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´╗┐Title: Report by the Governor on a Visit to the Micmac Indians at Bay d'Espoir - Colonial Reports, Miscellaneous. No. 54. Newfoundland
Author: MacGregor, William, 1846-1919
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Report by the Governor on a Visit to the Micmac Indians at Bay d'Espoir - Colonial Reports, Miscellaneous. No. 54. Newfoundland" ***

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No. 54.



Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty.
_September, 1908._



And to be purchased, either directly or through any Bookseller, from


[Cd. 4197.] _Price 2d._

No. 54.




  Government House,
    St. John's,
      8th July, 1908.


I have the honour to inform you that I left St. John's on the 28th May
to visit the settlement of the Micmac Indians at Bay d'Espoir, on the
south coast of this Island.

Bay d'Espoir is a long inlet of the sea, extending up country over a
score of miles. The district is hilly, and is covered by a forest of
rather small trees, spruce and birch, but further inland the hills are
generally bare. There are comparatively few European residents in this

2. The Micmac settlement is on a reservation situated on the eastern
side of the Conne arm of the bay, with a frontage to the water of 230
chains, with an average depth of about 30 chains. It is on the slope
of a wooded hill which is generally steep down to the sea, and at most
places hard and rocky, covered by spruce forest. Most of the Micmac
houses are on an area of about a quarter of a mile, where the ground
is least steep and most suitable for building and gardening. In
Appendix I. hereto is given a list of the 23 families, consisting of
131 persons, now living on or near the Reservation; and of the 7
persons that have left it for Glenwood in this Colony. Two years ago
three families left the Reservation to settle at Lewisport, and have
not returned.

3. The Reservation, it appears, was laid off for the Micmacs about
1872, by Mr. Murray, Geological Surveyor of the Colony. It contained
24 blocks of about 30 acres each, with a water frontage of 10 chains.
From the copy of the plan of the Reservation enclosed herewith it will
be noticed that each parcel was to form the subject of a personal
grant to the individual whose name is on the allotment. The right then
conferred was in each case a "licence to occupy," of which I enclose
a copy in blank form. The licence, it will be observed, would, on the
fulfilment of certain conditions, have been replaced by a grant in
fee, after five years. In few cases, if in any, have the terms of the
licence been complied with, and no grant in fee or other title has
been issued to any of the occupants on this Reservation.


4. These Micmacs are hunters and trappers, and are ignorant alike of
agriculture, of seamanship, and of fishing. There are not more than
three or four acres of cultivated land in the whole settlement. The
greatest cultivator would not grow in one year more than three or four
barrels of potatoes and a few heads of cabbage. There are two
miserable cows in the place, and some of the least poor Micmacs
possess three or four extremely wretched sheep. They have practically
no fowls, but I saw one fowl and a tame wild goose. Their houses are
small and inferior, of sawn timber, but have windows of glass. A few
hundred yards of road, constructed at the expense of the Government,
traverses the end of the settlement where most of the people reside.

5. The community is Roman Catholic, and they have a small church,
decently well built and kept, on the best site on the Reservation. It
is built of sawn timber and would contain nearly one hundred people,
which is too small for the festival of St. Anne, the patroness of the
congregation. Over the entrance to the church there is printed in
large characters, in the Micmac language, a total prohibition against
spitting in church.

The cemetery immediately adjoins the church, and there they bury their
dead as members of a single family.

They have had a small school open since the 17th January last. It is a
wooden room, about 12 feet by 15 feet, by no means new, with a small
stove and two little windows.

The teacher is a woman of partly Micmac origin. She receives some very
small allowance from the parish priest, and a few of the children, she
says, pay some small fees. There are 34 children on the roll, and the
winter attendance was from 25 to 30. They are divided into three
classes, the highest of which could read slowly, in English, words of
three or four letters. About half of them could write a little, a few
of them surprisingly well on such brief tuition. The teacher says they
are very amenable to discipline. Seldom has a school been started
under greater difficulties than this Micmac institution. I was able
sincerely to congratulate the teacher on what she has been able to
accomplish under such unfavourable circumstances. It is manifest that
the children are bright and clever, and that they would become useful
and intelligent citizens if they had ordinary educational advantages.
In this probably lies the best hope of a future prospect for this
community. The settlement is visited now once a month by the parish
priest; and in his absence, one of themselves, Stephen Jeddore, reads
the service on Sunday. Last year they were visited by the Right
Reverend Bishop McNeil.

6. They appear to be a comparatively healthy people. So far as known,
no one is at present affected by tuberculosis in any form. I saw one
woman of ninety years of age, Sarah Aseleka, perhaps the only Micmac
of pure blood in the settlement. She was born at Bay St. George, and
came to Bay d'Espoir some three score of years ago when the Micmacs
first settled in this bay. The next oldest person is John Bernard, who
is about eighty. Few of them were even fairly well clothed; the
majority were in rags. A few wore home-made deer-skin boots, but most
of them had purchased ready-made boots or shoes. They make deer-skin
boots by scraping caribou skin, and tanning it in a decoction of
spruce bark. Such boots are, they state, worn through in a few days.
The women can spin wool, and knit stockings. Their food consists
chiefly of flour, a few potatoes, some cabbage, and perhaps about half
a score of caribou a year for each family, hung up on trees and thus
frozen during the winter. They also smoke fish, principally freshwater
fish, and obtain a few grouse and hares, but this small game has
almost disappeared from the district. They have to go inland a score
of miles to obtain caribou for food.

The men are of good size, and strongly built, but clearly of mixed
descent, many being nearly like Europeans. The children have all,
without exception, very dark, soft eyes, straight black hair, and the
nose much more prominent than in the Esquimaux of Labrador.

7. The principal Chief is Olibia, but I unfortunately did not meet
him. He had gone out in March to his trapping ground near Mount
Sylvester, but could not then reach his traps on account of the
unusually great quantity of snow, and he had returned thither at the
time of my visit.

I was informed that he was selected as Chief by the Micmacs of the
Reservation, and was appointed by the principal Micmac Chief at St.
Anne's, Nova Scotia, and by the priest. I was shown the insignia of
office worn on ceremonial occasions by the Chief. It consists of a
gold medallion with a chain attached, the whole in a case covered by
red velvet. The medallion is inscribed "Presented to the Chief of the
Micmacs Indians of Newfoundland," but with neither name nor date. The
community paid for this badge of office forty-eight dollars.

The second chief is Geodol--called in English Noel Jeddore--who
represented Olibia in his absence. Geodol is the owner of one of the
two cows on the Reservation, and his brother possesses the second one.
The Chieftainship is not hereditary, but is conferred, when a vacancy
occurs, on the man the people prefer. They are easy to govern and
seldom quarrel. They have no intoxicating liquor and seldom obtain
any. They pay 60 to 70 cents a pound for their tobacco, 20 to 30
cents for gunpowder, and 10 cents for shot. They sell their fur
locally where they make their small family purchases.

8. The head of each family has his own special trapping ground in the
interior, over which others may travel, fish, or shoot, but not trap.
For example Geodol, the second chief, traps about Gulp Lake; Olibia,
the chief, about Mount Sylvester; Nicholas Jeddore about Burnt Hill;
George Jeddore at Bare Hill and Middle Ridge; Stephen Jeddore at
Scaffold Hill; Noel Matthews at Great Burnt Lake; &c.

None go as far north as the railway, but Meiklejohn goes as far as
John's Pond. Europeans are encroaching on their trapping lands, but do
not go far inland. This pushes the Micmacs further inland to get away
from the Europeans. They claim no fishing rights at sea, and say
frankly they are only trappers and guides.

They go inland in September, when their first care is to shoot a deer
and smoke the flesh as food. They return home from the 20th to the
25th November to prepare their traps for fox, lynx, otter, and bear.
In December they shoot, as winter food for the family, does and young
stags, but not old stags. They say the arctic hare is now very rare on
their trapping lands; and snipe, geese, and ducks are far fewer than
they were a few years ago. They appear to be very careful not to waste
venison, never killing any deer they do not actually require and use
as food.

9. It is not possible to regard the present condition and the
prospects of this settlement of Micmacs as being bright. Game, their
principal food, is manifestly becoming more difficult to procure;
their trapping lands are being encroached upon by Europeans; they are
not seamen; they are not fishermen; and they do not understand
agriculture. In the middle of their Reservation a saw-mill has been in
operation some years, apparently on the allotment of Bernard John, but
without his sanction or permission, and, it seems, in spite of the
protests of the community. None of the Micmacs work at this mill.
Formerly they cut logs for it, but the trees that grew near the water
have, they say, all been used up and there are none left within their
reach that they could bring to the water. The saw-mill is thus an
eyesore to them, as it is on what they regard as their land, and in
defiance of them.

Although they have not complied with the conditions set forth on the
form of licence, which would have entitled them to a grant in fee, yet
their occupation has extended over so many years that there is no
probability whatever that the Government of Newfoundland would
withhold from them grants, as a matter of grace, if they only applied
for them and could show how they could use the land. It would not be
difficult to find a location for the community that would be more
suitable for them so far as cultivation is concerned, and be equally
good for hunting and trapping. With some aid, such as supplies of
seed potatoes and a few animals, they could no doubt derive much
greater resources than at present from agriculture, especially if to
that were added a good school for the young.

The question of their trapping lands will have to be dealt with before
long. Each man regards his rights to his trapping area as
unimpeachable. They are recognised at present among themselves, but
they have no official sanction for their trapping lands either as a
community or as individuals, just as they have no official title to
the Reservation.

I was accompanied on this visit by the Honourable Eli Dawe, Minister
of Marine and Fisheries, who, as a member of the Government, will
himself take an interest in the settlement, and call the attention of
his colleagues to the condition of the Micmacs. I was also assisted by
Mr. James Howley, who has been on friendly terms with these people for
many years. I enclose photographs[A] of some of the Micmacs, taken by
Mr. Howley during this visit.

10. The Micmacs are held by ethnologists to be a branch of the
Algonquins, who inhabited Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. It
was from the last-named province that they extended to Newfoundland,
apparently not much more than a century ago. The fact that they did
not effect a lodgment on Newfoundland sooner may be at least partly
accounted for by supposing that the Beothuks, the aboriginal natives
of Newfoundland, were able to defend themselves and their country from
the Micmacs so long as both sides were unprovided with firearms, and
until the Beothuks were nearly destroyed by their French and English

A sufficiently accurate view of the arrival and early doings of the
Micmacs in Newfoundland may be had from the brief extracts from
official records enclosed herewith. Governor Duckworth reports in 1809
that the Micmacs were coming over, and that the Beothuks were keeping
to the interior in dread of them. The Governor followed up this Report
next year (1810) by a Proclamation to the Micmacs and other American
Indians frequenting Newfoundland, warning them that any person that
murdered a native Indian (Beothuk) would be punished with death.
Unfortunately this Proclamation it would appear had no restraining
effect, as Governor Keats reports to the Secretary of State in 1815
that the Micmacs had recently come over from Nova Scotia in greater
numbers, and had reached the eastern coast of Newfoundland; and he
expressed the fear that these newcomers would destroy the native
Indians of the Island, whose arms were the bow and arrow.

The Micmacs, it appears, have always possessed firearms since they
arrived in Newfoundland. On the other hand I have never heard of a
single instance in which the native Beothuks ever obtained such a
weapon. The fears of Governor Keats were therefore only too well
founded. The unfortunate Beothuk was thus crushed out of existence by
the white man and the invading Micmac. Between the white man and the
Beothuk there was always hostility; and I have not heard of any family
or person in Newfoundland in whose veins flows Beothuk blood. On the
other hand it may be doubted whether there is a single pure-blooded
Micmac on the Island to-day. As an ethnic unit the Micmac can
therefore hardly be said to exist here.

At the same time the Micmac community, such as it is, will not, at
least for several generations, be absorbed into the European
population of Newfoundland. It is at present a separate entity, and as
such clearly requires special attention and treatment at the hands of
the Administration, for the Reservation families have claims on
Newfoundland by right of a century of Micmac occupation, and by virtue
of the European blood that probably each one of them has inherited.

  I have, &c.,

The Right Honourable
    The Earl of Crewe, K.G.,
        &c., &c., &c.


[Footnote A: Not reproduced.]

       *       *       *       *       *



Head of Family.         Family.      Condition of Members
                                      of Family.
Stephen Joe               5         Self, wife, 3 children.
Stephen Bernard           5         Self, mother, 3 children.
Noel Matthew             13         Self, wife, 11 children.
Nicholas Jeddore          5         Self, wife, 3 children.
Noel Jeddore              9         Self, wife, 7 children.
Bernard John              2         Self, wife.
John                      5         Self, sister, 3 brothers.
Joseph Jeddore            3         Self, wife, 1 brother.
Stephen Jeddore           7         Self, wife, 5 children.
John McDonald, Sr.        2         Self, wife.
John D. Jeddore           2         Self, wife.
John McDonald, Jr.        7         Self, wife, 5 children.
William Drew              4         Self, wife, 2 children.
Matthew Burke             4         Self, wife, 2 children.
John Benoit               9         Self, wife, 7 children.
Ben Benoit               12         Self, wife, 10 children.
John Juks                 7         Self, 6 children.
Edward Pullett            4         Self, wife, 2 children.
Reuben Louis              2         Self, sister.
Thomas McDonald           8         Self, wife, 6 children.
Peter Joe                 5         Self, wife, 3 children.
John Martin               3         Self, wife, 1 child.

Total Micmacs on the Reservation, 123.

              _Living off the Reservation were--_

Head of Family.         Family.      Condition of Members
                                      of Family.
William McDonald          8         Self, wife, 6 children.

                  _Gone to Glenwood._

Lewis John                5         Self, wife, 3 children.
Peter John                1         Self.
Louis John                1         Self.


Living on the Reservation                 123
Living near the Reservation                 8
Gone from the Reservation to Glenwood       7
                       Total              138

       *       *       *       *       *


NEWFOUNDLAND.                                         _No._
                                 _To all to whom these Presents
                                     shall come, I,_ ANTHONY
                                     MUSGRAVE, _Esquire, Governor
                                     and Commander-in-Chief in and
                                     over the island of Newfoundland
                                     and its Dependencies, &c., &c._


  WHEREAS ______________________

  of __________________________ desirous of permanently settling on
  the Land hereinafter mentioned: KNOW YE, that in pursuance of the
  power and authority vested in me by the Act of the Legislature of
  this Colony, passed in the 23rd year of the Reign of Her present
  Majesty, entitled "An Act to amend an Act passed in the Seventh
  year of Her Majesty's Reign, entitled 'An Act to make provision
  for the Disposal and Sale of ungranted and unoccupied Crown Lands,
  within the Island of Newfoundland and its Dependencies, and for
  other purposes';" I, the said Governor, do hereby give to the said
  ________________________ a License to Occupy all that Piece or
  Parcel of Land situate and being
  To Have and to Hold the same, with all rights and all privileges
  thereto belonging, to the said ________________________________
  Executors, Administrators and Assigns, for the term of Five Years
  from the date of these Presents: Provided always that if the said
  _____________________ shall have settled on and occupied the said
  Land for the said term of Five Years, and have cultivated _____
  acres thereof, within the said term, and have conformed to the
  provisions of said Act, _____ shall be entitled to a Grant in fee,
  under the Great Seal, for the said Land: but should he fail to
  comply with the conditions of this License and conform to the said
  Act, he shall forfeit all claim to the said Land and Grant

                   Given under my Hand and Seal at St. John's
                          in Our Island of Newfoundland, this
                            ___________ day of ______________
                               Anno Domini One Thousand Eight
                               Hundred and _________________
                          By His Excellency's Command,
                            _Colonial Secretary._


  "Antelope" at Spithead.
    25th November, 1809.

   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

I am sorry to inform Your Lordship that I am again disappointed in my
hopes of coming at the Native Indians (Beothuks); they still keep in
the interior of the Island (it is reported) from a dread of the
Micmacs, who come over from Cape Breton. The articles that were
purchased for them are deposited in the Naval Store House at St.
John's, where I have directed them to be kept for some future trial of
meeting with them.

   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

       *       *       *       *       *


His Excellency, Sir John Thomas Duckworth, K.B., Vice-Admiral of the
Red, Governor and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Island of
Newfoundland, &c.

To the Micmacs, the Esquimaux, and other American Indians frequenting
the said Island, Greeting:

WHEREAS it is the gracious pleasure of His Majesty the King, my
master, that all kindness should be shewn to you in his Island of
Newfoundland, and that all persons of all nations at friendship with
him should be considered in this respect as his own subjects, and
equally claiming his protection while they are within his Dominions:
This is to greet you in His Majesty's name and to entreat you to live
in harmony with each other, and to consider all his subjects and all
persons inhabiting in his Dominions as your brothers, always ready to
do you service, to redress your grievances, and to relieve you in your
distress. In the same light also are you to consider the native
Indians of this Island; they too are, equally with ourselves, under
the protection of our King, and therefore equally entitled to your
friendship. You are entreated to behave to them on all occasions as
you would do to ourselves. You know that we are your friends, and as
they too are our friends, we beg you to be at peace with each other.
And withal, you are hereby warned that the safety of these Indians is
so precious to His Majesty, who is always the support of the feeble,
that if one of ourselves were to do them wrong he would be punished as
certainly and as severely as if the injury had been done to the
greatest among his own people, and he who dared to murder any one of
them would be severely punished with death; your own safety is in the
same manner provided for; see therefore that you do no injury to them.
If an Englishman were known to murder the poorest and the meanest of
your Indians, his death would be the punishment of his crime. Do you
not therefore deprive any one of our friends, the native Indians, of
his life, or it will be answered with the life of him who has been
guilty of murder.

 Fort Townshend, St. John's, Newfoundland,
    1st August, 1810.


       *       *       *       *       *

_Extract from Despatch from Governor Sir R.G. Keats to the Secretary
of State, 10th November, 1815._

Some years ago the Micmac Indians formed a settlement in St. George's
Bay on the West Coast of Newfoundland, which is thriving and
industrious. The success of this settlement has probably induced
others to follow them, and latterly they have come over in more
considerable numbers, penetrated into the country and shewn themselves
the present season on the eastern coast of Newfoundland. It is to be
feared the arrival of these new comers will prove fatal to the native
Indians of the Island, whose arms are the bow, with whom their tribe
as well as the Esquimaux are at war, and whose number it is believed
has for some years past not exceeded a few hundred.

10th November, 1815.

       *       *       *       *       *

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