolteacher, as such, at Conne River in 1791, so it appears that some individual took it upon himself to teach the children their prayers and the reading and writing of the hieroglyphics. The evidence of the attachment of the Mic? mac to their hieroglyphic manuscripts is most revealing. Other examples of Newfoundland Micmac hier? oglyphic writing also survive. There is, in existence, in fact, a tattered book con? taining prayers, catechism, and so forth, the earliest parts of which date from 1830. Clearly the teaching of Maillard had taken root: with these hand-made documents the Micmac preserved their Christian inheri- tance without the help of any missionary or lAsk Enerinfo A'S'' fi' ato"' ,toV lOO' tiorn' • ''"n'--' about stopping drafts ' For answers to these and other questions *S about energy and housing ... 1-424-5727 (toll free) 424-8619 in Metro Halifax or write enerinfo • P.O. Box 1087 N.S. Dept. of Mines & Energy Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 2X1 Our Energy Advisors can provide useful advice and publications to address your concerns. 1'1 Energy. Mines and Energie, M.nes < pastor for a period of well over a hundred years, thereby showing a truly remarkable persistence. Why were the Micmac not taught a normal al? phabetic writing in the first case? The mo? tives were probably a mixture of good and bad. On the good side, use was made of something that was truly indigenous, rather than introducing something totally foreign to the culture. On the bad side, there was clearly an intent on the part of the mis? sionaries to "protect" their flock from the printed word which might introduce "undesirable" elements--undesirable, that is, from the missionaries' point of view. Such an attitude is, of course, reprehensi- bly paternalistic, and leads to deceit and dishonesty. Maillard, in fact, gave his flock to believe that only prayers and re? ligious texts were committed to print, and when queried by one Micmac who had been as? tounded to hear a Frenchman read aloud a passage that had nothing to do with prayers, Maillard proceeded to set his mind at rest by telling him that the Frenchman had been making it up. Relating.the inci? dent in a letter, Maillard comments "... I think we are well-advised to keep to our hieroglyphics" (translated from Micheline Johnson, Apotres ou agitateurs (Apostles or Agitators). 1970). Eventually, the Micmac did develop a modi? fied Latin alphabet, using French values for the letters. They taught themselves to read and write using this alphabet, which, ironically, is much the same as that used Keddy's Sydney Hotel 600 King's Rd., Sydney, N. S. KEDDY'S 218 ROOMS Air Conditioned Colour Cable TV Licensed Dining Daily Features Restaurant Hours: 7 A.M. - 2 P.M. / 5 P.M. -10 P.M. Coffee Shop Hours: 6 A.M. - MIDNIGHT Featuring Our Indoor Rfinreation Facility ~ <>Pool
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