Page 27 - The Four Lives of the Micmac Copper Pot
ISSUE : Issue 24
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1979/12/1
case of the kettle, anyway. Presumably other trade goods fulfilled other func? tions and acquired other definitions as each was incorporated into an existing, on-going scheme of things. European hard? ware was what the Indian thought it was and was made to serve the purposes to which he put it. Each thus assumed a new personality--a native identity quite dif? ferent, perhaps, from its manufacturer's intended identity. So it was that an iron- handled, twenty-five-by-thirteen-inch cop? per kettle was culturally transformed from a secular object of commerce (in the donor society), into an animated commercial- ceremonial institution offering unprece? dented demographic possibilities to the receptor society. Which is an academic way of saying that copper kettles can be more than simply convenient cooking vessels, as the French chroniclers of the seventeenth- century Micmac so vividly testified. While digging a sewer line in 1955, Ken Hopps of Pictou came across the first of what proved to be a pair of circular burial pits, containing a- mong other things, 22 copper pots. It is this discovery that J. Russell Harper is describing in Calvin Mar? tin's article. The objects taken from that site have for the most part remained on the property, kept in the Micmac Museum Mr. and Mrs. Hopps have built and cared for since the discovery. Our thanks to Ruth Whitehead, Nova Scotia Museum, who told us about the Hopps' museum and supplied the opening photograph. Our thanks to Calvin Martin for permission to re? print most of his article, which originally ap? peared in Ethnohistory, Number 22, 1975. We want strongly to recommend to our readers Calvin Martin's recent book, KEEPERS OF THE GAME: Indian-animal relationships and the fur trade (U. of California, Berkeley, $10.95). It deals parti- cularly with the Micmac and Ojibwa Indians, and grinds away at certain assumptions made in the writing of the history of the fur trade. Martin points to evidences of the sensitive relationship between man and animals in North America prior to white contact • that man and the animals were in articulate relationship • but from the earliest writing after white contact Indians are described as having turned on the animals with a vengeance, slaughtering the fur-bearers for the trade. Mar? tin asks. Why did the Indian world system break down so quickly and utterly? The usual presenta? tion of this period goes something like this: the Indians were simply latent capitalists who only needed the markets and the superior tools to participate enthusiastically in the fur trade. Martin considers this assumption wrong. He in? sists that we are not dealing with pre-capital- ists but with an altogether different world order that crumbled • but crumbled not under the weight of greed or Christianity but under the onslaught of disease the whites unwittingly brought to this continent. Diseases like smallpox, diptheria and syphillis were unknown in North America. They came with the first Indian-fishermen contact • the bare beginnings of the trade • and moved swiftly inland. Disease decimated Indian popu- lations--in most cases prior to any actual know? ledge of the whites. Against these diseases, In? dian religious powers were helpless and fur-bear? ers seemed to be the enemy. Martin presents a con? vincing and detailed portrait of the way disease aided the process of missionization and broke the bond of relationship between men and animals, and thus permitted the slaughter that followed. The book itself is good reading • open to a much wider audience than just the specialist • and the notes provide an extremely useful bibliography. Sears Clearance Centres are outlets where Sears clear surplus regular merchandise from Sears Catalogues at a discount. Their courteous, friend? ly staff are kept busy displaying an assortment of Ladies', Men's & Child? ren's Clothing, Shoes, Draperies, Bedding, Furniture, Carpets, Appli? ances, Dishes, Light Fixtures, Paint, Wallpaper • even Sporting Goods. And a small amount of these items are Catalogue Returns, clearly marked damaged or worn. Store Hours; Thurs & Fri : Mon & Tues io-5:3p; Weds. Slmn'inrm-fif'r'' L tfl No Phone Orders 10-':30; Saturday 10-5:30. '" ?? iP''i lO OtJdl C> L.IU. SYDNEY SHOPPING MAL
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