Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 40 > Page 39 - At St. Ann's Day Mission, 1923

Page 39 - At St. Ann's Day Mission, 1923

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1985/8/1 (423 reads)

cent medal hanging by a chain on his chest. Beginning with the man sitting on the right of the wigwam entrance the captain shakes hands around the circle (pusoliwit, bonjours), in anti-sunwise circuit. In con- clusion he stands at the entrance, and with sweeping gesture waves his hat' (mu'iwet, "wishing good luck to all"), while the circle of men (smaginis, sol? diers, braves) shout, "eh!" Into the wig? wam withdraws the captain, and from within a shout and a song. Repetition by another of the four captains who are on the Island, except that he begins handshaking with the man who sits at the foot of the flagpole, opposite the wigwam entrance, and so mid? way of the circle. From this point the cap? tain moves anti-sunwise, then back to the flagpole and the circle of handshaking is completed sunwise.... A considerable inter? val, then forth the Chief of Rocky Point, P. E. I., with style, but unhappily not in his old-time apparel. For about one minute he sings and with body slightly inclined forward, takes dance steps, a stamping with the right foot, with a vigorous con? clusive stamp first by right foot, then by left, the body markedly bent forward. (This is the song-dance known as nes'ka- wet). When he finishes, the circle gives their "encouraging" shout. Now he starts on the anti-sunwise circle of shaking hands. After completing one-quarter of the circle, again he sings and dances (omit? ting conclusive stamps), and the circle shouts. Again, through the third quarter, and through the last quarter, same song, dance, and responsive shout. The last song and dance is accompanied by the usual hat waving. "First time I have seen that," com? ments Mrs. Morris, on the song-dance. Now after a considerable interval the pudus', the wampum-record keeper, stands within the wigwam, but near the entrance and facing out, and makes an address-- while the circle outside thins out. After this address all those who can, crowd into the wigwam for whatever is the final act, and even lie outside with their heads with? in, poked under the convas.... It is six P.M., the church bell tolls for evening service, the "angels." (Parsons then writes about what she calls the "War Dance." Sarah Denny told us that it was not a war dance, "it was a celebra? tion dance.") On coming out of chapel peo? ple gathered around the dance ring in front of the Grand Chief's wigwam, a grass- grown rutted circle, with a diameter of a- bout 18 feet. At the centre stood a man to beat with a short unbarked stick, on a doubled-up piece of brown paper, in lieu of birch-bark. He sang two or three words or syllables in repetition for about one- minute periods. When he stopped singing, the circle stopped dancing and shouted. Af- . ter 6 or 8 such songs and breaks, the sing? er's place was refilled. The chief singer who began and ended was a middle-aged man, and he was relieved by two young men. Each singer used different words, and, I think, a different musical phrase. The words or syllables as well as I could remember were: (1) Egwena' gwenu. (2) Hena heyu. (3) Kwi- jodi (?). The dancers progressed in anti- sunwise circuit, one behind the other, their step a rather rapid clog, body and arms held, as in clog dancing, loosely. Ex? cepting Mr. Morris, and a little boy of 3 who aroused intense interest and amusement, the 6 or 7 persistent dancers were all young men, of Botlodek'. A middle-aged wom? an joined for a couple of songs, and a girl for one, the woman as a matter of course, like the little boy, the girl af? ter much urging, pushing, and laughter. Mrs. Morris withstood all the hilarious urging to enter the ring, and offers to hold her prayer book with which she could not dance. She refused even the offer of the Grand Chief. It would have been nice, she opined later, had the dancers worn their old-time clothes, as they used to. Even so, I felt repaid for the $5.00 I had thrown to see the dance step, the beating, the circuit, and, not to be overlooked, the general attitude of taking the perfor? mance as a quasi-joke. Mrs. Morris opined that "God made Indians shy; like fox, they will slip away, don't mind about disappointing you." She des? cribed her relation to a certain white wom? an for whom she had worked and who liked her. When the white woman met her in the store and patted her in a kindly way, Mrs, Morris felt "so shy, would like to sink a- way." When at work for the woman, Mrs. Mor? ris was always glad to get back home as a refuge from the oppressive demonstrative- ness. It was God also who had made the In? dians poor. "They are poor because they are lazy," said Mr. Peter Paul. "No! no!" said Mrs. Morris with vehemence. "God means them to be poor." CONTINUED NEXT PAGE For help in preparing this article and supplying photographs, our thanks to Ruth Whitehead, Nova Scotia Museum; Lillian Marshall of Eskasoni; and Roy Gould, Editor, Micmac News, Membertou. The article by Elsie Clews Parsons is from her "Micmac Notes: St. Ann's Mission on Chapel Island, Bras d'Or Lakes, Cape Breton Island," Journal of American Folk-lore, Vol. 39, No. 154 (Oct.-Nov.), 1926. Sherwood Restaurant; Specializing in: Seafood, Char-Broiled Red Brand Steaks, Pork Chops, Etc. Licensed Dining Room OPEN YEAR ROUND (902)285-2747 SUMMER HOURS (MAY TO OCTOBER) 7 A.M. TO 11 P.M. WINTER HOURS 11 A.M. TO 10 P.M. North Ingonish (39),,
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