[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles ( Huron, Assiniboine, etc.).
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism. At the end of this History you will find links to those Nations referred to in the History of the Micmac.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments... Lee Sultzman]
Canadian Maritimes including Nova Scotia, the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and the eastern half of New Brunswick. Beginning about 1630 a Micmac band also occupied southwestern Newfoundland.
Estimates of the original Micmac population vary between 3,000 and 30,000, with general consensus being somewhere around 20,000. European contact began early, and by 1620 epidemics had reduced the Micmac to less than 4,000. By 1760 their numbers had fallen to around 3,000, reaching a low point of 1,800 during in 1823. Precise counts have been difficult because of extensive intermarriage with the French population. Canada currently lists more than 16,000 registered Micmac, but their actual number in both Canada and the United States is much higher, perhaps as many as 25,000. Canada has 28 separate groups of Micmac, but only one Micmac tribe is recognized in the United States, the 500 member Aroostook Band of Micmac in northern Maine which received state recognition in 1973 with federal status following in 1991. Because of the 1794 Jay Treaty between Great Britain and the United States, the Micmac have the right to move freely back-and forth across the border. Many have chosen to leave the Canadian Maritimes in favor of the northeastern United States. Presently, more than 2,000 Micmac reside in the greater Boston area (making them one of the largest Native American groups in New England). Several hundred more live in New York City.
Mi'kmaq is actually correct spelling, but over the years, Micmac has become the more commonly used name. Other variations are Míqmaq, Míkmaq, and Mi'mkaq. Their name comes from a word from their own language meaning "allies." Other names used for Micmac were: Cape Sable Indians, Gaspesian (Gaspesien, Micmac of Gaspé), Matueswiskitchinuuk (Malecite "Porcupine Indians"), Shonack (Beothuk "Bad Indians"), Souriquois (French), and Tarrateen (British).
Algonquian, but distinct from the Abenaki to the South and with some traits associated with the languages of the Montagnais and Cree in Quebec. Most Micmac
still speak their own language at home and use either English or French as their second language. The dialect of the Restigouche Micmac in Quebec differs enough from the Micmac in Nova Scotia that they have some difficulty in understanding each other.
The Micmac homeland (Mi'kma'ki) was traditionally divided into seven hunting districts, each with its own chief. In 1860 the Micmac added another district, Taqamkuk, for a total of eight.
Epelwik (Epeggoitg) "lying on the water" - Prince Edward Island. This also includes Piwktuk (Pigtog) "where gaseous explosions erupt" in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
Eskikewa'kik (Esgigiag) "skin dressers territory" - Halifax and Guysborough Counties of Nova Scotia
Kespek (Gespegiag) "last land" - Gloucester, Northumberland, and Restigouche Counties of New Brunswick and Quebec's Gaspe Peninsula.
Kespukwitk (Gespogoitg) "lands end" - Annapolis, Digby, Quenns, Shelburne, and Yarmouth Counties of Nova Scotia
Siknikt (Sigenitog) "drainage place" - Cumberland County, Nova Scotia along with Albert, Kent, Queens, Saint John, and Westmoreland Counties of New Brunswick
Sipekne'katik (Segepenegatig) "ground nut place" - Colchester, Hants, Lunenburg, and Kings Counties of Nova Scotia
Taqamkuk (Tagamgoog) - southern NewfoundlandWunama'kik (Onamagig) "foggy land" - Cape Breton Island
Other Micmac Traditional Bands and Communities
Aboushagan, Antigonishe, Beaubassin, Cape Sable, Chibuctouche, Chignecto, Ekoupahag, Isle of St. Johns, Indian Village (Town), Inman's Island, Jedaick, Julian Tribe, Kigicapigiak, Le Have, Minas, Miramichi, Nalkithoniash, Nipigiguit, Pohomoosh, Shediac, Tabogimkik, Tabusintack, and Waycobah.
Current Micmac Bands and Reserves
Maine:Aroostook Reserve - AroostookNew Brunswick:Big Cove (Mesgiig Oelnei) -Reserve: RichibuctoBuctouche (Tjipogtotjg) -Reserve: BuctoucheBurnt Church (EsgenoÙpetitj) -Reserves: Burnt Church, Pokemouche, and TabusintacEel Ground -Reserves: Big Hole Tract (south half), Eel Ground, and RenousEel River Bar -Reserves: Eel River Bar, Indian Ranch, and Moose MeadowsFort Folly -Reserve: Fort FollyIndian Island -Reserve: Indian IslandPabineau -Reserve: PabineauRed Bank -Reserves: Big Hole Tract (northern half), Indian Point, Red Bank (2)The Brothers (shared with the Maliseet)
Newfoundland:Miawputek (Conne River) - Reserve: Samiajij MiawpukekOther Newfoundland Micmac communities:Bay St. George-Port au Port, Bay of Islands, Benoit Cove, Corner Brook, Gander Bay, Glenwood, and the Northern Peninsula. The Beothuk name for the area occupied by the Micmac in Newfoundland was "Megumaghee."Nova Scotia:Other Nova Scotia Micmac Communities:
Acadia - Reserves: Gold River, Kejimkujik, Medway River, Ponhook Lake, Wildcat, and Yarmouth
Afton - Reserves: Franklin Manor, Pomquet-Afton, and Summerside
Annapolis Valley - Reserves: Cambridge, Fisher's Grant (shared by Annapolis Valley, Bear River, and Pictou Landing), and St. Croix
Bear River - Reserves: Bear River (3), and Fisher's Grant (shared by Annapolis Valley, Bear River, and Pictou Landing)
Chapel Island - Reserves: Chaple Island, and Malagawatch (shared by Chapel Island, Membertou Wagmatcook, and Whycocomagh)
Eskasoni (Eskusone) - Reserves: Eskasoni (2)
Horton - Reserve: Horton
Membertou - Reserves: Caribou Marsh, Malagawatch (shared with Chapel Island), Membertou, and Sydney
Millbrook - Reserves: Beaver Lake, Cole Harbor, Millbrook, Sheet Harbor, and Truro
Pictou Landing - Reserves: Boat Harbour West, Fishers Grant (2) (shared by Annapolis Valley, Bear River, and Pictou Landing), Franklin Manor, and Merigomish
Shubenacadie - Reserves: Indian Brook, New Ross, Pennal, and Shubenacadie
Wagmatcook - Reserves: Malagawatch (shared by Chapel Island, Membertou Wagmatcook, and Whycocomagh), Margaree, and Wagmatcook
Whycocomagh - Reserves: Malagawatch (shared by Chapel Island, Membertou, Wagmatcook, and Whycocomagh), Port Hood, and WhycocomaghBeaver Dam, Caribou Marsh, Grand Lake, Hammond's Plains, Menomish Harbour, and Mooley's Landing
Prince Edward Island:Abegweit - Reserve: Abegweit.
Lennox Island - Reserve: Lennox Island
Other Prince Edward Island Micmac Communities:Morell, Rocky Point, and Scotchfort
GaspÈ (No Reserve)
Gespapegiag (Maria) - Reserve: Gespapegiag
Restigouche (Listuguj) - Reserve: Listugu
The Micmac were the dominant tribe in the Canadian Maritimes, but in most ways other than language, they were similar to the Maliseet in New Brunswick and the Abenaki of northern New England. The main difference in their lifestyle was that the Abenaki were able to place greater emphasis on agriculture because of their more southerly location. Because the Micmac language contains some characteristics of Cree, many believe that they moved into the Canadian Maritimes from the north. The date of this migration is uncertain, but it would appear the Micmac had occupied their homeland for a considerable period before 1500. The Micmac did very little farming, because for the most part, they were too far north to grow corn. They were, however, skilled hunter-gatherers with a heavy emphasis on fishing and sea mammals. For this reason, the Micmac were famous for their skill with a canoe. Constructed from birch bark, their distinctive humped-back design was not only light, but capable of crossing open water. Sails were added during the 1600s.
Birch bark was used for a variety of other purposes, including the coverings of their wigwams. There were basically two types: the smaller, conical-shaped style which could hold 10-12 people was used in the winter; and the larger, oblong variety (10-24 occupants) during the warmer months. The Micmac were semi-nomadic in the sense they routinely moved between summer fishing villages near the coast to inland locations for winter hunting. The single-family winter hunting camps were scattered, but during the spring and summer, Micmac families joined others to form villages. Maple sap was gathered in the spring. Some groups farmed a little bit during the summer, but most of their diet at this time of year still came from fish and seafood. Hunting began in the fall. Moose and deer were easier to track then, and the Micmac were able to move about easily in the deep snow by using snowshoes, sleds, and toboggans. The word "toboggan" is borrowed directly from the Micmac word "taba'gan."
Politically, the Micmac were a loose confederacy bound together through a common system of patrilineal (descent traced through one's father) clans. Each clan had its own symbol which individual Micmac frequently used to mark their lodges, canoes, clothing, snowshoes, and other personal possessions. For the most part, Micmac clans (or bands) were independent with their own chiefs and ceremonies, a system which has been remained largely in place to the present day. Political authority began with the local chief who, together with a council of elders, governed the summer villages. Far more important was the district chief (saqamaw) who presided over the council of local chiefs that usually met in spring or fall of the year. In most cases, the saqamaw was the eldest male the most influential Micmac family in the district. Since his authority was based on the relative size of his family, it was quite common for a district chief to have several wives -- a political necessity and frequent source of distress for the early French missionaries.
Most important decisions, such as the assignment of hunting and fishing territories or matters of peace and war, were made at the district level. Women and children, as well as young men who had yet to kill their first moose, could not speak in the district councils. Beyond this, there was one final level of authority for matters which affected the entire Micmac nation. Periodically, all of the district chiefs would convene in a Grand Council to achieve a consensus and elect one of their members Grand Saqamaw (most often the Cape Breton Island saqamaw) to act as their spokesman with outsiders. This relatively informal structure of authority served the Micmac well in times of peace, but during war, allowed them to unite into a formidable antagonist.
Clothing was fringed buckskin commonly used by the other woodland tribes in the region. Men wore little besides breechcloths in the summer but switched to fur robes and leggings with the onset of cold weather. Women wore similar robes and long tunics, but during the 1700s, Micmac women began wearing a distinctive pointed cap. Birch bark was also the material of choice for domestic tools and, like most of their clothing, often decorated with porcupine quills. Elaborately quilled boxes and baskets are uniquely Micmac, and their skill with quillwork is reputedly the best. Large feasts were used to celebrate marriages, funerals, and the beginning of the hunting season. Micmac funerals were unusual in that they were performed before the person actually died. To survive in the harsh climate of the Canadian Maritimes, the Micmac traditionally had abandoned members thought to be incurably ill or injured. Dogs were killed as a sign of grief, but after much singing and dancing, the dying person was allowed to make one final speech of farewell after which no one would help him.The Micmac religion believed in one supreme being but included a number of lesser gods, some of whom had human form. Best known of the Micmac legends are their stories of Glooscap, a cultural hero. Almost immediately after French Jesuits arrived in Acadia, the Micmac began to convert to the Roman Catholic faith. During the early years, the French brought relatively few of their women to North America, so intermarriage between French and Micmac became very common. These two factors bound the Micmac so closely to the French, that they found it very difficult to accept British rule after France cession of the Maritimes to Great Britain in 1713. Currently, most Micmac have French surnames, and they have remained among the most firmly converted of all Native American groups. At the same time, they have also retained much of their language and culture, and their practice of the Catholic religion has incorporated many of their traditional native beliefs.
Together with the Beothuk on Newfoundland, the Micmac were probably the first Native Americans to have regular contact with Europeans. This may have occurred as early as the 11th century with the early Viking settlements on the coast of North America, or perhaps with Basque fishermen who visited the Grand Banks before Columbus' voyage in 1492 but kept quiet about where they were catching all their fish. The first known contact was made in 1497 by John Cabot who took three Micmac with him when he returned to England. The Micmac may not have appreciated this, since Cabot disappeared in the same area during his second voyage a few years later. Contact between Micmac and Europeans became routine immediately afterwards. Beginning in 1501, Basque, Spanish, French, British, and Irish fishing boats visited the Grand Banks every summer. By 1519 the fishermen were coming ashore to dry their catch, and trade began, mainly for furs. The fishermen found the Micmac friendly and eager to trade ...almost too eager.
By 1534 the Micmac had grown so accustomed to trading with the Europeans that when the French explorer, Jacques Cartier, dropped anchor in Chaleur Bay, he suddenly found himself surrounded by hundreds of Micmac in canoes waving beaver skins. Cartier became alarmed and fired cannon over their heads. The Micmac quickly retreated, but 300 returned the following day, and Cartier had calmed down enough by then to begin trading with them. Obviously, Cartier was not the first European to "discover" the Micmac, but France would use his explorations as the basis for their claim to the Canadian Maritimes. During his visit to the region in 1541, Cartier tried, but failed, to establish a permanent settlement on the St. Lawrence River. The French still had much to learn about survival in a wilderness. By 1578 over 400 European fishing boats were gathering every summer off the coast. The Basque established a whaling station during 1527, but no one attempted to stay through a winter. Although there were no permanent settlements at the time, European diseases had begun to decimate the Micmac population. An unknown epidemic struck the region sometime between 1564 and 1570 followed by typhus in 1586.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert and the British attempted to settle Newfoundland in 1583 but failed for the same reasons as Cartier effort in 1541, starvation and bitter cold. However, the result of these failures was that both Britain (Cabot and Gilbert) and France (Verrazano and Cartier) laid claim to the Maritimes by right of discovery. Meanwhile, Spain claimed all of North America and had the military power to discourage permanent settlements by other Europeans. It could not, however, prevent trade. Furs gotten from the Micmac created a new fashion in France of beaver hats.This quickly spread through Europe. The price of fur rose, and the French quickly saw a chance to make a lot of money. Organized fur trade began in 1581 as a private venture of Norman and Breton merchants. Although it happened on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the destruction of the Spanish Armada off the coast of England in 1588 was an important event in Native American history. Afterwards, Spanish naval power could no longer keep other Europeans out of the New World.
That same year, Henry III of France granted a monopoly in the North American fur trade to a consortium of French merchants to secure his hold on the French throne. Henry was assassinated the following year and got very little out of this bargain, but the French merchants became rich. Permanent outposts were not built until 1604, but in the interim French trading ships made regular trips to the Micmac homeland for fur. The demand overwhelmed the resources available to the Micmac, but they solved this by becoming middlemen for the Algonquin tribes of the interior, an economic opportunity which they apparently protected through warfare. Already formidable warriors, the metal weapons received through trade with the French gave the Micmac and their allies an enormous advantage over their enemies ...a possible explanation for the sudden disappearance of the Iroquian-speaking peoples Cartier had met on the St. Lawrence River during 1534 and their replacement by Algonquin-speaking Montagnais and Algonkin sometime before 1608.
In 1604 Samuel de Champlain and Pierre De Monts established the first French settlement in North America at the mouth of the St. Croix River, the current boundary between Maine and the New Brunswick. Although it was close to both the Abenaki and Maliseet villages, the location proved a terrible choice, and the French stayed there only one winter. Frozen and flooded, half the party died of scurvy, and Champlain and the survivors moved across the Bay of Fundy to the Nova Scotia's Annapolis Basin in 1605. The new site became known as Port Royal, and was located in Micmac territory. Although this gave the Micmac a definite advantage, the French continued to trade with the Abenaki, particularly the Penobscot. The Penobscot prospered as a result, and their sachem Bashaba was able to form a powerful alliance which threatened the Micmac across the bay. The rivalry over the French fur trade aggravated earlier animosities and by 1607 escalated into the Tarrateen War which broke out between the Bashaba's Penobscot confederacy and the Micmac and their Maliseet allies.
The fighting continued for eight years. Although the French were not pleased with the warfare, they managed to trade with both sides. Meanwhile, the first Jesuit missionaries had arrived at Port Royal in 1610 and met immediate success working among the Micmac. Their first important convert was the sachem Membertou who was baptized with his entire family in 1610. Unfortunately, conversion did not protect him from epidemic, and Membertou died the following year. In spite of their war with the Micmac, the French also built a mission and trading post for the Penobscot at St Sauver Mont-Deserts de Pentagoet (Bar Harbor, Maine) in 1613. It had a brief existence, however, and was destroyed by an English raid from Jamestown, Virginia later that year. In 1615 the Micmac succeeded in killing Bashaba and in so doing won the war. During the next two years, Micmac warriors swept south through the Abenaki villages in Maine in a wave of destruction reaching as far south as Massachusetts.
Here they ran headlong into the devastating epidemics which were sweeping through the tribes in southern New England. The Micmac went home but took the sickness with them. The worst year in the Canadian Maritimes was 1617, and before the epidemic had run its course, it had killed almost three-quarters of the native population. There were not enough survivors to bury the dead, much less wage war, and the Tarrateen War was ended, not by battle, but disease. By 1620 only 4,000 Micmac remained from an original population of 20,000. Meanwhile, Champlain and the other French had discovered a more lucrative source of fur in the St. Lawrence Valley in 1608 and abandoned most of their posts in Acadia and Maine in favor of Quebec. By 1610 the French presence in the Maritimes was limited to a tiny settlement at Port Royal and single trading post on Penobscot River in Maine. While the fur trade had quickly bypassed the Micmac, the long struggle between Britain and France for control of their homeland was just beginning.
British settlement in North America had begun in Virginia at Jamestown in 1607, but as a result of Cabot's voyage in 1497, Britain claimed the entire eastern seaboard north of the Carolinas (including Canada). Because of this, the Plymouth Company attempted to start a colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine during 1607. This failed in less than a year, because, according to the French, the British abused the Abenaki living nearby. The British, however, were serious about enforcing their claims and in 1613 made their first attempt to remove the French from "their territory." In the fall, a naval expedition from Jamestown destroyed both the Mont-Deserts mission and Port Royal. French and Jesuits prisoners were set adrift in a small boat to die but were able to reach the Micmac who fed them that winter and saved their lives. Micmac captured in the raid were not so fortunate. The British sold them as slaves.
Already strongly attached to the French through religion and marriage, the incident served to convince the Micmac the British were enemies. By 1616 the French had rebuilt Port Royal and opened new posts at Cape Sable and the St. John and Penobscot Rivers. The British returned in 1619 and burned Port Royal for a second time, and the French rebuilt again. After settlement of Massachusetts in 1620, the British got serious. King James I of Britain (formerly James VI of Scotland) gave Acadia to Sir William Alexander who renamed it New Scotland, or Nova Scotia. Taking advantage of a European war between Britain and France, a British fleet under David Lewis and Thomas Kirke left Boston in 1628 for Port Royal. Kirke trapped and defeated a French fleet there and then moved into the St. Lawrence to capture Quebec. The British held Canada for the next four years with disastrous consequences for the Huron and Algonkin (French allies) who were fighting the Iroquois (Dutch allies).
In 1629 Alexander attempted to found a British colony in Acadia with Scottish settlers. They established themselves at Charles fort (Scotch Fort) five miles south of then-abandoned Port Royal. However, in 1632 the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye restored Quebec and Maritimes to France. This date marks the beginning the real Anglo-French struggle for North America, since the French had also decided to become serious. Actually, it began in 1627 when Cardinal Richelieu, the powerful chief minister of France under Louis XIII, had encouraged the formation of the Company of New France (Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France), popularly known as the Company of the Hundred Associates (Compagnie des Cent-Associés) for the purpose of settling Canada. The war with Britain delayed things until 1632, but afterwards, the French presence in North America increased dramatically. Richelieu sent his cousin, Isaac de Razilly, as governor with 300 men (and some women) to colonize Acadia.
The French reoccupied Port Royal, expelled the Scots, and burned the British trading post on the Penobscot River. In 1633 they attacked the remaining British post at Machias, Maine and warned Boston traders to remain south of the Kennebec River. Rather than bringing about a confrontation with the Micmac, the new French settlement was mutually beneficial and drew them even closer. The Acadians concentrated in the vicinity of Port Royal and Grand Pre. They built their homes near the bay rather than clearing away forest land like the English, and as a result, their presence did little to disturb the Micmac's lifestyle, and during the 160 years the French were in Acadia, they never needed a single treaty to remain at the peace with them. It would seem that the French had more trouble getting along with each other. During the 1640s, rival fur traders Charles La Tour and Charles D'Ulnay fought for control of Acadia in what amounted to a French civil war. While La Tour was in Boston buying supplies from the British, his rival attacked his trading post. Most of La Tour's men were hanged, and his wife Marie died in prison three weeks later. La Tour was forced to remain in hiding until D'Ulnay was drowned in a canoe accident.
Acadia, however, was not the only place the French and British were contesting. Both claimed Newfoundland. Although European fishermen had shared the island since the 1500s, Britain claimed it outright, while France did likewise as a result Cartier's explorations. As a result, both French and British settlements developed on the island: the British at Conception Bay in 1610 and the French at Placentia during the 1650s. Micmac frequently visited Newfoundland to take advantage of the extraordinary fishing, and their relations with the resident Beothuk had usually been friendly. In 1613, however, a Beothuk uprising had killed 30 French fishermen. To protect themselves from further incidents, the French encouraged the Micmac to settle permanently around St. George Bay in southwestern Newfoundland. This blocked Beothuk access to the coast, and one thing led to another. When fighting broke out, the French provided the Micmac with firearms and, according to some accounts, paid bounties for Beothuk scalps. The Micmac deny this and blame the story on the British. Hard evidence is lacking to support scalp bounties, but the Micmac did drive the Beothuk into the interior with its limited resources. By 1827 the Beothuk were extinct.
By 1643 the growing French population in Acadia was giving Puritans in New England nightmares about a French fleet sailing into Boston harbor and burning the town. They solved their fears by attacking the French first. In 1654 Robert Sedgwick's fleet from Boston captured Port Royal and the other French settlements on the Bay of Fundy. The British held Acadia for thirteen years this time until it was returned to France by the Treaty of Breda (1667). While the British and French traded places in Acadia and Maine, Micmac loyalty to the French never wavered, but they only rarely were involved in the fighting. This changed in 1675 when the Abenaki were drawn into the King Philip's War with the New England colonists. By the end of 1676, Philip and most of his followers were dead, and his uprising crushed. Unfortunately, the war did not end here for the Abenaki. Thousands of refugees, filled with hatred for the British, fled north and joined the Abenaki, and the King Philip's War continued, with brief interruptions, for more than 80 years.
To fight the British and their Mohawk allies, the Abenaki organized into a confederacy. Its membership soon expanded to include the Maritimes tribes: Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Micmac. The French both encouraged this alliance and supplied it with arms to block British expansion northward from New England and to protect Quebec and Acadia from British invasion in case of war. With the outbreak of the King William's War (1688-97) between Britain and France, the Abenaki Confederation did exactly that. Throughout the war, the British never made a serious attempt to take Acadia. An expedition under William Philips sacked Port Royal in 1690 and took the French governor prisoner, but the French recaptured it in 1692. Offensively, Abenaki and Micmac raids terrorized New England throughout the war and by 1695 had forced the abandonment of almost all of its frontier settlements. Britain and France ended their war in 1697, but it took two more years to stop the fighting between New England and the Abenaki. Even then, it was only a brief truce.
Raids resumed with the Queen Anne's War (1701-13), but this time they were not enough to keep the British out of the Maritimes. The French population in Acadia had grown to 3,000, but New England colonists in New England outnumbered them almost fifteen to one. After two attempts to take the French fort on the Penobscot River failed in 1701, New England went on the defensive. In February, 1704 an Abenaki raid from Canada destroyed Deerfield, Massachusetts, and the British changed strategy. With the coming of warmer weather, they finally captured the French forts on the Penobscot River and Passamaquoddy Bay, but were repulsed at Port Royal in July. Port Royal defended itself against two more assaults during 1707 but, after a long siege by General Francis Nicholson, surrendered in October, 1710. The British kept it for the rest of the war by using Mohawk warriors to track Micmac and Abenaki raiders. In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht gave Nova Scotia (Acadia) and Newfoundland to Great Britain.
Having seen Acadia change hands many times, no one except the British government believed this would be permanent. French settlers from Newfoundland moved to Cape Breton Island and during 1720 built the massive fortress at Louisbourgh which dominated the entire area, and the Acadian French refused to sign an oath of loyalty to Great Britain. Although the Micmac, Maliseet, and Abenaki had signed a peace treaty with New England at Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1713, they still refused to recognize British authority in Acadia. Acadia had become Nova Scotia, but it was British in name only. Trouble was immediate. The first concern of the British was to secure their fishing rights, so they were content to allow the French maintain their trade with the Micmac to keep everyone happy. This was a mistake. The French not only continued trade (upon which the Micmac had become dependent) but also provided large annual gifts to the Micmac keep their friendship and allegiance.
There was no way the British could compete with this, since their government in London provided only limited funds for gifts for British allies - something the Micmac definitely were not. To maintain peace, the first British governors of Nova Scotia were often forced in desperation to pay for gifts to Micmac out their own pockets. Even then, the Micmac perception of the British was that they were stingy. Meanwhile, the French population in Acadia avoided every attempt to get them to take a loyalty oath and was patiently waiting for their return to France. This was considered inevitable just as long as British colonists did not settle in the area. However, that was exactly what was happening. Trouble began in 1717 as settlement from New England began to expand northward into Abenaki lands along the coast of Maine as well as the Connecticut Valley of southern Vermont and New Hampshire. The French fought back through their Jesuit missionaries (most notably Father Sebastian Rasles), who encouraged the Abenaki and Micmac to resist the encroachment with violence if necessary.
Conferences between New England and Abenaki representatives during 1717 and 1719 failed to reach any agreement. Since the Micmac, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy were part of the Abenaki confederation, tension was also building in the Canadian Maritimes with the very real possibility of a major uprising. Trying to keep the Micmac at peace in 1721, the British governor of Nova Scotia called a meeting with Micmac at Annapolis Royal (formerly Port Royal) at which promises were made for increased trade and larger annual presents. The Micmac, however, were not satisfied by just promises and remained restless keeping the British garrisons in Nova Scotia on constant alert. After several violent confrontations on the New England frontier in 1722, Massachusetts declared war on the Abenaki. Dummer's War (English-Indian War, Räle War, or Father Rasles' War) was New England's last major Indian war and lasted until 1725. A separate, but related, conflict (Grey Lock's War, Lovewell's War) with the Sokoki in western New England continued for another two years.
In 1724 a colonial army attacked and burned Norridgewock on Maine's upper Kennebec River. Not only was the Jesuit priest Sebastian Rasles killed in this battle, but the British mutilated his corpse. From the onset of the fighting, the French in Quebec were tempted to intervene on behalf of the Abenaki, but they chose to remain neutral because the British were threatening to deport the French population. For the same reason, the Acadian French had discouraged the Micmac from joining the Abenaki in the conflict. However, this changed with the brutal circumstances of Rasles' death. The Acadians were furious, and the killing of one of their priests by New England militia brought them to the point of open rebellion in Acadia. No longer restrained, 50 Micmac warriors retaliated and attacked the British garrison at Annapolis Royal killing two soldiers and wounding 12 others. The British, with some justification, felt the Acadians were responsible.
The Abenaki suffered another defeat at the hands of New England the following spring after which resistance ended. In December, 1725 they agreed to a peace with Massachusetts finally ratified at Falmouth the following August. The Micmac and Maliseet also signed a treaty at Boston agreeing to peace and acknowledging British authority over their homeland. This officially ended Dummer's War, but French and Micmac resistance to the British in Acadia was just no longer passive. As long as the British garrisons confined themselves to their forts, there was little trouble, but travel into Micmac controlled areas of the interior was dangerous. The Acadians still refused to take any oath of allegiance to Great Britain, and in 1732 a large group left Nova Scotia for New Brunswick and settled at Ste. Anne's Point on the St. Johns River to escape the British pressure to do so. Meanwhile, French priests and traders were active among the Micmac. Annual presents, trade goods, and firearms arrived every year from Ille Royal, and British protests demanding the French stop this were ignored. New British forts and restrictions placed on the movement of French priests only added to the worsening situation.
In 1744 Britain and France went to war again - this time in a dispute over who should sit on the throne of Austria. The War of Austrian Sucession spread from Europe to North America where it was known as the King George's War (1744-48). All the smoldering resentment of the last 29 years of British occupation erupted throughout the Canadian Maritimes, and the Micmac and Maliseet attacked the British outposts. Massachusetts declared war in 1744 against the Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, and St. John Indians (actually the Maliseet and Micmac). The Penobscot, Kennebec, and Passamaquoddy from Maine also joined the fighting, and the British were overwhelmed. The French immediately tried and failed to retake Port Royal in 1744. They tried again the following year, but this, as well as an attack on Cape Breton Island, was also repulsed. Even so, by the end of 1745 the British were besieged inside their forts. Their only military unit still able to operate effectively was the solitary Ranger Company of John Gorham, a group of few white frontiersmen and 50 Mohawk warriors recruited by Sir William Johnson in New York.
The French Acadians were officially neutral but so open in their sympathy for the Micmac that Governor Shirley of Massachusetts in 1746 demanded their removal from Nova Scotia. This easily could have happened if a 4,000 man combined British and colonial army had not captured Louisbourgh in June, 1745. The capture of Louisbourgh was the major British victory during the war. It not only removed the immediate threat of invasion to Nova Scotia but permitted the British naval blockade of Canada which eventually brought the French to their knees. However, it did not stop Micmac and Abenaki attacks which continued throughout Nova Scotia and northern Maine until a year after the end of the war. Between 1747 and 1749, there was a lot of bushwhacking and ambush in the Maritimes which kept Gorham's Rangers very busy. Even though crippled by the loss of Louisbourgh, the French were still dangerous, and an attack in February, 1747 wiped out the British garrison at Grand Pre (Grand Pre Massacre). During 1748, however, the French ended their support for the Micmac on Cape Breton which ended most of the fighting in that vicinity.
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle settled the problem France and Britain had with each other about the Austrian throne, but neither side was willing to concede control of the Canadian Maritimes. To the total outrage and disgust of the New England colonies, the treaty returned the fortress at Louisbourgh to the French. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 had failed to define the border between Nova Scotia and Quebec. Taking advantage of this and their alliance with the Abenaki and Maliseet, the French began in 1749 to re-occupy the St. John Valley in New Brunswick. At the same time, the British decided the solution to control of the Maritimes was to populate it with British colonists. In June, 1749 Colonel Edward Cornwallis arrived as the new governor of Nova Scotia accompanied by 2,500 new settlers. After founding the city of Halifax, he made peace overtures to the Abenaki and Maliseet using the ranger captain John Gorham as his emissary. The result was a peace treaty signed at Halifax with the Maliseet and Abenaki, but the strength of this agreement was indicated by the fact the Maliseet celebrated the signing with a war dance on the decks of Cornwallis' ship.
The Micmac did not sign any peace agreement with the British that year. They had suffered a severe smallpox epidemic during 1747, and the French had accused the British of deliberate infection. Whether true or not, the Micmac believed the French and were so angry about this, they refused to make peace. In this decision, they had the full support of a French priest, Father Le Loutre (the new Rasles). Settlements at Chebucto and Canso were attacked during the summer of 1749. Especially galling to the British was the capture of an army detachment at Canso which later had to be ransomed from the French commandant at Louisbourgh. The British refused to declare war reasoning that, since the Micmac were supposed to have submitted to British authority in Nova Scotia at the Treaty of Boston (1726), they could be treated as rebels, not enemies. In other words, no rules of civilized warfare. Offering £10 for every Micmac scalp or prisoner, Cornwallis dispatched the Cobb expedition with 100 men to hunt down and kill Micmac. In addition to the usual £10 for scalps or prisoner, Cornwallis offered an additional incentive of £100 for the capture of Le Loutre.
Cobb's expedition destroyed just about everything they found, but Micmac resistance only stiffened. By 1750 the price of scalps was raised from £10 to £50 which provided incentive for the formation of two additional ranger companies under Captains William Clapham and Francis Bartelo. During 1751 the fighting continued across the Chigneto Isthmus of Nova Scotia, but by summer Cornwallis ordered all ranger companies (except Gorham's) to disband. Too many strange scalps had been turned in for payment, including several which bore unmistakable signs of European origin. The French were still providing arms to the Chignecto Micmac - who were still dangerous and under the hostile influence of Father Le Loutre - but sending hired killers after them was never going to solve the situation. Cornwallis' decision ultimately proved correct, and in November, 1752 at Halifax, the Micmac signed a peace treaty with the British.
Unfortunately, the peace lasted less than two years and ended with the outbreak of the French and Indian War (1755-63). The last French/British confrontation for control of North America, the war began in 1755 with a disaster for the British when Braddock's army was destroyed near Fort Duquesne in western Pennsylvania. Micmac raids against isolated settlements in Nova Scotia began that first year with British fishing boats as particular target. At the same time, the Penobscot raided frontier settlements in Maine. As French victories mounted, the British decided they would no longer treat the French in Acadia as neutrals. Governor Cornwallis had threatened deportation many times if they did not take the oath, and in response, approximately one-third of the Acadians moved to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and French territory during 1752. But in the end, Cornwallis never followed through with his threats. However, he was replaced as governor in 1754 by Charles Lawrence.
Lawrence was serious, and the expulsion carried out in 1755 under his administration was quick, efficient and cruel. 7,000 Acadians who had refused the oath were imprisoned, stripped of their possessions, and deported. Many ended up in British prisons for the duration of the war. The others were dispersed throughout the English colonies in the south where, for obvious reasons, they were very unwelcome guests. More than one-third were lost at sea or died disease. Many years would pass before many of the deportees would relocate to Spanish Louisiana where they would become known as the Cajuns. Most of their land was taken over by British settlers who soon arrived from New England. However, not all of the Acadians left quietly, and the British were never able to capture all of them. Many escaped into the forests and fought a guerilla war beside the Micmac. One such Acadian was Joseph Broussard who continued to fight the British in New Brunswick until finally captured in 1758.
For the Micmac, the deportation was almost as traumatic as it was for the French. Roman Catholic and intermarried with the French for several generations, many Acadians were close relatives, and it is difficult to imagine anything the British could have done which would have enraged the Micmac more. They attacked the British army forts and the new settlements of the New England colonists the forts were intended to protect. By 1756 the British in Nova Scotia were once again paying bounties for Micmac scalps, this time £30 for warrior scalps and £25 for women and children prisoners. The French in Quebec welcomed the warfare in Nova Scotia, and Governor Duquesne of Canada sent secret instructions to Father Le Loutre urging him to keep the Micmac at war and prevent them from making a separate peace with the British. The British fought back with a series of small forts and ranger companies, but Maliseet and Micmac warriors kept them mostly confined to the immediate vicinity of their forts.
Slowly, the British were able to overcome the initial French successes. Fort Beausejour in New Brunswick was captured in 1757, and in 1758 the British army swept through the remaining Acadian settlements on the St. John River destroying everything in their path. French resistance slackened after the fall of Louisbourgh in 1758 which opened the way for a British invasion of the St. Lawrence Valley. With the capture of Quebec in September, the war in North America was mostly over, although a peace was not actually signed until 1763. Montreal held out until 1760, but an attempt by the French fleet that year to break the British blockade and bring reinforcements to Quebec ended in defeat at a naval battle fought near Restigouche which involved Micmac and Acadians. After years of fighting, peace did not settle over the region uniformly or immediately. Several groups of the Micmac reluctantly accepted the outcome and, along with the Passamaquoddy and Malecite, signed treaties with the British during 1760. The majority of the Micmac followed suit in 1761, but Rogers Rangers were required to expel the French from their last outposts along the upper St. John River in 1760.
Despite the peace signed in 1760, when the British first tried to settle to the lower St. John in 1762, the Maliseet warned survey crews to remain well-down the river. What they could expect if they proceeded farther upstream was left unspoken. It was not until 1768 that settlement was able to push inland, and lasting treaties with the Maliseet were not signed until 1770 and 1776. At the end of the American Revolution in 1783, 14,000 badly abused British loyalists left the newly-formed United States and settled in New Brunswick. The Maliseet homeland on the St. John River was overrun in the process. Not all Micmac made peace with the British in 1760-61, and some bands in the interior remained hostile until 1779. During the American Revolution, the Micmac generally favored the Americans ...probably because they felt the overthrow of the British would restore French rule. The feeling persisted. Years later during the War of 1812, they chose to remain neutral at their own request. The Micmac have been at peace since 1779, and treaties signed during the early 1800s established the reserves which the Micmac still occupy in the Canadian Maritimes.
First Nations referred to in this Micmac History: