Mi’kmaw Camp. [ca.1880]

Mi’kmaw Camp. [ca.1880] Theodore Keisel. 78-712-2462. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University

The history of Mi’kmaw people is very long and our homeland, called Mi’kma’ki, is very large. There have been people living here for more than 11,000 years! Mi’kma’ki, is made up of all of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and large areas of New Brunswick, the Gaspé Peninsula and Newfoundland.

While many histories are written only from historical documents, understanding our past and our homeland requires the understanding of many different kinds of information. In the past, Mi’kmaw people learned about their culture and history through stories and legends. These oral (spoken) histories are very important to understanding our past. In addition, because our history is so old, we use sciences like archaeology and geology to help us tell our stories.

Mi’kmaw history and culture is like a puzzle that has many different pieces. Some pieces come from geology, which tells us about the environment in the past. Other pieces come from archaeology, which tells us about where and how our ancestors lived. We also use historical documents that were written mostly by Europeans, since it was rare for Mi’kmaw people to write their histories down on paper.

Most of all, we listen to each other especially to the Elders in our community—because it is our stories and legends that help put all the pieces of the puzzle together into a picture we can call our own.

One of the most exciting things about the puzzle is that the pieces are all around us, whether we are Mi’kmaq or not. Chances are you are living near a river that once had encampments along it; today these encampments are archaeological sites. All of us live near places with Mi’kmaw names like Shubenacadie or Tracadie.

Others may live near certain islands, hills, or special places that are part of Mi’kmaw stories. Perhaps there is a special source of stone nearby that people used to make their tools, or a place with clay that people used to make their bowls, and containers for cooking. Whether we realize it or not, everyone travels over and through ancestral Mi’kmaw places, and we do it every day.