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Mikmaq State Flag (vertical).svg
Grand Council Flag of the Mi'kmaq Nation.[1] Although the flag is meant to be displayed hanging vertically as shown here, it is quite commonly flown horizontally, with the star near the upper hoist.
Mi'kmaq people at Tufts Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, ca. 1871.jpg
A Mi'kmaq father and child at Tufts Cove, Nova Scotia, around 1871
Total population
168,480 (2016 census)[2]
Regions with significant populations
Canada, United States (Maine)
Newfoundland and Labrador36,470
Nova Scotia34,130
New Brunswick18,525
British Columbia6,410
Prince Edward Island2,330
English, Mi'kmaq, French
Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic), Mi'kmaq traditionalism and spirituality, others
Related ethnic groups
Abenaki Maliseet Passamaquoddy Penobscot
Mi'kma'ki: Divided into seven districts. Not shown is "Taqamgug", the eighth district that includes the entire island of Newfoundland.[3] Taqamgug was historically part of Onamag before the 1800s.

The Mi'kmaq or Mi'gmaq (also Micmac, L'nu, Mi'kmaw or Mi'gmaw; English: /ˈmɪɡmɑː/; Mi'kmaq[miːɡmax])[4][5][6] are a First Nations people indigenous to Canada's Atlantic Provinces and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec as well as the northeastern region of Maine. They call their national territory Mi'kma'ki (or Mi'gma'gi). The nation has a population of about 170,000 (including 18,044 members in the recently formed Qalipu First Nation in Newfoundland[7][8]), of whom nearly 11,000 speak Mi'kmaq, an Eastern Algonquian language.[9][10] Once written in Mi'kmaq hieroglyphic writing, it is now written using most letters of the Latin alphabet.

The Santé Mawiómi, or Grand Council, was the traditional senior level of government for the Mi'kmaq people until Canada passed the Indian Act (1876) to require First Nations to establish representative elected governments. After implementation of the Indian Act, the Grand Council took on a more spiritual function. The Grand Council was made up of chiefs of the seven district councils of Mi'kma'ki.

On September 26, 2011 the Government of Canada announced the recognition of Canada's newest Mi'kmaq First Nations band, the Qalipu First Nations in Newfoundland and Labrador. The new band, which is landless, had accepted 25,000 applications to become part of the band by October 2012 ,[11] The number of applications received by the application deadline on November 30, 2012 exceeded 100,000; as of January 2013, the majority of those had not been processed. The band extended the deadline to January 31, 2014, and then to February 10, 2014.[12][13] Its members are recognized as Status Indians, joining other organized and recognized Mi'kmaq bands in southeast Canada.[14][15]


The ethnonym has traditionally been spelled Micmac in English. The people themselves have used different spellings: Mi’kmaq (singular Mi’kmaw) in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland; Miigmaq (Miigmao) in New Brunswick; Mi’gmaq by the Listuguj Council in Quebec; and Mìgmaq (Mìgmaw) in some native literature.[16]

Until the 1980s, "Micmac" remained the most common spelling in English. Although still used, for example in Ethnologue, this spelling has fallen out of favour in recent years. Most scholarly publications now use the spelling Mi'kmaq, as preferred by the people. The media has adopted this spelling practice,[17] acknowledging that the Mi'kmaq consider the spelling Micmac as "colonially tainted".[16] The Mi'kmaq prefer to use one of the three current Mi'kmaq orthographies when writing the language.[18]

Lnu (the adjectival and singular noun, previously spelled "L'nu"; the plural is Lnúk, Lnu’k, Lnu’g, or Lnùg) is the term the Mi'kmaq use for themselves, their autonym, meaning "human being" or "the people".[19]

Various explanations exist for the origin of the term Mi'kmaq. The Mi'kmaw Resource Guide says that "Mi'kmaq" means "the family":

The definite article "the" suggests that "Mi'kmaq" is the undeclined form indicated by the initial letter "m". When declined in the singular it reduces to the following forms: nikmaq - my family; kikmaq - your family; wikma - his/her family. The variant form Mi'kmaw plays two grammatical roles: 1) It is the singular of Mi'kmaq and 2) it is an adjective in circumstances where it precedes a noun (e.g., mi'kmaw people, mi'kmaw treaties, mi'kmaw person, etc.)[20]

The Anishinaabe refer to the Mi'kmaq as Miijimaa(g), meaning "The Brother(s)/Ally(ies)", with the use of the nX prefix m-, opposed to the use of n1 prefix n- (i.e. Niijimaa(g), "my brother(s)/comrade(s)") or the n3 prefix w- (i.e., Wiijimaa(g), "brother(s)/compatriot(s)/comrade(s)").[21]

Other hypotheses include the following:

The name "Micmac" was first recorded in a memoir by de La Chesnaye in 1676. Professor Ganong in a footnote to the word megamingo (earth), as used by Marc Lescarbot, remarked "that it is altogether probable that in this word lies the origin of the name Micmac." As suggested in this paper on the customs and beliefs of the Micmacs, it would seem that megumaagee the name used by the Micmacs, or the Megumawaach, as they called themselves, for their land, is from the words megwaak, "red", and magumegek, "on the earth", or as Rand recorded, "red on the earth," megakumegek, "red ground," "red earth." The Micmacs, then, must have thought of themselves as the Red Earth People, or the People of the Red Earth. Others seeking a meaning for the word Micmac have suggested that it is from nigumaach, my brother, my friend, a word that was also used as a term of endearment by a husband for his wife... Still another explanation for the word Micmac suggested by Stansbury Hagar in "Micmac Magic and Medicine" is that the word megumawaach is from megumoowesoo, the name of the Micmacs' legendary master magicians, from whom the earliest Micmac wizards are said to have received their power.[22]

Members of the Mi'kmaq historically referred to themselves as Lnu, but used the term níkmaq (my kin) as a greeting.[23] The French initially referred to the Mi'kmaq as Souriquois[24] and later as Gaspesiens, or (transliterated through English) Mickmakis. The British originally referred to them as Tarrantines.[25]


Pre-contact culture[edit]

Archaeologist Dean Snow says that the fairly deep linguistic split between the Mi'kmaq and the Eastern Algonquians to the southwest suggests the Mi'kmaq developed an independent prehistoric sequence in their territory. It emphasized maritime orientation, as the area had relatively few major river systems.[26] According to ethnologist T. J. Brasser, as the indigenous people lived in a climate unfavorable for agriculture, small semi-nomadic bands of a few patrilineally related families subsisted on fishing and hunting. Developed leadership did not extend beyond hunting parties.[27]

Food and hunting[edit]

The Mi'kmaq lived in an annual cycle of seasonal movement between living in dispersed interior winter camps and larger coastal communities during the summer. The spawning runs of March began their movement to converge on smelt spawning streams. They next harvested spawning herring, gathered waterfowl eggs, and hunted geese. By May, the seashore offered abundant cod and shellfish, and coastal breezes brought relief from the biting black flies, stouts, midges and mosquitoes of the interior. Autumn frost killed the biting insects during the September harvest of spawning American eels. Smaller groups would disperse into the interior where they hunted moose and caribou.[28] The most important animal hunted by the Mi'kmaq was the moose, which was used in every part: for example, the meat was processed for food, the skin for clothing, tendons and sinew for cordage, and bones for carving and tools. Other animals hunted/trapped included deer, caribou, bear, rabbit, beaver, porcupine and small animals.[29]

Bear teeth and claws were used as decoration in regalia. The women also used porcupine quills to create decorative beadwork on clothing, moccasins, and accessories. The weapon used most for hunting was the bow and arrow. The Mi'kmaq made their bows from maple. They would store lobsters in the ground for later consumption.[citation needed] They ate fish of all kinds, such as salmon, sturgeon, lobster, squid, shellfish, and eels, as well as seabirds and their eggs. They hunted marine mammals: porpoises, whales, walrus, and seals.[29]

Hunting moose[edit]

Throughout the Maritimes, moose was the most important animal to the Mi'kmaq. It was their second main source of meat, clothing and cordage, which were all crucial commodities. They usually hunted moose in groups of 3 to 5 men. Before the moose hunt, they would starve their dogs for two days to make them fierce in helping to finish off the moose. To kill the moose, they would injure it first, by using a bow and arrow or other weapons. After it was down, they would move in to finish it off with spears and their dogs. The guts would be fed to the dogs. During this whole process, the men would try to direct the moose in the direction of the camp, so that the women would not have to go as far to drag the moose back. A boy became a man in the eyes of the community after he had killed his first moose. It marked the passage after which he earned the right to marry. Once moose were introduced to the island of Newfoundland, the practice of hunting moose with dogs was used in the Bay of Islands region of the province.

First contacts[edit]

The Mi'kmaq territory was the first portion of North America that Europeans exploited at length for resource extraction. Reports by John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, and Portuguese explorers about conditions there encouraged visits by Portuguese, Spanish, Basque, French, and English fishermen and whalers, beginning in the early years of the 16th century. Early European fishermen salted their catch at sea and sailed directly home with it. But they set up camps ashore as early as 1520 for dry-curing cod. During the second half of the century, dry curing became the preferred preservation method.[30]

These European fishing camps traded with Mi'kmaq fishermen; and trading rapidly expanded to include furs. By 1578 some 350 European ships were operating around the Saint Lawrence estuary. Most were independent fishermen, but increasing numbers were exploring the fur trade.[31]

Mi'Kmaq Women Selling Baskets, Halifax, Nova Scotia, by Mary R. McKie c. 1845

Trading furs for European trade goods changed Mi'kmaq social perspectives. Desire for trade goods encouraged the men devoting a larger portion of the year away from the coast trapping in the interior. Trapping non-migratory animals, such as beaver, increased awareness of territoriality. Trader preferences for good harbors resulted in greater numbers of Mi'kmaq gathering in fewer summer rendezvous locations. This in turn encouraged their establishing larger bands, led by the ablest trade negotiators.[32]


The Mi'kmaq territory was divided into seven traditional districts. Each district had its own independent government and boundaries. The independent governments had a district chief and a council. The council members were band chiefs, elders, and other worthy community leaders. The district council was charged with performing all the duties of any independent and free government by enacting laws, justice, apportioning fishing and hunting grounds, making war and suing for peace.

The eight Mi'kmaq districts (including Taqamkuk which is often not counted) are:

  • Epekwitk aq Piktuk (Epegwitg aq Pigtug)
  • Eskikewa'kik (Esge'gewa'gi)
  • Kespek (Gespe'gewa'gi)
  • Kespukwitk (Gespugwitg)
  • Siknikt (Signigtewa'gi)
  • Sipekni'katik (Sugapune'gati)
  • Taqamkuk (Gtaqamg)
  • Unama'kik (Unama'gi)

Note : The orthography between parentheses is the one used in the Gespe'gewa'gi area.

In addition to the district councils, the M'ikmaq had a Grand Council or Santé Mawiómi. The Grand Council was composed of Keptinaq (captains in English), who were the district chiefs. There were also Elders, the Putús (Wampum belt readers and historians, who also dealt with the treaties with the non-natives and other Native tribes), the women's council, and the Grand Chief. The Grand Chief was a title given to one of the district chiefs, who was usually from the Mi'kmaq district of Unamáki or Cape Breton Island. This title was hereditary within a clan and usually passed on to the Grand Chief's eldest son.

The Grand Council met on a little island on the Bras d'Or lake in Cape Breton called Mniku. Today the site is within the reserve called Chapel Island or Potlotek. To this day, the Grand Council still meets at Mniku to discuss current issues within the Mi'kmaq Nation. Taqamkuk was defined as part of Unama'kik historically and became a separate district at an unknown point in time....


Mi'kmaq encampment, Sydney, Cape Breton Island
Mi'kmaq at Turtle Grove (Tufts Cove) settlement, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, ca. 1871.

The Mi'kmaq lived in structures called wigwams. They cut down saplings, which were usually spruce, and curved them over a circle drawn on the ground. These saplings were lashed together at the top, and then covered with birch bark. The Mi'kmaq had two different sizes of wigwams. The smaller size could hold 10-15 people and the larger size 15-20 people. Wigwams could be either conical or domed in shape.

On June 24, 1610, Grand Chief Membertou converted to Catholicism and was baptised. He concluded an alliance with the French Jesuits which affirmed the right of Mi'kmaq to choose Catholicism and\or Mi'kmaq tradition. The Mi'kmaq, as trading allies with the French, were amenable to limited French settlement in their midst.

17th and 18th centuries[edit]

Colonial wars[edit]

Mi'kmaq people (1865)

In the wake of King Phillips War between English colonists and Native Americans in southern New England (which included the first military conflict between the Mi'kmaq and New England), the Mi'kmaq became members of the Wapnáki (Wabanaki Confederacy), an alliance with four other Algonquian-language nations: the Abenaki, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet.[33]

The Wabanaki Confederacy were allied with French colonists in Acadia. Over a period of seventy-five years, during six wars in Mi'kma'ki (Acadia and Nova Scotia), the Mi'kmaq fought to keep the British from taking over the region (See the four French and Indian Wars as well as Father Rale's War and Father Le Loutre's War). France lost military control of Acadia in 1710, and political claim (apart from Cape Breton) by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht with England. But the Mí'kmaq were not included in the treaty and never conceded any land to the British.

In 1715, the Mi'kmaq were told that the British now claimed their ancient territory by the Treaty of Utrecht, which the Mi'kmaq were no party to. They formally complained to the French commander at Louisbourg about the French king transferring the sovereignty of their nation when he did not possess it. They were only then informed that the French had claimed legal possession of their country for a century, on account of laws decreed by kings in Europe, that no land could be legally owned by any non-Christian, and that such land was therefore freely available to any Christian prince who claimed it. Mi'kmaw historian Daniel Paul observes that

If this warped law were ever to be accorded recognition by modern legalists they would have to take into consideration that, after Grand Chief Membertou and his family converted to Christianity in 1610, the land of the Mi'kmaq had become exempt from being seized because the people were Christians. However, it's hard to imagine that a modern government would fall back and try to use such uncivilized garbage as justification for non-recognition of aboriginal title.[34]

Along with Acadians, the Mi'kmaq used military force to resist the founding of British (Protestant) settlements by making numerous raids on Halifax, Dartmouth, Lawrencetown and Lunenburg. During the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years' War between France and Britain in Europe, the Mi'kmaq assisted the Acadians in resisting the British during the Expulsion. The military resistance was reduced significantly with the French defeat at the Siege of Louisbourg (1758) in Cape Breton. In 1763, Great Britain formalized its colonial possession of all of Mi'kmaki in the Treaty of Paris.


Mi'kmaw Encampment by Hibbert Newton Binney, c.1791

The Mí'kmaq signed a series of peace and friendship treaties with Great Britain. The first was after Father Rale's War (1725). In 1725 the British signed a treaty (or "agreement") with the Mi'kmaq, but the rights of the Mi'kmaq defined in it to hunt and fish on their lands have often been disputed by the authorities.[35][36]

The nation historically consisted of seven districts, which was later expanded to eight with the ceremonial addition of Great Britain at the time of the 1749 treaty.

Chief Jean-Baptiste Cope signed a Peace Treaty in 1752 on behalf of the Shubenacadie Mi'kmaq.[37] With the signing of various treaties, the 75 years of regular warfare ended in 1761 with the Halifax Treaties. According to Historian Stephen Patterson, the British imposed the treaties on the Mi'kmaq to confirm the British conquest of Mi'kma'ki.[38]

According to historian John G. Reid, although the treaties of 1760-61 contain statements of Mi'kmaw submission to the British crown, he believes that the Mi'kmaw intended a friendly and reciprocal relationship. This assertion, Ried proposes, is based on what is known of the surrounding discussions, combined with the strong evidence of later Mi'kmaw statements. Ried suggests that the Mi'kmaw fighters negotiated the Treaties from a position of power (The census data indicates there were about 300 Mi'kmaw fighters in the region compared to thousands of British soldiers). Ried asserts the Mi'kmaw leaders who represented their people in the Halifax negotiations in 1760 had clear goals: to make peace, establish secure and well-regulated trade in commodities such as furs, and begin an ongoing friendship with the British crown. In return, Ried suggests they offered their own friendship and a tolerance of limited British settlement, although without any formal land surrender.[39] To fulfill the reciprocity intended by the Mi'kmaq, Ried reports that any additional British settlement of land would have to be negotiated, and accompanied by giving presents to the Mi'kmaq. (There was a long history of the French giving Mi'kmaq people presents to be accommodated on their land, starting with the first colonial contact.) The documents summarizing the peace agreements failed to establish specific territorial limits on the expansion of British settlements, but assured the Mi’kmaq of access to the natural resources that had long sustained them along the regions’ coasts and in the woods. Their conceptions of land use were quite different. The Mi'kmaq believed they could share the land, with the British growing crops, and their people hunting as usual and getting to the coast for seafood.[40]

Mi'kmaq People (1873)

The arrival of the New England Planters and United Empire Loyalists in greater number put pressure on land use and the treaties. This migration into the region created significant economic, environmental and cultural pressures on the Mi'kmaq. The Mi'kmaq tried to enforce the treaties through threat of force. At the beginning of the American Revolution, many Mi’kmaq and Maliseet tribes supported the Americans against the British. They participated in the Maugerville Rebellion and the Battle of Fort Cumberland in 1776. (Mí'kmaq delegates concluded the first international treaty, the Treaty of Watertown, with the United States soon after it declared its independence in July 1776. These delegates did not officially represent the Mi'kmaq government, although many individual Mi'kmaq did privately join the Continental army as a result.) In June 1779, Mi’kmaq in the Miramichi valley of New Brunswick attacked and plundered some of the British in the area. The following month, British Captain Augustus Harvey, in command of HMS Viper, arrived and battled with the Mi’kmaq. One Mi’kmaq was killed and 16 were taken prisoner to Quebec. The prisoners were eventually taken to Halifax. They were released on 28 July 1779 after signing the Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown.[41][42][43]

As their military power waned in the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Mi'kmaq people made explicit appeals to the British to honour the treaties and reminded them of their duty to give "presents" to the Mi'kmaq in order to occupy Mi'kma'ki. In response, the British offered charity or, the word most often used by government officials, "relief". The British said the Mi'kmaq must give up their way of life and begin to settle on farms. Also, they were told they had to send their children to British schools for education.[44]

The Treaties did not gain legal status until they were enshrined into Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. Every October 1, "Treaty Day" is now celebrated by people in Nova Scotia.


During this time period two colonial figures were honoured at their deaths by the Mi'kmaq. Two hundred Mi'kmaq chanted their death song at the burial of Governor Michael Francklin.[45] They also celebrated the life of Pierre Maillard.[46]

American Revolution[edit]

During the American Revolution, some Mi'kmaq supported the British while others did not. In 1780, they gave shelter to the 84th Regiment of Foot that had been shipwrecked off Cape Breton.[47]

19th century[edit]

Grand Chief Jacques-Pierre Peminuit Paul (3rd from left with beard) meets Governor General of Canada, Marquess of Lorne, Red Chamber, Province House, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1879[48]

Royal Acadian School[edit]

Walter Bromley was a British officer and reformer who established the Royal Acadian School and supported the Mi'kmaq over the thirteen years he lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia (1813-1825).[49] Bromley devoted himself to the service of the Mi'kmaq people.[50] The Mi'kmaq were among the poor of Halifax and in the rural communities. According to historian Judith Finguard, his contribution to give public exposure to the plight of the Mi’kmaq "particularly contributes to his historical significance." Finguard writes:

Bromley’s attitudes towards the Indians were singularly enlightened for his day…. Bromley totally dismissed the idea that native people were naturally inferior and set out to encourage their material improvement through settlement and agriculture, their talents through education, and their pride through his own study of their languages.[49]

MicMac Missionary Society[edit]

Silas Tertius Rand in 1849 help found the Micmac Missionary Society, a full-time Mi'kmaq mission. Basing his work in Hantsport, Nova Scotia, where he lived from 1853 until his death in 1889, he travelled widely among Mi'kmaq communities, spreading the Christian faith, learning the language, and recording examples of the Mi'kmaq oral tradition. Rand produced scriptural translations in Mi'kmaq and Maliseet, compiled a Mi'kmaq dictionary and collected numerous legends, and through his published work, was the first to introduce the stories of Glooscap to the wider world. The mission was dissolved in 1870. After a long period of disagreement with the Baptist church, he eventually returned to the church in 1885.

Mic-Mac hockey sticks[edit]

Mi'kmaq making hockey sticks from hornbeam trees (Ostrya virginiana) in Nova Scotia about 1890.

The Mi'kmaq practice of playing hockey appeared in recorded colonial histories from as early as the 18th century. Since the nineteenth century, the Mi'kmaq were credited with inventing the ice hockey stick.[51] The oldest known hockey stick was made between 1852 and 1856. Recently, it was appraised at $4 million US and sold for $2.2 million US. The stick was carved by Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia, who made it from hornbeam, also known as ironwood.[52]

In 1863, the Starr Manufacturing Company in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia began to sell the Mic-Mac hockey sticks nationally and internationally.[53] Hockey became a popular sport in Canada in the 1890s.[54] Throughout the first decade of the twentieth century, the Mic-Mac Hockey Stick was the best-selling hockey stick in Canada. By 1903, apart from farming, the principal occupation of the Mi'kmaq on reserves throughout Nova Scotia, and particularly on the Shubenacadie, Indian Brook and Millbrook Reserves, was producing the Mic-Mac Hockey Stick.[53] The department of Indian Affairs for Nova Scotia noted in 1927, that the Mi'kmaq remained the "experts" at making hockey sticks.[55] The Mi'kmaq continued to make hockey sticks until the 1930s, when the product was industrialized.[56]

20th and 21st centuries[edit]

Jerry Lonecloud (1854–1930) worked with historian and archivist Harry Piers to document the ethnography of the Mi'kmaq people in the early 20th century. Lonecloud wrote the first Mi'kmaq memoir, which his biographer entitled "Tracking Dr. Lonecloud: Showman to Legend Keeper".[57] Historian Ruth Holmes Whitehead wrote, "Ethnographer of the Micmac nation could rightly have been his epitaph, his final honour."[58]

World Wars[edit]

Chief Gabriel Sylliboy - first to fight for Treaty Rights in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, 1929

In 1914, over 150 Mi'kmaq men signed up during World War I. During the First World War, thirty-four out of sixty-four male Mi’kmaq from Lennox Island First Nation, Prince Edward Island enlisted in the armed forces, distinguishing themselves particularly in the Battle of Amiens.[59] In 1939, over 250 Mi’kmaq volunteered in World War II. (In 1950, over 60 Mi'kmaq enlisted to serve in the Korean War.)

Treaty Day[edit]

Gabriel Sylliboy was the first Mi'kmaq elected as Grand Chief (1919) and the first to fight for treaty recognition - specifically, the Treaty of 1752 - in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (1929).

In 1986, the first Treaty Day was celebrated by Nova Scotians on October 1 in recognition of the Treaties signed between the British Empire and the Mi'kmaq people. The first treaty was signed in 1725 after Father Rale's War. The final treaties of 1760-61, marked the end of 75 years of regular warfare between the Mi'kmaq and the British (see the four French and Indian Wars as well as Father Rale's War and Father Le Loutre's War). The treaty-making process of 1760-61, ended with the Burying the Hatchet ceremony (1761).

The treaties were only formally recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada once they were enshrined in Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. The first Treaty Day occurred the year after the Supreme Court upheld the Peace Treaty of 1752 signed by Jean-Baptiste Cope and Governor Peregrine Hopson. Since that time there have been numerous judicial decisions that have upheld the other treaties in the Supreme Court, the most recognized being the Donald Marshall case.

Tripartite Forum[edit]

In 1997, the Mi'kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum was established.

On August 31, 2010, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia signed a historic agreement with the Mi'kmaq Nation, establishing a process whereby the federal government must consult with the Mi'kmaq Grand Council before engaging in any activities or projects that affect the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia. This covers most, if not all, actions these governments might take within that jurisdiction. This is the first such collaborative agreement in Canadian history including all the First Nations within an entire province.[60]

Mi’kmaq Kina’ matnewey[edit]

The Nova Scotia government and the Mi’kmaq community have made the Mi’kmaq Kina’ matnewey, which is the most successful First Nation Education Program in Canada.[61][62] In 1982, the first Mi’kmaq-operated school opened in Nova Scotia.[63] By 1997, all Mi’kmaq on reserves were given the responsibility for their own education.[64] There are now 11 band-run schools in Nova Scotia.[65] Nova Scotia now has the highest rate of retention of aboriginal students in schools in the country.[65] More than half the teachers are Mi’kmaq.[65] From 2011 to 2012 there was a 25% increase in Mi’kmaq students going to university. Atlantic Canada has the highest rate of aboriginal students attending university in the country.[66][67]

Truth and Reconciliation Commission[edit]

In 2005, Nova Scotian Mi'kmaq Nora Bernard led the largest class-action lawsuit in Canadian history, representing an estimated 79,000 survivors of the Canadian Indian residential school system. The Government of Canada settled the lawsuit for upwards of CA$5 billion.[68]

On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an apology to the residential school survivors.[69]

In the fall of 2011, there was an Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission that travelled to various communities in Atlantic Canada, who were all served by the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. For 37 years (1930-1967), 10% of Mi'kmaq children attended the institution.[70]

Mi'kmaq of Newfoundland[edit]


In the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, October is celebrated as Mi'kmaq History Month. The entire Mi'kmaq Nation celebrates Treaty Day annually on October 1. This was date when the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752 was signed by Jean-Baptiste Cope of Shubenacadie and the king's representative. It was stated that the natives would be given gifts annually,"as long as they continued in Peace."[71]

Religion, Spirituality, and Tradition[edit]

A dancer in the Mi'kmaq celebration

Current Forms of Mi'kmaq Faith[edit]

Some Mi'kmaq people practice the Catholic faith, some only practice traditional Mi'kmaq religion; but many have adopted both religions due to the compatibility between Christianity and traditional Mi'kmaq faith.[72] Ethnologist Angela Robinson provides an in-depth study of both Traditionalist and Mi'kmaw Catholic beliefs and practices in her monograph, Tán Teli-Ktlamsitasit (Ways of Believing): Míkmaw Religion in Eskasoni, 2005.

Oral Traditions in Mi'kmaq Culture[edit]

The Mi'kmaq people had very little in the way of physical recording and storytelling; petroglyphs, while used, are believed to have been extremely rare. In addition, it is not believed that pre-contact Mi'kmaq had any form of written language. As such, almost all of Mi'kmaq traditions were passed down orally, primarily via storytelling. There were traditionally three levels of oral traditions: religious myths, legends, and folklore.

  • Myths are used to tell the stories of the earliest possible time, of things that are religiously and spiritually significant. This includes Mi'kmaq creation stories, and myths which account for the organization of the world and society; for instance, how men and women were created and why they are different from one another. Myths are powerful symbolically, and are the expression of how things came to be and should be. The most well known Mi'kmaq myth is that of Glooscap.
  • Legends are oral traditions related to particular places. Legends can involve the recent or distant past, but are most important in linking people and specific places in the land.
  • Folktales are fictitious stories that involve all the people. These traditional tales are used to give moral or social lessons to youth, or are told for amusement about the way people are. Good storytellers are highly prized by the Mi'kmaq,[73] as they provide important teachings that shape who a person grows to be, and they are sources of great entertainment. A good story was, and is, an experience often treasured by Mi'kmaq children.

There is one myth explaining that the Mi'kmaq once believed that evil and wickedness among men is what causes them to kill each other. This causes great sorrow to the creator-sun-god, who weeps tears that become rains sufficient to trigger a deluge. The people attempt to survive the flood by traveling in bark canoes, but only a single old man and woman survive to populate the earth.[74]

Spiritual Sites[edit]

One spiritual capital of the Mi'kmaq nation is Mniku, the gathering place of the Míkmaq Grand Council or Santé Mawiómi, Chapel Island in Bras d'Or Lake of Nova Scotia. The island is also the site of the St. Anne Mission, an important pilgrimage site for the Mi'kmaq (Robinson 2005). The island has been declared a historic site.[75]

First Nation subdivisions[edit]

Mi'kmaw names in the following table are spelled according to several orthographies. The Mi'kmaw orthographies in use are Míkmaw pictographs, the orthography of Silas Tertius Rand, the Pacifique orthography, and the most recent Smith-Francis orthography. The latter has been adopted throughout Nova Scotia and in most Mi'kmaw communities.

Community Province/State Town/Reserve Est. Pop. Mi'kmaq name
Abegweit First Nation  Prince Edward Island Scotchfort, Rocky Point, Morell 396 Epekwitk
Acadia First Nation  Nova Scotia Yarmouth 996 Malikiaq
Annapolis Valley First Nation  Nova Scotia Cambridge Station 219 Kampalijek
Aroostook Band of Micmac  Maine Presque Isle 920 Ulustuk
Bear River First Nation  Nova Scotia Bear River 272 Lsetkuk
Buctouche First Nation  New Brunswick Buctouche 80 Puktusk
Burnt Church First Nation  New Brunswick Esgenoôpetitj 14 1,488 Eskinuopitijk
Chapel Island First Nation  Nova Scotia Chapel Island 576 Potlotek
Eel Ground First Nation  New Brunswick Eel Ground 844 Natuaqanek
Eel River Bar First Nation  New Brunswick Eel River Bar 589 Ugpi'ganjig
Elsipogtog First Nation  New Brunswick Big Cove 3000+ Lsipuktuk
Eskasoni First Nation  Nova Scotia Eskasoni 4,400+ Wékistoqnik
Fort Folly First Nation  New Brunswick Dorchester 105 Amlamkuk Kwesawék
Micmacs of Gesgapegiag  Quebec Gesgapegiag 1,174 Keskapekiaq
Nation Micmac de Gespeg  Quebec Fontenelle 490 Kespék
Glooscap First Nation  Nova Scotia Hantsport 360 Pesikitk
Indian Island First Nation  New Brunswick Indian Island 145 Lnui Menikuk
Lennox Island First Nation  Prince Edward Island Lennox Island 700 Lnui Mnikuk
Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation  Quebec Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation 3,166 Listikujk
Membertou First Nation  Nova Scotia Sydney 1,051 Maupeltuk
Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation  New Brunswick Red Bank 527 Metepnákiaq
Miawpukek First Nation  Newfoundland and Labrador Conne River 2,366 Miawpukwek
Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation  Newfoundland and Labrador Newfoundland and Labrador 21,429[7] Qalipu[76][77]
Millbrook First Nation  Nova Scotia Truro 1400 Wékopekwitk
Pabineau First Nation  New Brunswick Bathurst 214 Kékwapskuk
Paq'tnkek First Nation  Nova Scotia Afton 500 Paqtnkek
Pictou Landing First Nation  Nova Scotia Trenton 547 Puksaqtéknékatik
Sipekne'katik First Nation  Nova Scotia Indian Brook (Shubenacadie) 2,120 Sipekníkatik
Wagmatcook First Nation  Nova Scotia Wagmatcook 623 Waqmitkuk
Waycobah First Nation  Nova Scotia Whycocomagh 900 Wékoqmáq


Year Population Verification
1500      4,500 Estimation
1600      3,000 Estimation
1700      2,000 Estimation
1750      3,000[78] Estimation
1800      3,100 Estimation
1900      4,000 Census
1940      5,000 Census
1960      6,000 Census
1972    10,000 Census
1998    15,000 SIL
2006    20,000 Census

The pre-contact population is estimated at 3,000–30,000.[79] In 1616, Father Biard believed the Mi'kmaq population to be in excess of 3,000, but he remarked that, because of European diseases, there had been large population losses during the 16th century. Smallpox and other endemic European infectious diseases, to which the Mi'kmaq had no immunity, wars and alcoholism led to a further decline of the native population. It reached its lowest point in the middle of the 17th century. Then the numbers grew slightly again, before becoming apparently stable during the 19th century. During the 20th century, the population was on the rise again. The average growth from 1965 to 1970 was about 2.5%.


The Mi'kmaq people have been commemorated in numerous ways, including HMCS Micmac (R10), and place names such as Lake Micmac, and the Mic Mac Mall.[80]

Notable Mi'kmaq[edit]




  • Alice Azure, poet
  • Rita Joe, poet
  • Ursula Johnson, visual artist
  • Phyllis Grant, film maker and artist
  • Cathy Martin, film maker and member of the Order of Canada
  • Rebecca Thomas, poet (including first Mi'kmaq Poet Laureate for the City of Halifax)
  • Leonard Paul, visual artist
  • Alan Syliboy, visual artist





Maps showing the approximate locations of areas occupied by members of the Wabanaki Confederacy (from north to south):

In popular culture[edit]

The history of the Mi'kmaq features in the Syfy television series Haven.[citation needed]

The Mi'kmaq are mentioned as well in Stephen King's novel Pet Sematary.

In the 2013 Canadian movie Rhymes for Young Ghouls the story centers around a Mi'kmaq Indian reservation in 1976 in the context of the residential school system. It is based on the historical abuse of the First Nations people, particularly those in the residential school system.[88]

The Mi'kmaq feature prominently in Annie Proulx's 2016 novel Barkskins.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Flags of the World
  2. ^ "Aboriginal Ancestry Responses (73),". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Government of Canada. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  3. ^ Jeddore, John Nick (August 25, 2011). ""There were no Indians here…"". TheIndependent.ca.
  4. ^ "Native Languages of the Americas: Mi'kmaq (Mi'kmawi'simk, Mi'kmaw, Micmac, Míkmaq)". Native-Languages.org. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  5. ^ Lockerby, Earle (2004). "Ancient Mi'kmaq Customs: A Shaman's Revelations" (PDF). The Canadian Journal of Native Studies. 24 (2): 403–423. see page 418, note 2
  6. ^ Sock, S., & Paul-Gould, S. (2011). Best Practices and Challenges in Mi’kmaq and Maliseet/Wolastoqi Language Immersion Programs.
  7. ^ a b "Programs and Services". Qalipu.ca.
  8. ^ "Thousands of Qalipu Mi'kmaq applicants rejected again", CBC, Dec 08, 2017.
  9. ^ Indigenous Languages Spoken in the United States
  10. ^ Statistics Canada 2006
  11. ^ Qalipu Mi'kmaq Membership Claims, CBC Canada, 04 October 2012
  12. ^ Sheppard, Brendan (17 January 2013). "Update on Enrollment Process". Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band.
  13. ^ Sheppard, Brendan (January 2014). "Message from the Chief" (PDF). Qalipu.ca. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  14. ^ "Government of Canada announces creation of Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band", Market Watch, 26 September 2011
  15. ^ "Qalipu Mi'kmaq - First Nation Band". Qalipu.ca. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  16. ^ a b Emmanuel Metallic et al., 2005, The Metallic Mìgmaq-English Reference Dictionary
  17. ^ Anne-Christine Hornborg, Mi'kmaq Landscapes (2008), p. 3
  18. ^ Paul (2000), p. 10: "It is now the preferred choice of our People."
  19. ^ The Nova Scotia Museum's Míkmaq Portraits database[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Mi'kmaw Resource Guide, Eastern Woodlands Publishing (1997)
  21. ^ Weshki-ayaad, Lippert, Gambill (2009). Freelang Ojibwe Dictionary
  22. ^ cited in Paul to Marion Robertson, Red Earth: Tales of the Micmac, with an introduction to their customs and beliefs (1965) p. 5.
  23. ^ Johnston, A. J. B. (2013). Ni'n na L'nu: The Mi'kmaq of Prince Edward Island. Acorn Press. p. 96.
  24. ^ Relations des Jésuites de la Nouvelle-France
  25. ^ Lydia Affleck and Simon White. "Our Language". Native Traditions. Archived from the original on 2006-12-16. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
  26. ^ Snow, p.69
  27. ^ Brasser, p.78
  28. ^ Bock, pp.109&110
  29. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-01-25. Retrieved 2007-01-17.
  30. ^ Brasser, pp.79&80
  31. ^ Costain, Thomas B. (1954). The White and The Gold. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company. p. 54.
  32. ^ Brasser, pp.83&84
  33. ^ The allied tribes occupied the territory which the French named Acadia. The tribes ranged from present-day northern and eastern New England in the United States to the Maritime Provinces of Canada. At the time of contact with the French (late 16th century), they were expanding from their maritime base westward along the Gaspé Peninsula /St. Lawrence River at the expense of Iroquoian-speaking tribes. The Mi'kmaq name for this peninsula was Kespek (meaning "last-acquired").
  34. ^ Paul (2000), pp. 74-75.
  35. ^ [1]
  36. ^ [2]
  37. ^ Historian William Wicken notes that there is controversy about this assertion. While there are claims that Cope made the treaty on behalf of all the Mi'kmaq, there is no written documentation to support this assertion (Wicken 2002, p. 184)
  38. ^ Patterson, Stephen (2009). "Eighteenth-Century Treaties:The Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy Experience" (PDF). Native Studies Review. 18 (1).
  39. ^ John Reid. Nova Scotia: A Pocket History, Fernwood Press. 2009. p. 23
  40. ^ Plank, Unsettled Conquest, p. 163
  41. ^ Upton, L.F.S. (1983). "Julien, John". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. V (1801–1820) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  42. ^ Sessional papers, Volume 5 By Canada. Parliament July 2 - September 22, 1779; Wilfred Brenton Kerr. The Maritime Provinces of British North America and the American Revolution], p. 96
  43. ^ Among the annual festivals of the old times, now ylost, was the celebration of St. Aspinquid's Day; he was known as the Indian Saint. St. Aspinquid appeared in the Nova Scotia almanacks from 1774 to 1786. The festival was celebrated on or immediately after the last quarter of the moon in the month of May, when the tide was low. The townspeople assembled on the shore of the North West Arm and shared a dish of clam soup, the clams being collected on the spot at low water. There is a tradition that in 1786, soon after the American Revolutionary War, when there were threats of American invasion of Canada, agents of the US were trying to recruit supporters in Halifax. As people were celebrating St. Aspinquid with wine, they suddenly hauled down the Union Jack and replaced it with the Stars and Stripes [US flag]. This was soon reversed, but public officials quickly left, and St. Aspinquid was never after celebrated at Halifax. (See Akins. History of Halifax, p. 218, note 94)
  44. ^ Reid. p. 26
  45. ^ Memoir of Michael Franklin Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, p. 38
  46. ^ "Burial celebration of Pierre Maillard", Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society. Vol. 1, p. 44
  47. ^ Naval Chronicle, p. 40
  48. ^ Image of Mi'kmaw presents for Prince Albert, Halifax, 1860
  49. ^ a b Fingard, Judith (1988). "Bromley, Walter". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. VII (1836–1850) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  50. ^ Thomas Atkins. History of Halifax. p. 159
  51. ^ Cutherbertson, Brian (2005). "The Starr Manufacturing Company: Skate Exporter to the World". Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. 8: 60.
  52. ^ [3]
  53. ^ a b Cutherbertson (2005), p. 61.
  54. ^ Cutherbertson (2005), p. 58.
  55. ^ Cutherbertson (2005), p. 73.
  56. ^ Cutherbertson (2005), p. 63.
  57. ^ "New Book Features First Known Memoir of a Mi'kmaq" (Press release). Nova Scotia Museum. October 11, 2002.
  58. ^ Whitehead, Ruth Holmes (2005). "Lonecloud, Jerry". In Cook, Ramsay; Bélanger, Réal. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. XV (1921–1930) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  59. ^ Sark, John Joe (December 2013). "In our words, stories of Veterans". Mi'kmaq Maliseet Nations News.
  60. ^ "Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, Province of Nova Scotia and Canada Sign Landmark Agreement" (Press release). Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and Government of Nova Scotia - Aboriginal Affairs. August 31, 2010 – via Market Wire.
  61. ^ Benjamin, Chris (2014). Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School. Nimbus. p. 226. ISBN 978-1-77108-213-6.
  62. ^ [Mi’kmaq Kina’ matnewey http://kinu.ca/]
  63. ^ Benjamin (2014), p. 208.
  64. ^ Benjamin (2014), p. 210.
  65. ^ a b c Benjamin (2014), p. 211.
  66. ^ Benjamin (2014), p. 214.
  67. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-26. Retrieved 2014-10-26.
  68. ^ "Police investigate death at Bernard's home". Halifax Daily News. Archived from the original on 2008-10-26. Retrieved 2018-11-10 – via Arnold Pizzo McKiggan.
  69. ^ Benjamin (2014), p. 190.
  70. ^ Benjamin (2014), p. 195.
  71. ^ Treaty of 1752
  72. ^ (Robinson 2005)
  73. ^ [4]
  74. ^ Canada's First Nations - Native Creation Myths Archived 2014-01-14 at the Wayback Machine., University of Calgary
  75. ^ CBCnews. Cape Breton Míkmaq site recognized
  76. ^ 'Government of Canada Announces the Creation of the Qalipu First Nation Band' by Marketwire http://www.marketwatch.com/story/government-of-canada-announces-the-creation-of-the-qalipu-mikmaq-first-nation-band-2011-09-26
  77. ^ Press Release September 26, 2011 https://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/26/idUS146921+26-Sep-2011+MW20110926
  78. ^ p. 115
  79. ^ Dickshovel - Micmac
  80. ^ Bates, George T. (1961). Megumaage: the home of the Micmacs or the True Men. A map of Nova Scotia.
  81. ^ http://peicanada.com/west_prince_graphic/publication/mi’kmaq_soldiers_lennox_island_had_distinguished_service[permanent dead link]
  82. ^ Johnson, Micheline D. (1974). "Laurent, Paul". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. III (1741–1770) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  83. ^ http://halifaxmag.com/features/50-things-you-dont-know-about-halifax/
  84. ^ Tulk, Jamie Esther (July 2008), "Our Strength is Ourselves: Identity, Status, and Cultural Revitalization among the Mi'kmaq in Newfoundland" (PDF), Memorial University via Collections Canada Theses, Newfoundland, retrieved August 5, 2008
  85. ^ Jeddore, Roderick Joachim (March 2000), "Investigating the restoration of the Mi'kmaq language and culture on the First Nations reserve of Miawpukek" (PDF), University of Saskatchewan (Master's), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, retrieved August 5, 2016
  86. ^ Jackson, Doug (1993). On the country: The Micmac of Newfoundland. St. John's, Newfoundland: Harry Cuff Publishing. ISBN 0921191804.
  87. ^ https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/catherine-benton-becomes-first-mi-kmaq-female-aboriginal-judge-in-n-s-1.3340256
  88. ^ "Rhymes for Young Ghouls". IMDB. Retrieved 5 December 2015.


  • Bock, Philip K. (1978). "Micmac". In Trigger, Bruce G. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15. Northeast. Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 109–122.
  • Brasser, T.J. (1978). "Early Indian-European Contacts". In Trigger, Bruce G. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15. Northeast. Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 78–88.
  • Davis, Stephen A. (1998). Míkmaq: Peoples of the Maritimes. Nimbus Publishing.
  • Joe, Rita; Choyce, Lesley (2005). The Míkmaq Anthology. Nimbus Publishing. ISBN 1-895900-04-2.
  • Johnston, A.J.B.; Francis, Jesse (2013). Ni'n na L'nu: The Mi'kmaq of Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown: Acorn Press. ISBN 978-1-894838-93-1.
  • Magocsi, Paul Robert, ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Paul, Daniel N. (2000). We Were Not the Savages: A Mi'kmaq Perspective on the Collision Between European and Native American Civilizations (2nd ed.). Fernwood. ISBN 978-1-55266-039-3.
  • Prins, Harald E. L. (1996). The Míkmaq: Resistance, Accommodation, and Cultural Survival. Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology. Wadsworth.
  • Robinson, Angela (2005). Tán Teli-Ktlamsitasit (Ways of Believing): Míkmaw Religion in Eskasoni, Nova Scotia. Pearson Education. ISBN 0-13-177067-5.
  • Snow, Dean R. (1978). "Late Prehistory of the East Coast: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Eastern New Brunswick Drainages". In Trigger, Bruce G. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15. Northeast. Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 69.
  • Speck, Frank (1922). Beothuk and Micmac.
  • Whitehead, Ruth Holmes (2004). The Old Man Told Us: Excerpts from Míkmaq History 1500-1950. Nimbus Publishing. ISBN 0-921054-83-1.
  • Wicken, William C. (2002). Mi'kmaq Treaties on Trial: History, Land and Donald Marshall Junior. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-7665-6.

18th–19th centuries[edit]

Documentary film[edit]

  • Our Lives in Our Hands (Míkmaq basketmakers and potato diggers in northern Maine, 1986) [5]
  • British Radio Documentary on the Mi'k Maq Community at Millbrook nr Truro Recorded by Terry Mechan June 2012 [6]

External links[edit]