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More Mi'Kmaw Questions
Who were the
local First Nations people,
and how were their relations with the French ?
According to the Louisbourg Primer the Micmac population [now more correctly known as the Mi'Kmaw] are one of the tribes of the Algonquin culture, and are native to the Atlantic Coastal Region. The Mi'Kmaw are a proud people especially in warfare. In the pre-European contact period they had a stable society, characterized by seasonal migrations and a successful exploitation of the resources around them. The Mi'Kmaw, never known to have exceeded 250 people on the island of Isle Royale, were a nomadic people based at Mirligueche near Port Toulouse (St. Peter's). Only occasionally did Mi'Kmaq representatives visit Louisbourg.
There were two main reasons why the French were able to gain the Mi'Kmaw as their allies. First, missionaries of Isle Royale and Nova Scotia were generally accepted and trusted by the Mi'Kmaw who, by the 18th century, were deeply attached to the Roman Catholic faith. Second, the French treated the Mi'Kmaw with respect, as important allies rather than a subservient people. Each year the alliance between the two peoples was renewed in a formal ceremony at which native chiefs and French officials exchanged gifts and assurances of mutual trust and loyalty. The most important parts of the ceremony were the speeches and the feast, at which the French reciprocated Indian gifts of wampum, pipes, furs and tobacco with blankets, clothing, fabrics, muskets, gunpowder, shot, tools, and utensils.
Over the years these exchanges became increasingly more expensive to the French (from 2000 livres in 1716 to 6000 livres in 1749), but there was never a suggestion that the cost was not worth it. As military allies, the Mi'Kmaw were too important to the French to risk losing their support. The Mi'Kmaw represented a guerilla strike force and a source of military scouts who would come to Louisbourg to pass on information to military officials.