Cape Breton's Magazine

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Page 10 - Evidence of Early Man on Cape Breton: Incomplete History of Cape Breton Indians

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1976/8/1 (1969 reads)

Evidence of Early Man on Cape Breton Incomplete History of Cape Breton Indians by john Brskme As I could not learn from books about the predecessors of the Micmacs, I asked any older Indians whom I raet. Those of the southwest knew nothing, except that one said that the Micraacs had driven the Maliseets from Bear River. At Pictou Land? ing a very helpful Indian told me that the Micmacs had found the Red Indians in Cape Breton and had driven them out to New? foundland. At '-Whycocomagh I was told the same. The "Red Indians" were the Beothuks of Newfoundland, whose men and women co? vered their hair, face and clothing with red ochre. Old Indians told me exactly the form of the Beothuk winter house, dug into the ground and vrith a groove for each sleeper, but all agreed that no such hol? lows had ever been found in Nova Scotia. For some years I thought that the "Red Indians" were the "Red Paint" Indians, also called "Archaics" and "Laurentians." They were called "Red Paint" because their graves contained only a few of their tools and an amount of red ochre, but so were the graves of many other Indians and as well also on the Cave-Men graves in Europe. Some of these Laurentian tools were illus? trated in a book on the Beothuks. Gradu? ally it came to me that no one knew any? thing about the Beothuks except in the last years before their destruction. I had to attempt to dig for their history. My first effort was at the well-known camp at Little Narrows. It had suffered from the buildings of a mill, and thereafter by digging for curios. I found some bits of Indian pottery and broken tools among gin bottles, but I was looking for a home which would give me an idea of the people vdio had used it. There were no bones to tell of hunting, but bones do not last in this liraeless soil unless shells corae to remedy it. There were oysters in the water beside the camp, but only four oyster- shells appeared in the site • and these had been used as scrapers. At last I found 2/3 of a wigwam site, the other 1/3 having been destroyed by a building. The depth of the site was never more than six inches, but the few arrow- or spear-points were of three cultures: the uppermost Micmac, be? low it another belonged to the Shield Ar? chaic, and below this was a point of the Archaic (or Laurentian), not less than 3000 B.C. Several archaeologists have attacked Cape Breton, but no other cul? tures than these have been found. (Edi? tor's Note; No other cultures had been found until a few raonths after Mr. Ers'- kine's article was written' See the ac? count of Ron Nash's 1975 discoveries which follows Mr. Erskine's history. The Laurentians This tribe reached Nova Scotia at about 3000 B.C. They seem to have come by way of the Great Lakes, but their tools and their artistic sense suggest contact with the Eskimos. Their canoes were dugouts • the logs dug by means of fire, the charred wood cut away with stone gouges, and then the inside was scraped with a broad chert scraper. In the winter they hunted moose or deer in the snow, their lances tipped with points with triangular stera which would inevitably leave the point in the wound. They must have had snowshoes, but no trace of these has been found. With the coming of sprii' they moved down a river to a convenient place to catch smelts, gaspereaux or salmon as they came up the river. Iheir nets were weighted, at first with square flat stones with opposite notches, but later with neat plummets. Later they might move out to the sea. Ihey did not eat shellfish and had no pottery. Ihey made a few small stone-carvings of fish or turtle, but their speciality was the raaking of slate knives which varied frora siraple fish- knives to elaborate or long knives not intended for use. Our study of their sites in Cape Breton have been poor, as the few camps had been ploughed. One was in Scotsville and another at Margaree Forks. By 2000 B.C. Laurentians were established in Newfound? land, but a diminishing part of this cul-
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