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Page 25 - European Impact on the Micmac Culture

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1982/6/1 (330 reads)

sula. Prince Edward Island, and Cape Bret? on Island. According to the Sieur de Diere- ville, they also lived along the lower St. John River with the Malecites, who outnum? bered them. For our present purposes, the Micmac territory will be considered an eco? system, and the Micmac occupying it will be regarded as a local population. These designations are not entirely arbitrary, for the Micmac occupied and exploited the area in a systematic way; they had a cer? tain psychological unity or similarity in their ideas about the cosmos; they spoke a language distinct from those of their neighbours; and they generally married within their own population. There were, as might be expected, many external fac? tors impinging on the ecosystem which should also be evaluated, although space permits them only to be mentioned here. Some of these "supralocal" relations in? volved trade and hostilities with other tribes; the exchange of genetic material and personnel with neighbouring tribes through intermarriage and adoption; the ex? change of folklore and customs; and the movements of such migratory game as moose and woodland caribou. The Micmac ecosystem thus participated in a regional system, and the Micmac population was part of a regional population. The hunting, gathering, and fishing Micmac who lived within this Acadian forest, es? pecially along its rivers and by the sea, were omnivores (so to speak) in the troph? ic system of the community. At the first trophic level, the plants eaten were wild potato tubers, wild fruits and berries, a- coms and nuts, and the like. Trees and shrubs provided a wealth of materials used in the fashioning of tools, utensils, and other equipment. At the time of contact, none of the Indians living north of the Saco River cultivated food crops. Although legend credits the Micmac with having grown maize and tobacco "for the space of several years," these cultigens, as well as beans, pumpkins, and wampum (which they greatly prized), were obtained from the New England Algonquians of the Saco River area (Abnakis) and perhaps from other tribes to the south. Herbivores and carnivores occupy the sec? ond and third trophic levels respectively, with top carnivores in the fourth level. The Micmac hunter tapped all three levels in his seasonal hunting and fishing activi? ties, and these sources of food were "to them like fixed rations assigned to every moon." (Note: For details of the pre-con? tact Micma'' place in the faunal and flor? al ecology of their region, see two chart?? by Bernard Hoffman and a text from Father Biard in "Who Ate What in the Maritimes," Issue 21, CAPE BRETON'S MAGAZINE.) Frank G. Speck, perhaps the foremost stu? dent of northeastern Algonquian culture, has emphasized that hunting to the Micmacs was not a "war upon the animals, not a slaughter for food or profit." Denys's ob? servations confirm Speck's point: "Their greatest task was to feed well and to go a hunting. They did not lack animals, which they killed only in proportion as they had need of them." From this, and the above description of their effective hunting techniques, it would appear that the Mic? mac were not limited by their hunting tech? nology in the taking of game. As Denys pointed out, "the hunting by the Indians in old times was easy for them.... When they were tired of eating one sort, they killed some of another. If they did not wish longer to eat meat, they caught some fish. They never made an accumulation of skins of Moose, Beaver, Otter, or others, but only so far as they needed them for personal use. They left the remainder (of the carcass) where the animals had been killed, not taking the trouble to bring them to their camps." Need, not technology, was the ruling factor, and need was deter? mined by the great primal necessities of life and regulated by spiritual considera? tions. Hunting, as Speck remarks, was "a CONTINUED ON THE NEXT PAGE Speedy Propane SPEEDY FILLING STATIONS Speedy Propane Bulk Plant Kings Road, Sydney J.E.Benoit, Arichat -Inlet Campground, Baddeck H. Cormier Service Station, Petit Etang Eraser's Campground, Baddeck Bob Wilson's Fina, Reserve Dave's R V Centre, Bras d'Or Let Us Fill Your Next Prescription Now Q Locations in Cape Breton to Serve You: PORT HAWKESBURY CENTRE 625-1404 CAPE BRETON SHOPPING PLAZA 564-8151 MAYFLOWER MALL 539-5080 I Operated by Manson Dru's Ltd. -(25)
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