The History of Long and Brier Islands

Mi’Kmaq at Long Island

by | Oct 15, 2021 | Central Grove, Freeport, Long Island, Tiverton | 1 comment

Mi’Kmaq living on Long Island for over 2500 years

Most of the information regarding the land used by the Mi’kmaq on the Islands area occurs after the settling of the Europeans mainly because that is when the history of our area began to be written down. A few explorers, such as Champlain and Lescarbot who traveled the land and waters of the Digby Neck and Islands area provide mainly natural descriptions of our area, but mention hunting and fishing. Seasonal encampments and hunting villages have also been documented.

This map shows prominent archaeological sites in Nova Scotia and demonstrates that there are a great many more ancestral places. The red dots indicate the archaeological dig sites and the yellow shows others places the Mi’Kmaq lived but have not been dug up yet. Map courtesy of the Nova Scotia Museum.

When the European settlers arrived, they were landing on territory which had been home to the Mi’Kmaq and other First Nations groups for over 4000 years. In Digby County, native settlements could be found throughout the area, travelling even to and from the Eastern Seaboard to seaside encampments in Digby County. The French at Port Royal identified the natives as “Indians” and the tribe was known as the Souriquois. When the British gained control of Acadia, the group became known as the Micmac, which is derived from their word “Nigumakh” or “Nikmaq” and means “my people”. The correct term is “Mi’Kmaq”. In early years, a Mi’Kmaq encampment could be found in Freeport, high on the bluff overlooking the St. Mary’s entrance to Grand Passage on what is locally known as Roney’s Point, where a shell midden has been identified. Clay fragments from one yard have dated back 2500 years. In later years, descendants of early native peoples fished for porpoises off Flour Cove on Long Island as well as in Digby Gut. Mi’Kmaq people were a nomadic people, fishing, hunting and trapping animals, growing crops in the spring and summer and who used the bounty of the land and sea to sustain them and produce wonderful craft and decorative items.

More closely aligned to the French than the English, conflicts occurred in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s between the English and the Native people. In “Geography & History of the County of Digby”, by author Isaiah W. Wilson, records an attack on a Mi’Kmaq encampment at the north side of the Racquette near Digby by British troops from Annapolis in 1759. A bounty of 25 pounds was offered for a male prisoner, L20 for a female prisoner or a scalp and L10 for any child prisoner. Consumption and other diseases, as well as mistreatment, helped to produce a large decline in their population and eventually they were confined to reserve area.

Isaiah W. Wilson in his “Geography and History of Digby County” wrote this regarding “Indians”

The French began their settlement of what is now Annapolis County prior to 1600. With initial settlements at Port Royal and Fort Anne, descendants of the original families began to spread throughout the land known as “Acadie” and by 1750, 10,000 people of French descent populated the province.

Canada became a country in 1867 and a lot of changes came about. Ultimately the Indian Act of 1867 defined an “Indian,” which applied to all Native people across Canada. It is at this time that Native people were formally defined as “wards of the Crown.”

Rev. Walter R. Greenwood wrote in his “History of Freeport” that Champlain spoke of the “rocky islets where the savages catch plenty of seals.” No doubt in primitive times these shores were favorite place for Indians to hunt and fish, as they continued until forty years ago (1894) to camp at Little Island on Dartmouth, at Beautiful Cove, Bear Cove, and Flour Cove, and, at the sand beach on Fish point.

The first settlers that come to these Islands had many hardships. Like St. Croix and Port Royal the new settlers on these Islands were not farmers or knew very little about helping with the sick and injured. These Indians that were living here on these islands had this knowledge and shared it with these new settlers. They showed them how to plant and what crops that would survive in these soils. They showed the older women how to help the injured and the sick. They showed them what Herbs and plants to use as medicine. Some of these older women became our Granny Doctors. Freeport’s Granny Doctors were: Granny Todd, Granny Bates, Granny Thurber, and Granny Melanson. It was not until 1839 we had our first Medical Doctor. I am sure that the other villages had their Granny Doctors.

Rev. Greenwood also writes that Indians that were living at sand beach on Fish point in 1894 were now gone. Fish Point was always called “Sand Point” right from first settlement of the area. It is called that on the 1871 Church Map. Later it was changed to “Fish Point” when in 1892 Mendel G. Crocker built his wharf at this location, his being the first in the area.

I do not know if building this wharf at Fish Point drove the Indians out of Freeport or what happened for them to leave. I have never read of any disputes with one another over the years they co-existed together.

These places that were inhabited on Long Island with the Indians, like, the camp at Little Island on Dartmouth, at Beautiful Cove, Bear Cove, and Flour Cove, and, at the sand beach on Fish point were all soon forgotten as where the Indians that once lived there.

When I was growing up in Central Grove, I had heard of the stories of Indian encampment at Flour Cove. I had heard that Indians would come to Flour Cove by Canoe and would go out in the Bay Fishing in canoes. I remember the Indians from Bear River coming to our Islands in the 50’s selling baskets and leather goods. They went from door to door traveling in an old ½ ton truck with a wooden box on back of it. Others have mentioned to me that their parents or forefathers had told them of the Indian encampment’s at both Flour Cove and Bear Cove.

This is a link to a YouTube video that has a lot of information on the Mi’kmaq

Mi’kmaq Story Sites and Geology of Nova Scotia with Gerald Gloade – YouTube

Near Mi’kmaq camp Beautiful Cove, Long Island

1 Comment

  1. Suzanne

    I’m glad to read this. I love to come to visit the islands every year and this will enrich my next one!

    Reply

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