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Page 34 - European Impact on the Micmac Culture

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1982/6/1 (310 reads)

this transformation than to assess its im? pact on the Indian-land relationship. In these terms, then, what effect did the trade have on the Micmac ecosystem? The most obvious change was the unre? strained slaughter of certain game. Lured by European commodities, equipped with Eur? opean technology, urged by European trad? ers, deprived of a sense of responsibility and accountability for the land, and no longer inhibited by taboo, the Micmac be? gan to overkill systematically those very wildlife which had now become so profitab? le and even indispensable to his new way of life. The pathos of this transformation of attitude and behavior is illustrated by an incident recorded by Le Clercq. The In? dians, who still believed that the beaver had "sense" and formed a "separate nation," maintained that they "would cease to make war upon these animals if these would speak, howsoever little, in order that they might learn whether the Beavers are a- mong their friends or their enemies." Un? fortunately for the beaver, they never com? municated their friendliness. The natural world of the Indian was becoming inarticu? late. It is interesting to note that Diereville, who observed the Micmac culture at the be? ginning of the eighteenth century, was the only witness to record the native supersti? tion- which compelled them to tear out the eyes of all slain animals. Somehow, per? haps by some sort of symbolic transference, the spirits of surviving animals of the same species were thereby blinded to the irreverent treatment accorded the victim; otherwise, through the mediation of the outraged spirits, the living would no long? er have allowed themselves to be taken by the Indians. The failure of the earlier writers to mention this particular super? stition suggests that it was of fairly re? cent origin, a result of the overexploita- tion of game for the trade. To the Micmac mind, haunted by memories of a former time, the practice may have been intended to hide his guilt and insure his continued success. Together with this depletion of wildlife went a reduction of dependency on the re? sources of the local ecosystem. The use of improved hunting equipment, such as fish? ing line and hooks, axes, knives, muskets, and iron-tipped arrows, spears, and har? poons, exerted heavier pressure on the re? sources of the area, while the availabil? ity of French foodstuffs shifted the' posi? tion of the Micmac in the trophic system, somewhat reducing his dependency on local food sources as it placed him partly out? side of the system. To be sure, a decreas? ing native population relieved this pres? sure to a degree, but, according to evi? dence cited above, not enough to prevent the abuse of the land. Other less obvious results of the fur trade were the increased incidence of feud? ing and the modification of the Micmac set? tlement patterns to meet the demands of the trade. Liquor, in particular brandy, was a favorite item of the trade--one for which the Indians "would go a long way." Its effects were devastating. Both Jean Saint-Vallier (Francois Laval's successor as bishop of Quebec' and Biard blamed liq? uor as a cause for the increased death See life as it w/as in Cape Breton during the nineteenth century. NovaScotia Highland Village The Highland Village shows examples of dwellings built in Scotland, the first homes built with ba? sic tools in Cape Breton, as well as buildings that exemplify the settlers firm foothold in the new land. More than half the planned buildings are completed and work goes on. Come'see us grow. Highland Village Day August 7 -- 21st year of this festival, featuring tradi? tional Scottish entertainment' OPEN JUNE 15 to SEPT 15 10 to 6 DAILY Highland Village is located at lona on Route 223, which leaves the Trans-Canada about 7 miles east of Whycocomagh. It is a scenic alter? native paved route eastward to the Sydney ar? ea. Two short ferry rides pro? vide pleasant breaks in the drive. The view from the village is magnificent and worth the drive
Cape Breton's Magazine
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