1. Briefly describe the Mi’kmaq society.
The Mi’kmaq people occupied every one of the modern Atlantic provinces for centuries before European contact. They primarily lived close to the water, and thrived by hunting and fishing. They established a governing body known as the Mi’kmaw Grand Council, which presided over the seven districts of the Mi’kmaq nation and created a strong, organized, and successful society. The Mi’kmaq language has been indelibly imprinted upon Atlantic Canada, particularly in Nova Scotia, where place names such as Canso, Pictou, and Musquodoboit hearken back to the early history of the province.
2. With whom did the Mi’kmaq come into contact?
The first recorded encounter of the Mi’kmaq with European, was with John Cabot on June 24, 1497. An Italian-born English explorer, Cabot initially set sail in hopes of finding a quick route to the orient. Instead, he landed on what is now known as North America and met people of the rising sun: the Mi’kmaq, who reside on the north eastern shore of what we now know as Canada! Cabot was sponsored by the English King Henry VIII to find the riches of the orient, but the encounter brought him different riches, oceans full of cod, and land filled with fur bearing animals. These ‘tales of riches’ where brought back to Europe, and captured the interest of many explorers who followed there after.
3. Where did the Mi’kmaq come into contact with the Europeans?
Where the Mi’kmaq first came into contact with the Europeans is uncertain. It is possible to determine two places of contact: they are Newfoundland and the Gaspé Peninsula. Mi’kmaq were living in Newfoundland as well as traveling from Cape Breton to fish off the coast of Newfoundland. Their contact came from the European fishing ships traveling to fish the rich waters. The “first official” known European contact came from the French, most likely through Jacques Cartier. They met on Gaspé Peninsula, a part of modern-day Quebec. Although it cannot be 100% certain, it is most likely that the Mi’kmaq “first officially” met Europeans on the Gaspé Peninsula.
4. For what purpose were Europeans in this area?
The purpose of the Europeans in the Maritimes was because of the race to explore the New World. European countries were all competing to colonize the New World, and to have more territory than the next. Although there is controversy over who was first to settle the Maritimes, Jacques Cartier was the first to have a detailed account of his voyage, therefore claiming the Maritimes in the name of France. The purpose of Europeans in this area was to colonize, it just so happened that the Maritimes were the first coast they landed on.
5. How did the Mi’kmaq respond to Europeans?
The first known contact the Mi’kmaq had with Europeans was in 1497 when John Cabot arrived on the Atlantic coast. After that point, the Mi’kmaq and Europeans had regular contact and traded with each other. The diet of Europeans consisted of a lot of fish, and was the first resource Europeans harvested. Due to limited access to cheap sources of salt, the fish could not be processed on board the European ships. They established fish-drying huts on the coast, which required stays of two or three months. Fur traders later moved into Mi’kmaq territories. This caused them to move farther inland to trap furs, changing the primary food source from sea mammals to land mammals. The Mi’kmaq adjusted to European presence and were willing to share their territory.
6. How did Europeans respond to the Mi’kmaq?
The Europeans’ interactions with the Mi’kmaq people in Nova Scotia, was different between the French and the British. The French relation was good, they established trade, and even marriages took place. While the relations with the British were hostile, and they battled for land. The Jesuits attempted to convert them to the Christian faith, as the rest of the British did in other parts of “Canada.” The French continued with good relations, while the British colonized and forced a lot of the people off the land for framing and hunting, that the Mi’kmaq had lived on for centuries.