Kejimkujik petroglyph representing the
union of the seven districts into one nation

For many thousands of years, The Mi'kmaq people made their home in Mi'kma'ki. The earliest traces of their culture have been found at Debert, Nova Scotia, where a site is being excavated that dates back some 10,000 years. Following the disappearance of the great ice sheets of the Wisconsonian Ice Age, the forefathers of the Mi'kmaq moved into this area and made it their home, living their semi-nomadic lives in harmony with nature, and according to Creator's plan. Here they lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place in a regular pattern as they followed the cycle of the seasons in search of food and resources. As they did so, they developed their own distinct customs and language, and eventually became the culture known as the Mi'kmaq. Eventually they created the seven districts, which became the Mi'kmaw nation.

Contact with Europeans did not surprise the Mi’kmaq, nor did it alter their concept of the world. An old legend in which one of their spiritual beings traveled across the Atlantic to "discover" Europe taught that blue-eyed people would arrive from the east to disrupt their lives. The people also knew the story of a Mi’kmaq woman who had a vision of an island floating toward their lands; the island was covered with tall trees on which were living beings that she thought were bears. Thus the Mi’kmaq recognized the validation of her vision when the first ships appeared, and were prepared to greet the newcomers as friends.

European contact came first through Portuguese, Basque, English and French fishermen who came to the New World. A casual trade in furs gave the Mi'kmaq metal axes and knives. The French, who in the 1600s claimed Nova Scotia as part of Acadia, used trade and Roman Catholic missionaries to develop fairly amicable relations with the Mi'kmaq, who became their allies against the British until the 1760s. 

Relations with outsiders grew more complex when the Mi’kmaq began converting to Catholicism. This process occurred over a seventy-year period, beginning with the conversion of Grand Chief Membertou in 1610. The Mi’kmaw nation's first treaty with a European nation was an agreement with the Vatican and the Holy See. This treaty was recorded on a wampum belt, whose symbols represented the incorporation of Mi’kmaw spirituality within the context of Roman Catholicism.

But the growing rivalry between France and England meant increasing trouble for the Mi'kmaw population, which in 1746 was devastated by epidemic disease brought by European ships. The lowest point in Mi'kmaw-British relations was the 1749 scalp bounty that the governor placed on Mi'kmaq "rebels." 

Finally, after a long period of conflict as the British battled the French and their Mi’kmaw allies, the Mi’kmaq eventually established a series of treaties with the British Crown that gave Britain an alliance with the Wabanaki Confederacy and security across the region. It was during this time that the eight-pointed star design was created; seven of the points represented the seven districts of Mi'kma'ki, with the eighth point standing for Great Britain and the Crown.

This section of Mi'kmaq Spirit gives a brief overview of the history of the Mi'kmaq people. The following topics are included:


The Mi'kmaw Timeline - Pre-Contact >>>

Updated: 27 Mar 2016 Print Page