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Micmac Indians of Canada

Micmac. From the native term Migmac, meaning "allies." Also called:

Matu-as-wi skitchi-n-k, Malecite name, meaning "porcupine Indians," on account of their use of 
  porcupine quills in ornamentation.
Shonack, Beothuk name, meaning "bad Indians."
Souriquois, name by which they were known to the French.

Connections. The Micmac belonged to the Algonquian linguistic stock and to that part of the Central Algonquian group represented typically by the Cree, though their speech differed in some striking particulars. Their closest relatives, however, were the Malecite, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, and Abnaki.

Location. Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island, the eastern shore of New Brunswick as far north as Restigouche, the head of the Bay of Fundy, and, in later times, Newfoundland.


Rand (1894) states that the Micmac distinguished seven districts, Prince Edward Island where the head chief lived, constituting one of these. The other six consisted of two groups of three each: one, called Sigunikt, including the districts of Memramcook, Pictou (at the north end of Nova Scotia), and Restigouche (in northern New Brunswick and neighboring parts of Quebec); the other, called Kespoogwit (south and east Nova Scotia), including Annapolis (in southwest Nova Scotia), Eskegawage (in east Nova Scotia from Canso to Halifax), and Shubenacadie (in north central Nova Scotia).


Antigonishe (?), probably on or near the site of the present Antigonishe, Nova Scotia.
Beaubassin, a mission, probably Micmac, site unknown.
Boat Harbor, near Pictou, Nova Scotia.
Chignecto, Nova Scotia.
Eskusone, on Cape Breton Island.
Indian Village, near Lake Badger, Fogo County, Newfoundland.
Isle of St. Johns, probably in Nova Scotia.
Kespoogwit, given by one authority as a village, see under subdivisions.
Kigicapigiak, on Cascapediac River, Bonaventure County, Quebec.
Le Have, near the mouth of Mercy River, about Lunenberg, Nova Scotia.
Maria, in Maria township, Bonaventure County, Quebec.
Minas, in Nova Scotia.
Miramichi, on the right bank of Miramichi River at its mouth.
Nalkithoniash, perhaps in Nova Scotia.
Nipigiguit, Bathurst, at the mouth of Nipisiguit River, New Brunswick.
Pictou, at the north end of Nova Scotia.
Pohomoosh, probably in Nova Scotia.
Restigouche, on the north bank of Restigouche River near its mouth, Bonaventure County, Quebec.
Richibucto, at the mouth of Richibucto River, Kent County, New Brunswick.
Rocky Point, on Prince Edward Island.
Shediac, at Shediac on the east coast of New Brunswick.
Shubenacadie, at the head of Shubenacadie River, Nova Scotia.
Tabogimkik, probably in Nova Scotia.

History. Some Micmac may have been encountered by Norse voyagers about A. D. 1000. They were probably seen next by John Cabot in 1497, and from that time on they were constantly visited by explorers and even more by fishing vessels from France and England. During this period they acted as middlemen between the Europeans and the Indians farther west and south and found this profitable. Early in the seventeenth century they were missionized by the French and became so devoted to French interests that after the cession of Acadia to England in 1713 disputes and difficulties between them and the English continued until 1779. Since then they have been peaceful occupants of the territory with which they have always been associated and have gradually adopted the ways and customs of European civilization.

Population. Mooney's (1928) estimate for the Micmac applying to the year 1600 is 3,500. This seems to be based on Biard's 1611 estimate of 3,000 to 3,500. (See Jesuit Relations, 1858.) In 1760 they were reported to number sonewhat under 3,000 but after that date they increased and in 1884 were officially reported as 4,037. The Canadian Report of Indian Affairs for 1904 gives 3,861, but it does not include the Micmac of Newfoundland.

Connections in which they have become noted. The Micmac are remarkable

(1) as having been one of the earliest Indian tribes of the North American continent, if not the very earliest, to be
  encountered by Europeans, and
(2) that, in spite of that fact and contrary to the general impression, they suffered no permanent decline in numbers
  and continued to occupy the territories, or at least a part of the territories, in which they had been found.

The Indian Tribes of North of America, by John Swanton, 1953

Canadian Indians

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