Sunday, June 12, 2011

14 - Upheaval

I am counting down the days until I take my annual Nova Scotia trip. Until then, I am going back in time to the point where I left off in the history of the Bras d'Or Indians, in the early 1750's. With this post,  I want to set the political climate of the time, to give you an idea of what was happening in Nova Scotia and the fear that it must have invoked in the Mi'kmaq and Acadians. It may shed some more light on my ancestors story.

Nova Scotia at this time, was a mess to say the least. According to Daniel Paul, in We Were Not the Savages, which I am using for information in this post, "The British government was sending foreign settlers over by the boat load without adequate provisions and they were starving to death. The fort was in a state of decay, the troops were restless and it was feared that the Acadian French might leave the province and dry up the colony's only reliable source of food. On top of all this the Mi'kmaq and the British were at war. Hopson (the new Governor) began at once the tasks of renewing the garrison and put out feelers to several chiefs about peace talks." (We Were Not the Savages, pg. 125)
The treaty signing of 1752, Source: WikimediaCommons

Chief Jean Baptiste Cope, of the Shubenacadie Mi'kmaq answered the call and signed the Treaty of 1752. "In view of the increasing strength of the English and their unyielding attitudes, it can be safely concluded that Chief Sachem Jean Baptiste Cope signed the Treaty of 1752 in a desperate attempt to prevent the complete annihilation of his people. For a while he succeeded because the British needed time to refurbish Halifax's fortifications and bring in more Caucasian Protestant settlers." (pg. 128)

It is also interesting that Paul notes that in 1753, "the once proud and independent band of Cape Sable Mi'kmaq (the home band of some of my ancestors) had been reduced to begging provisions from the English to stave off starvation and pestilence. The great pity is that they were also moved to deny their own people in their bid for survival." (pg. 147)

Governor Charles Lawrence
Source: WikimediaCommons
Back at the Fortress of Louisbourg, the French were hoping that this treaty would fail. "The French knew that such an eventuality would forever end their alliance with the Mi'kmaq, dry up a rich source of military intelligence and assistance, and prove extremely detrimental to their future political and military ambitions in the region."(pg. 130) They went to great lengths to ensure that it did not succeed. Throw on top of it the fact that war between the French and the British begins again in 1754,  a new Governor (Lawrence) who hated the Acadians and the Mi'kmaq takes office in 1755, and a volatile situation is brewing.

The fate of the French Acadians, who had for so long been great allies to the Mi'kmaq, was sealed. "In early 1755 the Acadian Deputies were summoned to Halifax by Governor Lawrence and ordered to swear an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. This they refused to do, contending, as they had with Cornwallis in 1749, that if they did so the French would set the Indians against them and they would be massacred. The English took no time responding. On July 28th, 1755, Lawrence got the full approval of Nova Scotia Colonial Council to start dispersing the Acadians among the American Colonies.... They were loaded into the holds of the ships and scattered to the four corners of the world. Families were separated, never to see one another again, and untold numbers died in transport. " (page 152)
The Deportation of the Acadians, Source: WikimediaCommons

"Many Acadians went into hiding among the Mi'kmaq and remained with them until the British and French ended their hostilities in 1763. A group of several hundred were hidden by Mi'kmaq in an area known today as Kejimkujak National Park." (pg. 152)

This was the climate. It's not hard to see why Ile Royale (Cape Breton) was a haven of sorts.

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