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PASTIMES: Mi’kmaq presence in Pictou County 1398 -1800

Flora Jane Paul, Peter Paul, Mary Paul and Tom Gloade in front of Saint Anne’s Mission Church, Chapel Island, Merigomish in 1930.
Flora Jane Paul, Peter Paul, Mary Paul and Tom Gloade in front of Saint Anne’s Mission Church, Chapel Island, Merigomish in 1930. - Contributed

By John Ashton

The Pictou Landing First Nation has played a significant historical, cultural and social role in the very fabric and development of

Pictou County. Centuries before European explorers and settlers came to the area, the Mi’kmaq had developed a form of a democratic system where the community would gather together and elect a chief. The Mi’kmaw Nation was self-governing and important

decisions were contemplated through the body of the traditional Mi’kmaw government – the Mi’kmaq Grand Council. This structure found its basis at the village level, whereby a local chief presided over the council of Elders of his village or band and was responsible to carry out the decisions of his group of Elders. Although local chiefs did not hold an official position within the Sante’ Mawio’mi, their concerns were brought forth by the district chiefs. The district chief presided over his area’s council of local chiefs with the responsibility for settling issues that might cause serious conflict among the districts or between nations in regard to such matters as treaties, alliances, or in time of war. The Sante’ Mawio’mi consisted of a seat for each of the seven districts and for the Nikanus, Kji-Keptin, Putu’s, and for the Grand Council leader, Kji-Saqmaw (Grand Chief). All discussions within the Council were based on

consensus and included mutual respect and trust as a code of governance.

These are some of the excerpts taken from the Pictou Landing First Nation presentation; Mi’kmaq Presence in Pictou County which was given to the community on October 17, 2018 during Mi’kmaq History Month.

Historians believe the Mi’kmaq “Ancient Ones” presence in the Pictou County area is thought to have begun approximately 3,500 –7,000 years ago.

1398 –First recorded reference to the Mi’kmaq living in Pictou County. The Mi’kmaq village in Pictook (Pictou) was visited by

Scottish explorer Prince Henry Sinclair of the Orkney Islands in 1398. On his visit to Nova Scotia a report was filed by one of Henry Sinclair’s crew members, Antonio Zeno; “We brought our barks and our boats to land, and on entering an excellent harbor, (Guysborough) we saw in the distance a great hill that poured forth smoke, which gave us hope that we should find some inhabitants The smoke came naturally from a great fire at the bottom of a hill and there was a spring giving out a certain matter like pitch which ran into the sea, and there were great multitudes of people.”

This area has been identified as Mt. Adams, which is near Stellarton. “Thereabouts dwelt a great many people living in 100 wigwams.”

The Pictou Mi’kmaq welcomed Prince Henry and his companions and gave a celebration at their arrival.

1600’s – The Jesuits (Roman Catholic order of priests) established missions at St. Ann’s, St Peters, Cape Breton and Guysborough. The Jesuits would travel throughout North-eastern Nova Scotia encouraging religious beliefs to the Mi’kmaq. References have been made of visits to the Piktook (Pictou) area.

1668 - 1760 – A recently discovered document describes a Battle of Fitzpatrick Mountain, Pictou County, between the Pictou Mi’kmaq and Mohawk Warriors. “Conflict between the Mi'kmaq and Mohawk was long standing.” Many oral stories and written accounts exist to this day of the fear and resentment the Mohawk inflicted on the Mi'kmaq during the intertribal warfare of the late 17th century to the mid 18th century.

1713“There existed for some time a state of hostility between the Kenebeks and the Mi’kmaq. Two parties had come to Pictou and had fortified themselves in two blockhouses a little below the mouth of the Pictou Harbour. These blockhouses were constructed of logs, raised up around a vault first dug in the ground. The buildings were covered over, had each a heavy door, and were quite safe fortifications in Indigenous warfare. About seven miles to the east, at Merigomish, the Mi’kmaq were entrenched in a similar manner”.

1720 - Pierre Charlevoix’s map (1720’s) indicates the mouth of the East River is marked as the site of a large (Mi’kmaq) village.

1745 - Several Catholic references to the Mi’kmaq living in Pictou County, “in 1745 under the leadership of Father Pierre Malliard, (Apostle of the Mi’kmaq), the missionary Mi’kmaq of Ile Royal (Cape Breton), Naltigonech (Antigonosh), Pikitout (Pictou) and I’lle Saint Jean (Prince Edward Island)” were invited to Louisburg to meet with the English, after the capture of the French Fortress of Louisburg.

1758 - After the capture of Louisburg in 1758 Father Maillard (Apostle of the Mi’kma’q) changed his headquarters to the “ancient Mi’kmaq settlement of Malogomich” (Merigomish), where he would bring together all of the Mi’kmaq from the east coast”. On 26 Nov. 1759, Maillard was still at Malagomich, where he accepted from Major Schomberg of Halifax peace conditions which he considered “good and reasonable.”

1761-Treaty of Peace and Friendship – The Treaty of 1761 was signed on June 25 by the Miramichi, Shediac, Pokemouche and Cape Breton Mi'kmaq in a “Burying the Hatchet” ceremony in Halifax. ... The Chignecto and Pictou Mi’kmaq signed onto the 1761 treaty on October 12. Signed by Chief Jannesvil Peitougawash (Janvier Piktukewa’j), person from Pictou, Chief of the Tribe in

Piktook and Malagomish. In 1762, Chief John Newit (Noel) of Pictou also signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship at Halifax.

1767 – Pictou Mi’kmaq witness the arrival of the Ship Betsy in Pictou Harbour, with settlers from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Several references exist of the encounter. The Mi’kmaq “declared they will not allow any settlement to be made at Pictou.”

1773 – Pictou Mi’kmaq witness the arrival of the Ship Hector. “It is just to say that the Mi’kmaq treated the Hector settlers with much kindness, From the Mi’kmaq the settlers learned to make use of snow shoes, to call a moose, and other arts of forest life. From them they often received supplies of provisions, From the time of the arrival of the Hector, they never gave the settlers any serious molestation and generally showed them real kindness, but not always been reciprocated”

1779 – A large gathering of Mi’kmaq it is said from Miramichi to Cape Breton probably a grand council of the whole Mi’kmaq tribe, took place at Fraser's Point in 1779. This led to a grand gathering of the Mi’kmaq for several days They were assembled to the number of several hundreds and the design of the meeting was believed to be to consult on the question of joining in the war against the Inglés to this they were probably instigated by French agents. The American and Scottish settlers were much alarmed, but the Mi’kmaq

dispersed quietly.

1779 - A quarrel occurred at Merigomish on the north shore between local Mi'kmaq inhabitants and an ice bound English vessel.

Government officials reported that payment was sent to satisfy a dispute that had arisen between the Mi’kmaq of the neighbourhood (Malagomitch), and Martin Meagher Master of the ship Industry, frozen up at Merigomish; whom the Mi’kmaq were preparing to destroy; together with the Settlements of Pictou, on Easter Day if not redressed before; The quarrel happened about the

16th of February - 85 pounds 8 shillings paid.

1783 - Pictou Mi’kmaq Given License to Hunt and Fish – “A Licence to be granted Paul Chachegonoust, Chief of the Tribe of Pictou Mi’kmaq for them to occupy the land they have settled upon on the Southeast side of East Branch of the Harbour or River Merigomish or Port Luttrell, with Liberty of Hunting and Fishing in Woods, Rivers and Lakes of that District”.

Halifax, December 18, 1783

Charles Morris

1793 - Petition of Tony and Nanny Vry, a Mi’kmaq family on behalf of themselves and ten children and on behalf of Captain Tony Vry of the company, consisting of fifteen in number. On behalf of the company, they wish to have 4500 acres laid out at

Merigomish in lieu of lands at or near Pictou. Noted by Charles Morris: "If His Excellency approves of it, I will write to one of my deputies to make the survey and on the return of it, His Excellency may grant what he sees fit."

1800 – Return of Mi’kmaq families living in the district of Pictou; Head of Family - Old Paul, Sullan, Luland Mercatuwia, Franceis, John Tonny, Capt. Tonny, Malti Sapier, Sap. Mercatuwia, John Patlas, Franceis, Newel Patlas, Asin Paul, Petitiou, Francis Paul, Sapier Paul, Mulis Petitiou, John Pual, Peter John, Capt. Tonny, Francis John, Silly Boy Levi, Peter Pernal, Jno. William 2 Brothers, Joseph Pernal, Old Mitchell, Patist, Samul o Niuin, P. John Ser., Francis o Blind man & Mother, Allniei Pulpis

38 men, 40 women, 50 children Total number 128

The above excerpts taken are from the Pictou Landing First Nation presentation; Mi’kmaq Presence in Pictou County which was given to the community on Oct. 17, 2018 during Mi’kmaq History Month.

Historical research

Pictou Landing First Nation, Mi’kmaq Resource Centre Cape Breton University, Let Us Remember the Old Mi’kmaq The

Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, Nova Scotia Archives, Archives Canada, Pictou Antigonish Regional Library, A History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nova Scotia A. A. Johnston, Legends of the Mi;kmaq Silas T. Rand,The Old Man Told Us Ruth Holmes Whitehead, History of the Ciounty of Pictou Rev. George Patterson, The Birthplace of New Scotland Judiht H. Ryan, We Were Not the Savages Daniel N. Paul, Red Earth Tales of the Mi’kmaq Marion Robertson, Land of the Smoking Hill Frederick J. Pohl

TAGLINE: John Ashton is a 33-year self-employed historical author and visual/graphic artist and lives in Bridgeville, Pictou County. He may be reached at

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