Where do I start to write what a miqmaw is?, Well first of all is that I would let you know that I was born in 1948, which would be sixty years of observations in the Micmac as it was known in the past meeqmaq,mikmak, and probably of other spellings that will emerge in the future but I will stick to Miqmaq and Miqmaw in my writings
As you look around you will see people that are of miqmaq descent, but how many of these people are true miqmaq? To elaborate that question is to distinguish the miqmaw from the persons who label themselves as miqmaq. Sure, a number of these people speak the language and a portion practice the cultures and some in both cases. You will notice the word cultures instead of culture written down but we will get back to that further down
The language is the most important part of anybody’s life. The French have their own, the Spanish, the Japanese, the Chinese, and no matter where on the globe a person visits they will come across a group of people that speak a foreign language or a language that is foreign , a language that belongs to that certain group.
The Miqmaw language is very unique and you will never understand that unless you use it in everyday communications, it is very hard to describe this but one sample would be naknapet and naknamat both speak of liquid one is to fetch water and the later describes a person that is drinking alcoholic beverage but naknamat could also be used as a verb in a different tense which would mean he/she is scooping liquid for themselves, but water is never mentioned. It would be automatically known what is being talked about by where the situation is or when.
As I have always said to people, if you speak the language of Miqmaw you are Miqmaw but if you don’t you are just an Lnu, Lnu means people or person that is aboriginal or native but it does not describe any particular native, an Lnu could be from any part of the world that would be considered as aboriginal
What I have often said no matter how many feathers you wear ,no matter how many drums you beat, or how much leather and beads you wear ,you will never be miqmaw unless you speak the language. More often I will meet some parents that will tell me “my child speaks miqmaw” and knowing the parent and the child I just think to myself ,yes, your child can say newt, tapu, sist or mekwek, maktowek,wapek and the word the youth love to use is taliaq but sorry to say that is not speaking miqmaw ,unless you can use a number of words and form them in a sentence to converse that is speaking miqmaw.
We live in a bilingual country and we have been exposed to the other languages more than we realize. For instance, we always thought that when we say the word lasiet which we know as a plate but in reality we are using the French word le assiette for plate and lakap for basement is le cave in French we have learned to use some words from other languages to describe things in which we never had before the arrival of the Europeans and vice versa for the word tapagn and wikwuom, we have to adapt to the surroundings for the reason that we try not to invent words for articles that we use in everyday life ,just call them by what they are named because if we started to come up with new words for some items the learning public will never be able to keep up with the Miqmaw language while trying to learn the words that are already in existence and the words used by the elders, as I see it learn what you can for now than move to a more complex conversational Miqmaq. "Of all aspects of culture, it is a fair guess that language was the first to receive a highly developed form and that its essential perfection is a prerequisite to the development of culture as a whole" "Language is a great force in socialization, probably the greatest that exists” (Edward Sapir ) and that would also imply to the Miqmaq language, what this means is that you were born Miqmaw and speak Miqmaw first before you say that you are proud to be Miqmaw.
tapaqnjij or its other name is waqaskiaq leaning againts the living structure in 1890's
here we see a wiqwuom standing in the two pictures of 1863 and 1871 far from representing the plains indian style teepees of today that are used to show the young people the way of the miqmaw
this depicts a plains tribe of a habitate which is known as a tepee or tipee and is widely used by our"traditional ceremonies"that misrepresents the miqmaw wiqwuom or as the non miqmaq speakers call a wigwam.
painting Miqmaw designs on this will not make it Miqmaw but it will be like putting icing on a brick it will look beautiful but still it will not be a cake.
I have great respect with Miqmaw traditions and there are very few, most of these traditions are basically women oriented one is the peaked cap which symbolizes a miqmaw the vest and long skirt and moccasins which would be known as regalia or traditional dress, in the Kejimkujik petroglyphs it shows the peaked cap which would make you think of a woman a miqmaq woman at that. In the 1800’s when the cyanotype of photography became readily available the photographer in eastern Canada could record the images of sceneries and people and a number of these recordings were of native peoples, the women would wear their traditional clothes and the men would also be depicted in theirs of the long jacket or coat with the curve design in the embroidery ,even today some women carry on with the dress of their ancestors ,the men of today are rarely seen wearing their ancestral garb I would call this pictorial record, now let’s look at today how the “miqmaw” dress in their costumes but first let me make myself clear on what is meant by the difference between regalia and costume, regalia is the certain type of clothes a person wears to distinguish themselves from other nationalities, a costume is clothes or suit a person wears to look like someone else other then themselves.
these color pictures are of costumes,misrepresenting the miqmaw
The Miqmaw womans traditional works that have been carried on from our ancestors are basketry, beading and quill works, these in the early years were necessities for survival ,the baskets would be sold or bartered and so goes the art works of bead and quill plus the baskets were used to store or carrying articles ,the men also took part in ways by gathering the wood for the splints that is used to make the basket or hunt the porcupine for its quills and as for survival the men made other implements to sell or barter including spears for fishing and toboggans for transporting goods and tools for their survival needs ,to boil it down work was the major part of tradition.
Baskets modern and antique as you can see in the pictures that basket making has been carried down by our ancesters and is still constructed in the same fashion as it was in years gone by.
when the europeans brought glass beads the miqmaw found that it was easier to decorate their regalias with bead and as you can see it the pictures that the works were of intergrid designs for sale and personnel use.
porcupine quills were used to decorate different items like baskets and chair backs for sale and as gifts ,the design that was incorporated in works was the geometrical star which is known today as the miqmaq star was widely used in most articals, and still today the star is used to represent the miqmaq nation and its peoples.
the awl or "sapikn" was used to make the porcupine decors
wakaqnikn or the crooked knife
a modern version of the drawknife was very important in makeing wood splints for basketry.
spears for fishing were used to catch cod,trout, salmon and eels for survival
nikoql the eel spears were used in winter for food.
a very ancient miqmaw game which called waltes that has been played by our forefathers and is still played by some elders in modern times is in grave danger of losing its importance in the miqmaw culture ,it is important for the young people to learn and teach their siblings of the game and learn that it is part of their heritage.
Culture,are we trying to bring it back as it is often said or are we just useing some other peoples culture and tagging it as ours? my point is tell your children on how it was when you were young ,do not mask it by saying that this was always the way of the Miqmaw ,tell them on how the Miqmaw sold their wares and what was made that would be sold for just a few cents ,baskets ,wooden flowers ,beaded works,axe handles,pickaxe handles for the mining industry,props for the the miners too ,logging, fishing,different ways of fishing,spearing,snareing,dip netting and the hook and line and you can't forget jigging codfish in winter.hunting deer,partridge and rabbit for food,trapping for the pelts,gardening ,picking berries of all kinds for preserves now thats what i mean of when I mention Culture.
Culture that is the word that I have been avoiding till now, Culture is the human society of the past and the present, how it was and how it is
Culture is the way of life, it can be how your ancestors lived and carried on the traditions as it is believed by archeologists in the textbooks, or the word of mouth by your elders, and the practice of the “new way”, archeology brought us what is in the museums and what has been dug up from the ground and interpreted as how it was used in the life of ancient miqmaw without any written record other than the petroglyphs at Keji which was lost when the last man died who could read the meanings of the symbols that were carved in the stones and more will be lost if we are not careful ,and the most important part of our culture is our language and if we lose that we have nothing, sure there is the drumming and the dancing but is it yours? Or were you made to believe that is the way and it’s always was.
In the early sixties a family moved from another part of Canada and these people had their way and cultural values with them, now the lowly miqmaw had not the same but was eager to make a living from what he was known then as “Indian”, there was an opportunity of selling their wares in baskets and arts by donning a headdress that was ordered from the Tandy Leather Company and dancing in circles to lure the vacationing traveler from afar to buy baskets and birch bark trinkets fashioned to look like toy canoes and small wigwams it was finally realized that it could also bring fund raising to a community ,feathers and fringes were the customary dress of the “Indian” of the wild west shows and this worked. what evolved from that era was the fanned out rings from the ash tree, at that time it was called a “pepqwejetekn” used by banging it on a hard surface to make sound to coincide with chants, this instrument known as “pepwejetekn” was named by an elder when asked what could it be called which meant an implement used to create dents not the meaning of today as the drum.
The drum was introduced to the miqmaw public in the seventies from another tribe of Lnu by the Tarahumara Indians and the Navajo the hand drum came from the Arapaho, including the practices of today ,The ribbon shirt came from the Cherokee also these Cherokee came up with what is known as the medicine wheel, I can name a few more things that are practiced by our people but don’t have a clue where they originate the dream catcher is Chippewa braiding of sweet grass is Lokota,Jingle dress Ojibwa, the fancy shawl dance is Ponca, the full covered head dress Sioux, the pow wow or its original spelling pau wau is Narragansett, sacred fire beliefs are by the Natchez, wearing turquoise jewelry is Navajo
simple question,How do you say smudging in miqmaw?
The smudging is something that I will not try to explain for the reason I will not contradict a persons spiritual beliefs ,but ask yourself this Is it Miqmaw?
These two pictures are from the Waswagoning tribe of Massacusettes one is the framework of the living quarters and the later is the finished product ,looks somewhat like the structures that are used as "the sweatlodge", they are called wikiap in Miqmaw that would mean I lived there, now getting back to the sweatlodge is there a miqmaw word to name it ? and to be politically correct in the English language it would be called a perspiration lodge for the reason that we all know that horses sweat and people perspire.
The sweat lodge ceremony, practiced by our people is said to be a ritual that’s cleanses the body and soul, I have to apologize for being so indirect to this ceremony but I will tell you that I will not take part in it for the reason that I cannot put myself to perspire myself to the point of dehydration to make my mind believe of visions when in truth, what I would call self administered Delirium tremens and breathing in toxins of carbon dioxides and carbon monoxides
cultural values what are they? I often hear teachers, elders, and even the youth commenting on our culture saying we have to bring back our culture ,yes I do agree to a certain extent ,yes we are losing our culture OUR CULTURE we are losing how to make the morning fire to cook our meals and to keepwarm in winters,how to build a wooden sled,how to make eel spears,to gather wood and identifing the right kind of wood for making basket splints ,how to make axe handles, and butter tubs , Yes we are too spoiled to the new age of going out and buy things that we need and just by pushing a button or sliding a lever we have heat. Canadian Tire and WalMart sure put a big dent in our loss in cultures, I mentioned that culture is what it was and is ,in reallity are we losing it or just found a new way of interperting it as a loss? Work was the way in the past and it is still today Now would you agree with me that we just slid to the way of the new generation and live by its new ways .
In 1954 the television set appeared in Wekoqmaq and gradually it started to work its way on how people think by watching and listening to this magic box that brought visions of the way of life in the outside world ,it had true to life documentaries, comedy,and fictional stories as movies, many of these movies were Westerns ,and we all know that the early western movies the "indian" was portrayed by non natives painted over to have dark skin and wear feathers ,I believe that the television set corrupted the we think on how a native should look ,next thing you know anybody that wears feathers or what is known as the war bonnet was an "indian" ,more the feathers you wear the more native you are?
the next few photos are not of non natives but of real natives , natives that are called miqmaq compare these pictures and the photos prior to this.
these pictures were taken in the late 1800s to about 1930s,you will notice that the miqmaw were clad very unique and i'm sure they were very proud to be Miqmaw
Two of the most evil men in history and we are so lucky that these men were over turned by men that fought for freedom and country
I had to post these few photos of men the True Miqmaw Warriors ,these men fought for our freedom and earned the right to be called warriors they did not go to Canadian tire to buy their camoflash suits and call themselves warriors, (I respect the True Miqmaw Warrior)and I'm sure that there were men in every community as brave as these men.
This picture was posted on facebook and got started to think about it and how it got to the point to what it is now,It was 1969 the year oyster fishing was abound and we were working at the new oyster building that was being erected,a number of us worked at the clearing and putting up the steel building,so one day the late Matthew Bernard mentioned that he was visiting my Grandfather Andrew Philips , my grandfather liked to tell stories finally they got to talking about the little people "wiklatamuj" Matthew was a firm believer in the little people asked where would a person find these little people? my grandfather told him that you have go their home .Where would I find their home ? Matthew asked. My grandfather told him that you will never find it because the wiklatamuj can change the surrondings so that they cannot be disturbed, but if you have to know ,it is on Bird Islands it is a hole on the side of the cliff wall but dont go in if you come across it ,the tide will come in before you can get to the end and you will be trapped or could drown,but Matt was determined to find this cave of the Wiklatamuj,he and Lloyd Toney on one of their saturday night excurtions decided to look for this cave and not being prepared for the crossing to the islands ,it was daybreak by the time they got to the shores at the bottom of Kellys Mountain going the way of through the woods and darkness ,it was an exhausting journey but all was not a total loss ,they came across a place that they thought that was breathtaking.
It was Monday morning and someone asked Matt "Did you find the Wiklatamuj cave"? Matt said with laugh no but you should see what we have found ,at that point he started to describe the cave and how hard it is to find and telling us of how interesting it was and telling it in such a way got the workers mesmerized and wanting to see it including myself ,he told us that when you get to the entrance you will find writings on the wall and find old stuff inside ,he was asked if he brought back anything that they found he answered no "We did not want to disturb anything there ".the story goes through the working week the subject of talk was of this cave and came to the point that we all took the friday afternoon off and got our paychecks early just to go see this cave ,the whole work crew wanted to go and we all did ,the trip took us to Baddeck and we got some refreshments at the government store and flashlights at the Handy Andy hardware store .
We finally arrived at the end of the road and Matt our tour guide led us down through the forest and down this steep embankment to the clearing at the shore ,we all followed him we scaled the rock face and some men jumped in and swam across till we all got to the hollow part of the cliffside,there was a enormous crack in the rock where a couple people can crawl into with flashlights but nothing was found inside just a big hole in the rock ,we asked him about the writings and the old stuff he just laughed and pointed to the spraypaintings on the wall and the old stuff was on the floor of this cave was tabs and caps and he said at that was if I told you guys what we found we wouldn't have this afternoon off with early pay and you guys wouldn't have come ,we all sat around and talked enjoying the sights and we finally decided to go home and leaving some of our artifacts for some other excurtionist to find.
As time past Matt was still very interested at his find and he and Lloyd would take people to see this discovery and it got to be the trip that you had to go to ,next thing you know some one started calling this hole in the rock "Glooscap cave" and it turned to becoming a shrine of some sort but me ,I can't find myself to call it "The Glooscap Cave " i would call it "Matt's Discovery", and no one has ever even tried looking for the wiklatamuj home or what Matt also believed what could be the home of Kluscap on Bird Islands ...
I also inserted a picture of a cliffside that people call "Grandmother",I would like to say to you ,the very imaginative you can "see" anything that you want to see as I have proven on my facebook site of all the different things that can be depicted in the shadows and shapes in the rock....(Na Tilliaj)