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AN

ACCOUNT

OF THE

CUSTOMS and MANNERS

OF THE

MICMAKIS and MARICHEETS

SAVAGE NATIONS,

Now Dependent on the

Government of CAPE-BRETON.


FROM

An Original French Manuscript-Letter,

Never Published,

Written by a French Abbot,

Who resided many Years, in quality of Missionary, amongst them.


To which are annexed,

Several Pieces, relative to the Savages, to Nova

Scotia, and to North-America in general.

* * * * *

LONDON:

Printed for S. Hooper and A. Morley at Gay's-Head,
near Beaufort-Buildings in the Strand. MDCCLVIII.




PREFACE.


For the better understanding of the letter immediately following, it may
not be unnecessary to give the reader some previous idea of the people
who are the subject of it, as well of the letter-writer.

The best account of the _Mickmakis_ I could find, and certainly the most
authentic, is in a memorial furnished by the French ministry in April,
1751, from which the following paragraph is a translated extract:

"The government of the savages dependent on Cape-Breton exacts a
particular attention. All these savages go under the name of
_Mickmakis_. Before the last war they could raise about six hundred
fighting-men, according to an account given in to his most Christian
majesty, and were distributed in several villages established on
Cape-Breton island, island of St. John, on both the coasts of Acadia
(Nova-Scotia) and on that of Canada. All, or most of the inhabitants of
these villages have been instructed in the Christian religion, by
missionaries which the king of France constantly maintains amongst them.
It is customary to distribute every year to them presents, in the name
of his majesty, which consist in arms, ammunition of war, victuals,
cloathing, and utensils of various sorts. And these presents are
regulated according to the circumstances of the time, and to the
satisfaction that shall have been given to the government by the conduct
of these savages. In the last war they behaved so as to deserve our
approbation, and indeed have, on all occasions, given marks of their
attachment and fidelity. Since the peace too, they have equally
distinguished themselves in the disturbances that are on foot on the
side of Acadia (Nova-Scotia)."

The last part of this foregoing paragraph needs no comment. Every one
knows by what sort of service these savages merit the encouragement of
the French government, and by what acts of perfidy and cruelty exercised
on the English, they are to earn their reward.

The _Maricheets_, mentioned in the said letter form a distinct nation,
chiefly settled at St. John's, and are often confounded with the
_Abenaquis_, so as to pass for one nation with them, though there is
certainly some distinction. They used, till lately, to be in a constant
state of hostility with the Mickmakis. But, however, these nations may
be at peace or variance with one another, in one point they agree, which
is a thorough enmity to the English, cultivated, with great application
by the missionaries, who add to the scandal of a conduct so contrary to
their profession, the baseness of denying or evading the charge by the
most pitiful equivocations. It is with the words peace, charity, and
universal benevolence, for ever in their mouths, that these
incendiaries, by instigations direct and indirect, inflame and excite
the savages to commit the cruellest outrages of war, and the blackest
acts of treachery. Poor Captain How! is well known to have paid with his
life, infamously taken away by them, at a parley, the influence one of
these missionaries (now a prisoner in the island of Jersey,) had over
these misguided wretches, whose native innocence and simplicity are not
proof against the corruption, and artful suggestions of those holy
seducers.

It would not, perhaps, be impossible for the English, if they were to
apply proper means, and especially lenient ones, to recover the
affections of these people, which, for many reasons, cannot be entirely
rooted in the French interest. That great state-engine of theirs,
religion, by which they have so strong a hold on the weak and credulous
savages, might not, however, be an invincible bar to our success, if it
was duly counter-worked by the offer of a much more pure and rational
one of our own, joined to such temporal advantages as would shew them
their situation capable of being much meliorated, in every respect; and
especially that of freedom, which they cannot but be sensible, is daily
decreasing under the insidious encroachments and blandishments of the
French, who never cares but to enslave, nor hug but to stifle, whose
pretences, in short, to superior humanity and politeness, are not
amongst their least arts of conquest.

As to the letter-writer, he is an abbot much respected in those parts,
who has resided the greatest part of his life amongst the Mickmakis, and
is perfectly acquainted with their language, in the composing of a
Dictionary of which he has labored eighteen or twenty years; but I
cannot learn that it is yet published, and probably for reasons of
state, it never may. The letter, of which the translation is now given,
exists only in a manuscript, having never been printed, being entirely
written for the satisfaction of a friend's curiosity, in relation to the
original manners and customs of the people of which it treats, and
which, being those of savages in the primitive state of unpolished
nature, may perhaps, to a philosophical enquirer, afford more amusement
and instruction than those of the most refined societies. What man
really is, appears at least plainer in the uncultivated savage, than in
the civilized European.

The account of Acadia (Nova-Scotia) will, it is to be hoped, appear not
uncurious; allowance being made for its being only in form of a letter.




A

LETTER, &c.


_Micmaki-Country_, March 27, 1755.


SIR,

I should long before now have satisfied you in those points of curiosity
you expressed, concerning the savages amongst whom I have so long
resided, if I could have found leisure for it. Literally true it is,
that I have no spare time here, unless just in the evening, and that not
always. This was my case too in Louisbourg; and I do not doubt but you
will be surprised at learning, that I enjoy as little rest here as
there.

Had you done me, Sir, the honor of passing with me but three days only,
you would soon have seen what sort of a nation it is that I have to deal
with. I am obliged to hold frequent and long parleys with them, and, at
every occasion, to heap upon them the most fair and flattering promises.
I must incessantly excite them to the practice of acts of religion, and
labor to render them tractable, sociable, and loyal to the king (of
France). But especially, I apply myself to make them live in good
understanding with the French.

With all this, I affect a grave and serious air, that awes and imposes
upon them. I even take care of observing measure and cadence in the
delivery of my words, and to make choice of those expressions the
properest to strike their attention, and to hinder what I say from
falling to the ground. If I cannot boast that my harangues have all the
fruit and success that I could wish, they are not however wholly without
effect. As nothing inchants those people more than a style of metaphors
and allegories, in which even their common conversation abounds, I adapt
myself to their taste, and never please them better than when I give
what I say this turn, speaking to them in their own language. I borrow
the most lively images from those objects of nature, with which they are
so well acquainted; and am rather more regular than even themselves, in
the arrangement of my phrases. I affect, above all, to rhime as they do,
especially at each member of a period. This contributes to give them so
great an idea of me, that they imagine this gift of speaking is rather
an inspiration, than an acquisition by study and meditation. In truth, I
may venture to say, without presumption, that I talk the _Micmaki_
language as fluently, and as elegantly, as the best of their women, who
most excel in this point.

Another of my occupations is to engage and spur them on to the making a
copious chace, when the hunting-season comes in, that their debts to the
dealers with them may be paid, their wives and children cloathed, and
their credit supported.

It is neither gaming nor debauchery that disable them from the payment
of their debts, but their vanity, which is excessive, in the presents of
peltry they make to other savages, who come either in quality of envoys
from one country to another, or as friends or relations upon a visit to
one another. Then it is, that a village is sure to exhaust itself in
presents; it being a standing rule with them, on the arrival of such
persons, to bring out every thing that they have acquired, during the
winter and spring season, in order to give the best and most
advantageous idea of themselves. Then it is chiefly they make feasts,
which sometimes last several days; of the manner of which I should
perhaps spare you the description, if the ceremony that attends them did
not include the strongest attestation of the great stress they lay on
hunting; the excelling wherein they commonly take for their text in
their panegyrics on these occasions, and consequently enters, for a
great deal, into the idea you are to conceive of the life and manners of
the savages in these parts.

The first thing I am to observe to you is, that one of the greatest
dainties, and with which they crown their entertainments, is the flesh
of dogs. For it is not till the envoys, friends, or relations, are on
the point of departure, that, on the eve of that day, they make a
considerable slaughter of dogs, which they slea, draw, and, with no
other dressing, put whole into the kettle; from whence they take them
half boiled, and carve out into as many pieces as there are guests to
eat of them, in the cabbin of him who gives the treat.



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