I hope that those of you who are reading this blog don't think that I am going to continue to rant about atrocities. I'm not. My goal is to explore the Mi'kmaq culture, and I have some great experiences planned, but there really is no separating these occurrences from the people themselves, and I feel that I must discuss this. It relates directly to my own history, which is driving my search in the first place. What I am discovering is that Native Americans in almost every nation are survivors against incredible odds. The truth is that foreigners used every method available to them in attempt to systematically destroy these cultures. It was absolutely calculated.
I have been reading about Treaties and Proclamations in We Were Not The Savages by Daniel Paul. Treaties created by the British and proclamations issued by the British against the Mi'kmaq. It appears that I have discovered the reason that my ancestors (so many of them) would leave their homes and relocate in large numbers to Cape Breton Island around 1750. Quite simply, they feared for their lives. They were being hunted like animals.
My ancestors from the LeHave and Cape Sable areas in Nova Scotia, picked up, and moved their families to the Bras d'Or area because it was, at that time, still under the protection of the French. The Mi'kmaq and Acadians in Nova Scotia were a threat to the English government and they decided the best way to deal with the Mi'kmaq problem was by force. The following summary is information taken from Paul's book. (Please read the original, I cannot possibly do it justice in a few paragraphs.)
The problem (much simplified) was that leaders of the Mi'kmaq people had signed treaties with the British in 1725 that gave away their rights and opened the way for the British to punish them relentlessly. The treaties were not explained to the Mi'kmaq in their own language originally, and they were not aware that they had handed themselves over to absolute British rule. It is ridiculous that anyone would sign such a one sided deal that favored British interests over their own. The Mi'kmaq fought back against the injustice and the British saw this as insubordination.
|William Shirley, Colonial Governor of Massachusetts Bay|
By Thomas Hudson, Source: Wikimedia Commons
In 1745, William Shirley, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay in New England issued a proclamation that the Indians of Cap de Sable and St. John's were in violation of the Treaty and he declared war against them. Governor Shirley issued a bounty for any male Indian of 12 years or older for 100 pounds and the sum of 105 pounds for any male of the same taken captive. The sum of fifty pounds was paid for women and children under the age of twelve killed in fight, and fifty five pounds for those taken prisoner. No payments would be made unless there was proof of the killings. The Governor went so far as to hire a group of "Rangers" led by Captain John Gorham. They were mostly Mohawk warriors (enemy to the Mi'kmaq) and whites. The first victims of the group were three pregnant women and two children. They desecrated burial grounds and distributed blankets and clothing infected with disease, spreading terror among the Mi'kmaq.
|General Edward Cornwallis, Founder of Halifax|
Source: Wikimedia Commons
In 1749, Halifax, the capitol of Nova Scotia, was founded by Governor Edward Cornwallis. Shortly afterwards, the British pressed for unconditional submission of the Mi'qmaq to British rule and the chiefs refused. A Scalping Proclamation was issued against the Mi'kmaq. Paul states on page 118, " the records indicate that the barbarous proclamation was very productive. The slaughter was indiscriminate - pregnant women, the unborn, the old, the infirm - there were no exceptions; even some Caucasions were harvested. As an indication of how many scalps were taken, Bates wrote:
"It is reported that .....a party of Gorham's rangers one day brought in 25 scalps, claiming the bounty of 10 pounds per scalp. It was strongly suspected that not all of the scalps were those of Indians, but included some Acadians too. The paymaster protested the payment, but was ordered to pay 250 pounds anyway....The records of Chignecto include several instances of extreme cruelty and barbarism by the rangers. "( Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, George T. Bates, p.69)
So, the scalping was done by the British, not the Indians. Horrific. It is also interesting that Daniel Paul goes into some accounts of General Cornwallis' earlier atrocities at the Battle of Culloden in Scotland. I had read of these atrocities many years before in one of the books he mentioned (Culloden, by John Prebble) when I was researching my Scottish ancestors about 15 years ago. Same person, similar atrocities. Paul mentions that Cornwallis is much celebrated throughout the city of Hailfax by name. I remember walking by his statue many times when I was a student at Dalhousie in Halifax. Perhaps the people who celebrate him read the same history textbooks that I did growing up. They seem to have neglected many of the details of his rise. Once again, we celebrate genocide against Native populations.
So, there it is. The reason my ancestors left and settled in Bras d'Or. Terror and fear inflicted by the British.
I would also like to mention Daniel Paul's website which I will link to here: http://www.danielnpaul.com/ It is packed full of so much information. His book is simply excellent. Please read it if you have an interest in this subject. He goes into such detail that I can never write in a blog and uses records left by the British themselves to tell the story. It has provided me so many answers that I did not have prior to reading it. I am also linking another website that contains a petition to rename various Cornwallis sites in the city of Halifax. www.renamecornwallis.com