Page 26 - The Four Lives of the Micmac Copper Pot
ISSUE : Issue 24
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1979/12/1
country, which serve as laws and regula? tions to the Gaspesians (Micmac), to dis? tribute the places of hunting to each in? dividual. It is not permitted to any Indi? an to overstep the bounds and limits of the region which shall have been assigned him in the assemblies of the elders. These are held in autumn and spring expressly to make this assignment." No doubt, by "the head of the nation" Le Clercq was refer? ring to the headman of the individual bands, as he makes clear in another pas? sage. "The occupation of this chief (from the Restigouche River) was to assign the places for hunting, and to take the furs of the Indians, giving them in turn what? ever they needed." Very likely there was some precedent for the allotment system in the re-allocation prerogatives of the headman.. Biard, writ? ing three-quarters of a century before Le- Clercq, recalled that the sagamore, as he called the headman, was the eldest son of a powerful family. "All the young people of the family are at his table and in his retinue; it is also his duty to provide dogs for the chase, canoes for transporta? tion, provisions and reserves for bad weather and expeditions. The young people flatter him, hunt, and serve their appren? ticeship under him, not being allowed to have anything before they are married." The sagamore was reportedly entitled to all the game taken by these youthful ap? prentices, but only a portion of the catch of a married man. When one of the latter returned from either a hunting expedition or with other supplies, he would scrupu- -lously pay his "dues and homage in skins and like gifts." To be headman was a cov? eted office, and Biard makes it clear that there was plenty of intrigue for it. Con? sidering, therefore, the commercial incen? tives associated with the unrestrained character of fur hunting and trapping in the early years of the seventeenth centu? ry, it is not difficult to imagine how the headman's function in re-allocating com? munity resources was extended to embrace the allotment of community lands toward the close of the century. The copper kettle, in a word, by virtue of its portable, sturdy nature, made it eas? ier for these people to roam the woods in search of furbearers--easier than it would have been had they been obliged to rely on the stationary wooden cauldrons. Granted, they could have hacked out temporary caul? drons as they moved about the bush, remin? iscent of Lescarbot's experience, but that is not the point. The Micmac would have responded to the lure of the fur trade the way they did with or without the copper kettle; the point is that the kettle fa? cilitated (intensified) their mobility. Although it is only conjectural, the evi? dence of mass slaughter of v/ildlife, De? nys' cryptic allusions to nomadism, and the belated imposition of an allotment system to safeguard territorial bounda- ries--all seem to suggest that the copper kettle was one element in a complex of forces which overthrew the traditional settlement pattern and mode of land tenure (obscure as it is). One can take this kind of argument too far, of course, to where it begins to sound like technological de? terminism. That is emphatically not our intention here, howdver. Kettles, like many other forms of technology, are capa? ble of being put to many uses and de? fined in just as many ways. In this sertse they follow--they offer possibilities • rather than lead. Reminiscent of Pierre Biard, with whom we began, we concede that trade goods lists are undoubtedly tedious records of culture contact, that is, they are if one does not interrogate them for their deeper myster? ies. Examples such as this show the impli? cations which at least some of these items posed for the native recipients. The pic? ture that emerges is one of assimilation into the native economic, ceremonial., spiritual, and demographic context, in the Nova Scotia quiltmaker/embroideress seeks outlets for quilts, batiks, dolls, embroidered hangings etc. For information please contact Louise Chisholm, Freeport, Digby Co., Nova Scotia BOV IBO. Bill's Pet Centre i??J ' '33 George Str'eet in Sydney ''''B liVi Jf'e'ct to Island Crafts " T iSA Phone 539-2243 HAGEN j pet Supplies and Accessories A Complete Selection Exotic Birds and 1 of Tropical Fish Small Animals Groceries Quick Snacks Coffee General Merchandise Trail Store at Wreck Cove, on the Cabot Trail /' "' _ Tourist Brochures / / JL 1 & Colour Printing 'H'F'ISO TOWNSEND STl'EET, SYDNEY, N.S. TELEPHONE (902) 564?M6 OF TBE PONZO iXtllN O rl I UntlN Ponzos A N D Pizza 429 Prince Street, Sydney, 562-5538 C.B. Shopping Plaza, Sydney River, 539-3983 OPEN TILL 2 AM, EXCEPT SUNDAY (1-8) Ponzo Originated in Cape Breton
Cape Breton's Magazine