THE LEGACY OF MUIN'ISKW - 
SEVEN DISTRICTS MAWI'OMI PETROGLYPH

 

Some years ago, Muin'iskw was told the significance of one of the petroglyphs at Kejimkujik, and the interpretation she was given led her to believe it may be one of the most important images in the collection in terms of historical teachings. The petroglyph commemorated a seven-district mawi'omi, a gathering of people from all of Mi'kmaki. What follows is the story as we were given it from Kaqamit Muin, who passed on a great deal of information that he learned from his own Elder.

In pre-contact times, each of the seven districts of Mi'kmaki had a Saqamaw, a high-level chief who was responsible for coordinating the decision-making among the other leaders within his district. Periodically, these chiefs would meet to discuss any concerns that affected the entire Nation. This, of course, was a major undertaking in the days before automobiles, so such an event was of major importance.

The petroglyph symbolizes how the council would meet. In the very center is the council fire. Just outside of the fire is a circle with seven arcs, which represents the seven district chiefs. In the next circle are another seven arcs, representing each chief's deputy, who sat with his chief and offered advice as required, and who was also knowledgeable enough to be capable of filling in for his chief if required. The next circle has seven crosses, representing the most important medicine person from each district. They, too, were available for advice, and they sat on the outside to offer protection from spiritual attack. While other people may have been called into the circle as required when discussing a particular matter, these 21 people would remain in the circle with minimal breaks until such time as all matters had been discussed - a good way to ensure that everyone kept to the point and focused on the business at hand.

Also in the outside circle are seven sets of three concentric arcs, which represent the lands and waters of each district. Finally, the triangles around the outside of the circle represent the wigwams of the people.

There are other interpretations of the meaning behind this petroglyph, but Muin'iskw and I had good reason to trust the information we were given. I am offering this information here because Muin'iskw passed on these teachings as often as possible, and this will allow her teaching to continue.

 
The actual petroglyph has all but disappeared due to weathering. This recreation was created by overlaying a tracing done by George Creed in 1888 (you can see more of his tracings here) on a photograph of the image taken by Muin'iskw and myself in 2003, and filling in a few missing components of the image. The result is a simulation of how the petroglyph might have looked not long after it was made.
 
Updated: 27 Mar 2016 Print Page