Micmacs and Colonists: Indian-White Relations in the Maritimes, 1713-1867

Micmacs and Colonists: Indian-White Relations in the Maritimes, 1713-1867

Micmacs and Colonists: Indian-White Relations in the Maritimes, 1713-1867

Micmacs and Colonists: Indian-White Relations in the Maritimes, 1713-1867

Excerpt

The object of this book is to trace the interaction of the Micmac Indians and British colonists over a period of one hundred and fifty years.

Indian-White relationships in North America have passed through several well-defined stages. In the first contacts the Europeans were in a subordinate position, dependent on the sufferance of the Indians for advice, guidance, and survival. The newcomers had to accommodate to the natives' way of doing things and to accept their control of the relationship. However, the newcomers inadvertently introduced diseases that wreaked devastation on the receiving society and undermined its self-sufficiency. Paradoxically, those who survived this first onslaught were able to live better than before because they acquired European tools that allowed them to do what they had always done, only more efficiently: iron replaced stone, the cooking pot superseded the hollowed-out tree stump. Gradually, the traditional artifacts fell into disuse, along with the knowledge that produced them. The Indians became dependent on imported goods that they could not duplicate, and as their dependence grew, so the importance of the supplier increased. The tool that was servant became the master.

Nor is this all that changed. Even before the transformation was complete, European missionaries introduced new ideas and values to set alongside the new material possessions. However much a Christian missionary might profess his devotion to spiritual salvation, his teachings were inevitably received as a rationale for the new material environment created by the goods that were transforming traditional life. The missionary was seen as the interpreter of European civilization in all its aspects. The contact between old and new became personalized, for the missionary had a recognizable counterpart, the shaman or buoin, with whom he consciously competed for power. As European goods became dominant, so too did the missionary, and the traditional spiritual perceptions embodied in the person of the buoin declined steadily. Continuity was destroyed; the past ceased to exist.

The combined impact of these European innovations was to disorient the already weakened Indian societies and make the loss of their lands certain. The wars waged by settlers were fought against Indians who had already met the three horsemen of the European Apocalypse: disease, trade goods, and Christianity. The newcomers inevitably triumphed, and shattered tribes had to re-group and survive as best they could in the face of the omnipresent colonist. The process continued piecemeal across the continent and, since . . .

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