New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Missions to the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet in the Early 1800’s

leave a comment »

From the blog at

Last week, this blog presented some notes written by Edward Winslow in the early 1800’s about New Brunswick history and the activities of the government and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Indians. Winslow made some remarkable observations, including the fact that native parents were not happy with efforts to take away their children and to place them as apprentices to white farmers. These objections were termed “prejudices.”

Today’s blog is on the same subject and was written by John West in 1827, in his book The Journal of a Mission to the British Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia …. This commentary is also disturbing, as West’s objective was to civilize these “degraded people” and to rescue them from the Catholic faith.

John West sailed from Britain, and his first visit was to the Penobscot Indians. We join him as he leaves Maine and continues his tour in Saint John. He recognized that previous efforts among the Indians had not been successful, but his solutions were not inspired. The later chapters of his book will not be included in this blog since they quickly pass from ‘period’ to unacceptable.

Mikmaq Family

A Mi’kmaq Family, 1912

From the N.B. Museum, via the McCord Museum


Missions to the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet in the Early 1800’s

These [Penobscot] Indians, though located within the boundary line of the United States, have intercourse with those of the British province of New Brunswick, and sometimes meet them on the river Saint John, to smoke the calumet, and brighten the chain of friendship.

Returning to Eastport, I took my passage in the steam-boat across the Bay of Fundy, and landed, through a protecting Providence, on the 8th of August, at Saint John, New Brunswick. This city is situated on a rocky peninsula, in latitude 45° 20, and took its rise in the year 1783, when the peace with America left the loyalists, who had followed the British standard, to seek an asylum in some part of the British dominions. It is stated that more than four thousand persons, men, women, and children, sailed from New York for the river Saint John, at that period. The coast was rugged, and the whole aspect of the country dreary and uninviting, as they landed on the point where the city now stands. Nothing was to be seen, but a few huts erected on the margin of a dark immense wilderness, and occasionally some of the natives, clothed principally with the skins of animals, particularly the moose-deer, which were then numerous in the forests. The situation of these emigrants was of a very trying nature, as they had to undergo every privation and suffering during the rigours of the ensuing winter. The difficulties which they encountered, in first clearing the lands, seemed for some time to be almost insurmountable; and this is generally the case with all first settlers, who engage in the arduous enterprise of breaking into new and uncultivated wilds. They are often known to wear out their lives in toil and labour, for the benefit of those who come after them, and who reap, comparatively speaking, where they have not sown. The flourishing state of the city, however, since it took its rise, in a few log and bark huts, about forty years ago, and the rising prosperity of numerous settlements, though confined principally as yet to the borders of rivers and well-watered valleys, speak volumes in favour of the active, persevering, successful industry and enterprising spirit of the loyalists and people of the province, and of the advantageous fostering care of the British Government.

I left Saint John the following morning after my arrival in the city, for the Vale of Sussex, which presents to the eye some beautifully picturesque views, on the river Kennebeckasis, as its tributary streams bend their course through some good and well cultivated farms. This settlement, in its first formation, was much indebted to the active energy and independent public spirit of the late Hon. George Leonard, who lived in a spacious and handsome residence in this pleasant valley. Near to the village is a fine spring, from which salt of an excellent quality is made, for the table and culinary purposes; and if the water were analyzed, it would no doubt be found to possess some valuable medicinal qualities. This vale holds out every encouragement to increased industry and improvement, as it possesses many advantages in point of situation and fertility of soil, and has the great road of communication passing through it to the adjoining province of Nova Scotia.

The Indians formerly resorted to it, in considerable numbers, it was their rendezvous in starting or returning from the chase; but since the woods have been driven of animals, and the soil occupied or taken up by the settlers, they are seldom now seen on the track, in their wandering state of existence.

In the hope of benefiting and improving their condition, an establishment was formed in the valley, by the New England Company, soon after the first settlement of the province, called, ‘The Academy for instructing and civilizing the Indians.’ It was liberally placed, by the incorporated Society in London, under the management and direction of a board of commissioners, that consisted of the leading authorities of the province. Little or no advantage, however, accrued to the Indians from those plans which were adopted at the Academy for meliorating their state, and, in the terms of the charter, ‘To propagate and advance the Christian and Protestant religion among them.’ For a series of years every attempt failed, in the way of effecting any permanent change, or producing any substantial good among this degraded portion of our fellow-men; for after the Company had incurred a heavy expense, they reverted to their migratory habits of life, and again fell under the influence of the Roman Catholic priests. Nor has the more recent plan of the Establishment, as recommended to the Society at home, by the Board of Commissioners in the province, been attended with much better success towards civilizing and raising the Indians in the moral scale of being. The principle that was adopted, of apprenticing their children, at an early age, to different settlers, I found was not generally approved by the Indians themselves, nor has the plan proved beneficial to their morals. Under these circumstances, the New England Company have resolved upon breaking up the establishment, and would seek, in the application of their funds, for further good than they have heretofore met with among our Red brethren of the wilderness.

It is not by such means, however, nor any similar forced process that has been acted upon, nor any means that compel them to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” in a menial capacity, that a just expectation can be raised of any conversion in their state. Their naturally high and independent spirit must be consulted in the attempt to do them good; and this is best done by encouraging them, on all favourable occasions, to become settlers on their own lands, or lands which in common justice should be assigned to them, as the original proprietors of the soil. An Indian sees acutely all the relative stations in society, and feels keenly the contempt with which he is often treated by white people, on account of the colour of his skin. A short time ago, Saccho Beeson, a chief of the Passamaquoddy tribe, accompanied a deputation of Indians to a convention in the state of Maine, for the purpose of asserting their right of property in the land where they were located. At the house of accommodation they were put into a back room for the night, with a small bit of a candle, where the boots of a considerable number of persons, who had arrived for the meeting, were left. The next day this spirited chief complained to the assembly, how badly Indians were accommodated; and being asked to state what he had to complain of, said, ‘Boots too much, and light too little.’

The Indians, not being encouraged to intermarry or mix with white people on terms of equality, have receded as a distinct people, or have been driven before those who have carried commerce, with civilization, far into the wilderness and lands of their forefathers. And it cannot be otherwise than affecting to an honest and feeling mind, to recollect the way in which Europeans first obtained a footing in their country, and the possession of their patrimony. ‘You look sorry, brother,’ said an American general to an Indian chief, who was on a visit to the city of New York, ‘Is there anything to distress you?’ ‘I’ll tell you, brother,’ said he, ‘I have been looking at your beautiful city, the great water, your fine country, and see how happy you all are. But then, I could not help thinking, that this fine country, and this great water, were once ours. Our ancestors lived here; they enjoyed it as their own, in peace; it was the gift of the Great Spirit to them and their children. At last the white people came here in a great canoe; they asked only to let them tie it to a tree, lest the water should carry it away: we consented. They then said, some of their people were sick, and they asked permission to land them, and put them under the shade of the tree. The ice then came, and they could not go away; they then begged a piece of land to build wigwams for the winter: we granted it. They then asked for some corn, to keep them from starving: we kindly furnished it. They promised to go away when the ice was gone; when this happened, we told them they must now go away with their big canoe; but they pointed to their big guns around their wigwams, and said they would stay there; and we could not make them go away. Afterwards more came. They brought spirituous and intoxicating liquors, of which the Indians became very fond. They persuaded us to sell them some land. Finally they drove us back from time to time into the wilderness, far from the water, the fish, and the oysters. They have destroyed our game, our people are wasted away, and we live miserable and wretched, while you are enjoying our fine and beautiful country. This makes me sorry, brother, and I cannot help it.’

It would be a long and a heart-rending tale, to recount the various acts of cruelty, rapacity, and injustice, with which they have been generally treated by Europeans, since they first invaded their forests and usurped their soil. ‘Society,’ says Washington Irving, ‘has advanced upon them like a many-headed monster, breathing every variety of misery. Before it went forth pestilence, famine, and the sword; and in its train came the slow but exterminating curse of trade: what the former did not sweep away, the latter has gradually blighted.’

But we would turn from the sad review of what has passed in the history of these long injured aboriginal tribes, and indulge the hope that a just sympathy has at length been awakened towards those who remain, as claiming not only the commiseration, but the moral and religious care of Great Britain and America. The partial success which has indeed followed the occasional efforts of the American government for the civilization of the Indians, demonstrates the fact, and confirms to the utmost, that it is practicable to civilize, and evangelize this, hitherto, generally neglected, and suffering portion of our fellow men. Let spirituous liquors be prohibited from deluging their country in the prosecution of an unequal traffic. Let their tomahawk and scalping knife never again be pressed into any contest whatever on the part of professed Christians. Let them be met with brotherly kindness, and with active and generous exertion to benefit their condition, by aiding their own efforts, and promoting their location in every possible way; then, may we look for the solitude of the remaining wilderness to be broken, in the establishment of Indian villages, and Indian settlements. Tribe after tribe, and nation after nation, have heretofore vanished away, and no wonder,—from the system of exclusion and oppression that has been acted upon towards them by the whites; who have treated them as outcasts, and placed them in the scale of humanity, so low, and so distant, as for the most part to exclude them from their sympathy. But why should the North American Indian be thought incapable of that moral, civil, and religious elevation, which has been experienced by the South Sea Islanders, the natives of Greenland, and of the Cape? There is nothing in their nature, nor is there any deficiency in their intellect, that should consign them to perpetual degradation, and to that cold-blooded philosophy, and infidel sentiment, of ‘Let them alone;—to take measures to preserve the Indians, is to take measures to preserve so much barbarity, helplessness, and want; and therefore do not resist the order of Providence which is carrying them away!’


Written by johnwood1946

April 6, 2016 at 9:16 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: