Published on January 21, 2013 by Carol
Before the arrival of the Europeans, the members of the Wabanaki Confederation, the Souriquois, now called the Micmacs, occupied Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and the southern portion of the Gaspé peninsula. In 1611, Father Pierre Briard estimated their population at 3,000 in these areas.
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A nomadic people, the Micmacs lived primarily from the traditional activities of hunting, trapping, fishing and the harvesting of wild berries. Because of their way of life, they built their wigwams so that they could be easily moved from one place to another.
In the 16th century, the Micmacs were one of the first peoples to encounter Europeans. They tried to profit from the fur trade between the Europeans and the tribes further to the west by acting as middlemen.
As for all the other Aboriginal nations in America, a very large portion of the Micmac population was wiped out by the diseases contracted from the contacts with Europeans.
Following their victory over the French in 1763, the English from New England moved into the Atlantic region in large numbers. The British government tried to turn the Micmacs into farmers; its efforts failed and instead the Micmacs became workers in the forestry and transportation sectors, wich produced significant sociocultural changes.
Today, there are over 15,000 Micmacs in the Maritimes. In Quebec, over 4,300 Micmacs live in Listuguj (Restigouche), Gesgapegiag (Maria), and in the Gaspé region.
The Micmacs are fishermen by tradition and they continue to fish salmon. In 1982, the community of Gesgapegiag and the owners of riverfornt property joined forces to form the Cascapedia River Salmon Management Society, wich organizes fishing trips for anglers. There is also the Micmac Crafts Cooperative, wich exports its products to the United States. They also built several facilities to deal with problems that are present in their communities that are worth mentioning: an addiction centre in Gesgapegiag, a youth centre and a battered women’s shelter in Listuguj. Listuguj and Gesgapegiag are also two dynamic MicMac business communities.