Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 31 > Page 32 - European Impact on the Micmac Culture

Page 32 - European Impact on the Micmac Culture

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1982/6/1 (307 reads)

Moose & Indians one Indian on horseback. Draw? ing reduced in size from origi? nal petroglyph. A puzzling picture cut in the rocks after the arrival of the white man and his horse. Lower part of pic ture marred with overdrawings of figures, boat, and a shaman s wig warn marked with the bare branches of a tree. From ROCK DRAWINGS OF THE MICMAC INDIANS (George Creed's trac? ings) by Marion Robertson, N.S.Museimi. Since the advent of EuropeaJli diseases and the consequent disillusionment with native spiritual beliefs and customs, some Indi? ans appear to have repudiated their tradi? tional world view altogether, while others clung desperately to what had become a mor? ibund body of ritual. We would suppose that the Christian message was more read? ily accepted by the former, while the lat? ter group, which included the shamans and those too old to change, would have fought bitterly against the missionary teachings. But they resisted in vain for, with time, old people died and shamans whose magic was less potent than that of the missionar? ies were discredited. The missionary was successful only to the degree that his pow? er exceeded that of the shaman. The nonlit- erate Indian, for example, was awed by the magic of handwriting as a means of communi? cation. Even more significant was the fact that Christianity was the religion of the white man, who, with his superior technolo- y and greater success at manipulating life to his advantage, was believed to have re? course to a greater power (manitou) than did the Indian. Material goods, such as the trading aricles offered the Indians by the French, were believed by the native to have a spirit within, in accord with their belief that all animate and inanimate ob? jects housed such a spirit or power. Fur? thermore, there were degrees of power in such objects, which were determined and calibrated in the Indian mind by the de? gree of functionalism associated with.a particular object. For example, the Micmac believed that there was a spirit of his canoe, of his snowshoes, of his bow, and so on. It was for this reason that a man's material goods were either buried with him or burned, so that their spirits would ac? company his to the spirit world, where he would have need of them. Just as he had hunted game in this physical world, so his spirit would again hunt the game spirits with the spirits of his weapons in the land of the dead. Denys described an inci? dent which emphasized the fact that even European trading goods had spirits, when he related how the brass kettle was known to have lost its spirit (or died) when it no longer rang when tapped. Thus Christian? ity, which to the Indians was the ritual harnessing all of this power, was a potent force among them. Nevertheless, the priests who worked among the Indians fre? quently complained of their relapsing into paganism, largely because the Micmac came to associate Christianity and civilization (32)
Cape Breton's Magazine
  View this article in PDF format Print article

Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to the PDF version of this content. Click here to download and install the Acrobat plugin
Acrobat Reader Download