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Page 35 - European Impact on the Micmac Culture

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1982/6/1 (365 reads)

rate of the natives. Moreover, it was ob? served that drunkenness resulted in social disintegration as.the Indians became de? bauched and violent among themselves, and, at times, spilled over into the French com? munity which they would rob, ravage, and burn. Drunkenness also provided a legiti? mate excuse to commit crimes, such as mur? dering their enemies, for which they would otherwise be held accountable. European contact should thus be viewed as a trigger factor, that is, something which was not present in the Micmac ecosystem be? fore and which initiated a concatenation of reactions leading to the replacement of the aboriginal ecosystem by another. Euro? pean disease, Christianity, and the fur trade with its accompanying technology-- the three often intermeshed--were responsi? ble for the corruption of the Indian-land relationship, in which the native had merged sympathetically with his environ? ment. By a lockstep process European dis? ease rendered the Indian's control over the supernatural and spiritual realm inop? erative, and the disillusioned Micmac apos? tatized, debilitating taboo and preparing the way for the destruction of wildlife which was soon to occur under the stimula? tion of the fur trade. For those who be? lieved in it, Christianity furnished a new, dualistic world view which placed man a- bove nature, as well as spiritual support for the fur trade, and as a result the Mic? mac became dependent on the European mar? ketplace both spiritually and economically. Within his ecosystem the Indian changed from conservator to exploiter. All of this resulted in the intense exploitation of some game animals and the virtual extermin? ation of others. Unfortunately for the In? dian and the land, this grim tale was to be repeated many times along the moving In? dian-white frontier. Life for the Micmac had indeed become more convenient, but con? venience cost dearly in much material and abstract culture loss or modification. Our thanks to Calvin Martin, Department of History, Rutgers University, for permission to reprint most of his article, originally titled "The European Im? pact on the Culture of a Northeastern Algonquian Tribe: An Ecological Interpretation," and pub? lished with footnotes in William and Mary Quarter? ly, 1974. The opening quote is from his essay, "The American Indian as Miscast Ecologist," The History Teacher, 1981. Petroglyphs from Marion Rob? ertson's Rock Drawings of the Micmac Indians, a No? va Scotia Museum publication. The photographs are stills from ETV Series Mi'kmaq, a co-production of CBC Halifax and the N. S. Department of Education. Photos by Ron Merrick and Linda Wood. Thanks to Ruth Whitehead, History Department, Nova Scotia Mu? seum, who suggested their use and made her copies available. "anima taught how to Is. . . him be human...." (35)
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