First Nation Mi'kMaq

( Migmak, 'allies'; Nigmak, 'our allies' )


Geographical region : Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Islands

Lived normally in simple Tipis

Language group : algonquian - wakashan linguistic stock


The French called them Sourigeois.

An important Algonquian tribe that occupied Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Islands, the north part of New Brunswick, and probably points in south and west Newfoundland.

The Micmacs are expert canoeists, and, although their economy once centered on fishing and hunting, they now derive their income from agriculture.

While their neighbors the Abnaki have close linguistic relations with the Algonquian tribes of the great lakes, the Micmac seem to have almost as distant a relation to the group as the Algonquians of the plains (W. Jones).

If Schoolcraft's supposition be correct, the Micmac must have been among the first Indians of the north east coast encountered by Europeans, as he thinks they were visited by Sebastian Cabot in 1497, and that the 3 natives he took to England were of this tribe.

Kohl believes that those captured by Cortereal in 1501 and taken to Europe were Micmac.

Most of the early voyagers to this region speak of the great numbers of Indians on the north coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and of their fierce and warlike character.

They early became friends of the French, a friendship which was lasting and which the English, after the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, by which Acadia was ceded to them, found impossible to have transferred to themselves for nearly half a century.

Their hostility to the English prevented for a long time any serious attempts at establishing British settlements on the north coasts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, for although a treaty of peace was concluded with them in 1760, it was not until 1779 that disputes and difficulties with the Micmac ceased.

In the early wars on the New England frontier the Cape Sable Micmac were especially noted.

The missionary Biard, who, in his Relation of 1616, gives a somewhat full account of the habits and characteristics of the Micmac and adjacent tribes, speaks in perhaps rather too favorable terms of them. He says: "You could not distinguish the young men from the girls, except in their way of wearing their belts. For the women are girdled both above and below the stomach and are less nude than the men. Their clothes are trimmed with leather lace, which the women curry on the side that is not hairy. They often curry both sides of elk skin, like our buff skin, then variegate it very prettily with paint put on in a lace pattern, and make gowns of it; from the same leather they make their shoes and strings. The men do not wear trousers they wear only a cloth to cover their nakedness."

Their dwellings were usually the ordinary conical wigwams covered with bark, skins, or matting. Biard says that "in summer the shape of their houses is changed; for they are broad and long that they may have more air."

There is all evident attempt to show these summer bowers in the map of Jacomo di Gastaldi made about 1550 given in vol. III of sorne of the editions of Ramusio.

Their government was similar to that of the New England Indians; polygamy was not common, though practiced to some extent by the chiefs; they were expert, canoemen and drew much of their subsistence from the waters.

Cultivation of the soil was very limited if practiced at all by them, when first encountered by the whites. Biard says they did not till the soil in his day.

According to Rand (Micmac First Reading Book, 1870), they divided their country, which they called Megumage, into 7 districts, the head-chief living in the Cape Breton district. The other six were Pictou, Memramcook, Restigouche, Eskegawaage, Shubenacadie, and Annapolis. The first three of these formed a group known as Sigunikt; the other three formed another group known as Kespoogwit.

In 1760 the Micmac bands or villages were given as Le Have, Miramichi Tabogimkik, Pohomoosh, Gediak (Shediac), Pictou, Kashpugowitk (Kespoogwit), Chignecto, Isle of St. Johns, Nalkitgoniash, Cape Breton, Minas, Chigabennakadik (Shubenacadie), Keshpugowitk (Kespoogwit, duplicated), and Rishebouctou (Richibucto).

The Gaspesians are a band of Micmac differing somewhat in dialect front the rest of the tribe.

In 1611 Biard estimated the Micmac at 3,000 to 3,500.

In 1760 they were reported at nearly 3,000, but had been lately much wasted by sickness.

In 1766 they were again estimated at 3,500; in 1880 they were officially reported at 3,892, and in 1884 at 4,037. Of these, 2,197 were in Nova Scotia, 933 in New Brunswick, 615 in Quebec, and 292 on Prince Edward id.

In 1904, according to the Report of Canadian Indian Affairs, they numbered 3,861, of whom 579 were in Quebec province, 992 in New Brunswick, 1,998 in Nova Scotia, and 292 on Prince Edward island.