Civilization, Democracy and Government
By Daniel N. Paul
From his new book, We Were Not the Savages, Fernwood
Publishing, Halifax, NS
The Horrors to Come
The Prophecy, a short story written by a Native North American, Basil
H. Johnston, relates a fictional visionary's dream about the post-Columbian
horrors that awaited the First Nations of the Americas. The visionary
Daebaudjimoot begins by saying:
"Tonight I'm going to tell you a very different kind of story. It's
not really a story because it has not yet taken place; but it will take
place just as the events in the past have occurred... And even though
what I'm about to tell you has not yet come to pass, it is as true as
if it has already happened, because the Auttissookaunuk told me in a
Daebaudjimoot tells of a strange people who are white and hairy
and wear strange clothes they practically never take off. He describes
them as having round eyes that are black, brown, blue or green, and
having fine hair that is black, brown, blond or red.
He says they will arrive from
the East in canoes five times the length of regular canoes. These big
canoes will have sailed using blankets to catch the wind to propel them
from a land across a great body of salt water. His words are greeted
by his audience with laughter and disbelief. He continues:
"You laugh because you cannot picture men and women
with white skins or hair upon their faces; and you think it funny
that a canoe would be moved by the wind across great open seas. But
it won't be funny to our grandchildren and their great-grandchildren...
"The first few to arrive will appear to be weak by virtue
of their numbers, and they will look as if they are no more than harmless
passers-by, on their way to visit another people in another land,
who need a little rest and direction before resuming their journey.
But in reality they will be spies for those in quest for lands. After
them will come countless others like flocks of geese... There will
be no turning them back.
"Some of our grandchildren will stand up to these strangers,
but when they do, it will have been too late and their bows and arrows,
war-clubs and medicines will be as nothing against the weapons of
these white people, whose warriors will be armed with sticks that
burst like thunderclaps. A warrior has to do no more than point a
fire stick at another warrior and that man will fall dead the instant
the bolt strikes him.
"It is with weapons such as these that the white people
will drive our people from their homes and hunting grounds to desolate
territories where game can scarce find food for their own needs and
where corn can bare take root. The white people will take possession
of all the rest, and they will build immense villages upon them. Over
the years the white people will prosper, and though the Anishinaubaeg
may forsake their own traditions to adopt the ways of the white people,
it will do them little good. It will not be until our grandchildren
and their grandchildren return to the ways of their ancestors that
they will regain strength of spirit and heart.
"There! I have told you my dream in its entirety. I
have nothing more to say."
"Daebaudjimoot! Are these white people manitous or are
they Beings like us?"
"I don't know."2
This fictional prophecy seems almost civilized
in comparison to what the Mi'kmaq actually suffered after the European
invasion of their territory began in the early sixteenth century. Over
the course of history they were spared few indignities.
Mi'kmaq and European Civilizations
Exaggerated reports about the facial features, clothing
and customs of the Amerindians by early Norse and Viking travellers
were probably the reasons pre-Columbian contacts promoted stories in
Europe about a strange people-non-humans, hairy monsters, subhumans
-- inhabiting a far-off land. Probably not much thought was given to
the prospect that they could be intelligent and civilized human beings,
an existence well documented by early European colonial scribes.
The picture of Joe Paul, a Wagmatcook man believed to be over
a century old, is taken from a postcard printed in the early 1900s.
The condition of Paul's attire, and the publicizing of his apparent
poverty stricken existence on a postcard, leaves one wondering
if having the Mi'kmaq reduced to such a pathetic state was something
that Nova Scotians of that era took pride in.
Prior to European settlement the Mi'kmaq
lived in countries that had developed a culture founded upon three
principles: the supremacy of the Great Spirit, respect for Mother
Earth, and people power. This instilled in them a deep respect
for the laws of the Creator, the powers of Mother Earth and the
democratic principles of their society. As a result they enjoyed
the benefits of living in a harmonious, healthy, prosperous and
peaceful social environment.
The nature of their society, which included sharing and free
expression, was so advanced in the establishment of equitable
human rights principles that greed and intolerance were all but
unknown. Thus, the European concepts which separated people into
a distinct hierarchy based upon birth, colour, race, lineage,
religion, profession, wealth, politics and other criteria would
have seemed to them unbelievable. This absence of biases about
the differences of others found among the majority of Amerindians
is one of the best indicators of how far advanced their cultures
were in the development of human relations. The lofty plateau
they had reached, where all people were accepted as equals, is
an ideal that modern society is still working towards. In retrospect,
if the Native Americans had not reached this stage by 1492, European
colonization could not have occurred. Instead, because of their
skin colour and strange religions, Whites would have been either
enslaved, repulsed, or exterminated upon arrival. In a discourse
about Amerindian tolerance for the differences of others, Ronald
Wright relates a Seneca Chief's response to the efforts of a White
preacher to convert his people to Christianity:
In a scene reminiscent of the debate between
Franciscans and Aztec priests nearly 300 hundred years before,
the formidable Red Jacket rose to reply. His answer is one of
the best ever given to Christianity's claims. Which mentality,
he makes one wonder, is the more primitive: that which believes
itself to have a patent on truth or that which pleads for cultural
diversity, for tolerance, for mutual respect?3
Chief Red Jacket's words:
Brother ... listen to what we say. There was a time
when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended
from the rising to the setting sun. The Great Spirit had made it for
the use of Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other
animals for food. He had made the bear and the beaver. Their skins
served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country, and
taught us how to take them. He had caused the earth to produce corn
for bread.... If we had some disputes about our hunting ground, they
were generally settled without the shedding of much blood. But an
evil day came upon us. Your forefathers crossed the great water and
landed on this island. Their numbers were small. They found friends
and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country
for fear of wicked men, and had come here to enjoy their religion.
They asked for a small seat. We took pity on them, granted their request;
and they sat down amongst us. We gave them corn and meat; they gave
us poison in return.
The white people, Brother, had now found our country.
Tidings were carried back, and more came amongst us. Yet we did not
fear them. We took them to be friends. They called us brothers. We
believed them, and gave them a larger seat. At length their numbers
had greatly increased. They wanted more land; they wanted our country.
Our eyes were opened, and our minds became uneasy. Wars took place.
Indians were hired to fight against Indians, and many of our people
were destroyed. They also brought liquor amongst us. It was strong
and powerful, and has slain thousands.
Brother, our seats were once large and yours were small.
You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left
to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but are not satisfied;
you want to force your religion upon us.
Brother, continue to listen. You say that you are sent
to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his mind,
and, if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people
teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and
we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We ... only know what
you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so
often deceived by the white people?
Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and
serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white
people differ so much about it?...
Brother, we do not understand these things. We are told
that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed
down from father to son. We also have a religion, which was given
to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us, their children.
We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favours
we receive; to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel
Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all, but he has
made a great difference between his white and red children. He has
given us different complexions and different customs.... Since he
has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may
we not conclude that he has given us a different religion?...
Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion, or
take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own.4
The tolerance shown by Chief Red Jacket
for different views was also a trait deeply imbedded in Mi'kmaq society.
It was well reflected in the method the Nation had devised to resolve
disputes, whereby disputing parties were brought together for mediation
and reconciliation by community members, who would then assist them
to reach an agreement based on justice and fairness. When struck, the
final agreement would address all major concerns of the individuals,
groups or governments involved. After the opposing parties accepted
an agreement, it was understood, and supported by the will of the people,
that they would live by its provisions.
In contrast to the First Nations' democratic approach to the adjudication
of problems, European civilizations of the day, with a few notable exceptions
(e.g., the Swiss), used a totalitarian approach. This was a direct result
of the fact that they were governed by a titled elite who considered
themselves to have a divine right to rule. Therefore, democratic principles
were not permitted to interfere to any great extent in matters they
adjudicated. Because of this elitism, average citizens within these
domains were routinely denied basic human rights and freedoms. Many
were treated as property and held in bondage from cradle to grave. Disputes
that arose among them more often than not had settlements devised and
imposed by the aristocrats. Justice was often denied.
It is easy to conclude that the Mi'kmaq approach was more civilized.
Of course, this reality would have been difficult to reconcile with
the European definition of what being civilized was. At that time their
intelligentsia equated civilization with Christianity. They declared
that if the people of a land were not Christian, then they were not
civilized. This ignoble declaration was the root cause of the living
hell that the Natives of the Americas would have to endure. Unfortunately,
the rest of the world was also not left untouched by it. Superiority
attitudes led Europeans to attempt to Christianize the Middle East,
Africa, and Asia by force. They failed monumentally, primarily because
these regions had their own self-perceived superior religions, which
in some cases predated Christianity by thousands of years.
When reviewing the history of this era, it is difficult to conclude
which European nation was the most arrogant in insisting that the Amerindian
blindly accept the superiority of its cultural conventions and doctrines.
In hindsight, when making an honest attempt to rate the period's major
powers according to their presumptuous picture of themselves as superior,
the nod must go to the English, followed closely by the Spanish and
Portuguese, with the French a distant fourth.
These European superiority complexes hampered the efforts of their
early scribes to make fair judgments about the human values of American
cultures. Because of their belief that European civilizations were superior,
and therefore all others were inferior or savage, these writers reported
the superior human rights practices of Amerindian civilization as if
they were abnormal. Later, using these biased records as gospel, many
White authors have written works about Mi'kmaq civilization that do
not present a true picture. Their efforts were probably undertaken with
sincerity and honesty, but many, if not all, are lacking in two respects:
they ignore the Mi'kmaq perspective on civilization and fail to appreciate
that the values of the two cultures were in most cases completely opposite.
An excellent example of how Amerindian and European perceptions of
being civilized conflicted is a statement contained in a progress report
about the "civilizing" of the Cherokees made by Colonel Thomas L. McKenney
to his superiors in the United States federal government in the early
1800s. He proudly noted that, under White influence, the Cherokees had
progressed to the point where many were becoming involved in selling
and buying Blacks as slaves. The majority of Cherokees, uncomfortable
with this term, referred to these Blacks as servants, not slaves. After
Emancipation these servants formed their own Tribe and are known today
as the Black Cherokees.
More contemporary authors who have written about Amerindian civilizations
have also used European standards to evaluate the relative merits of
these cultures. Thus their efforts are flawed.
When writing on the subject of civilization, one must understand that
the ability to read or write a European language does not create a superior
civilization. Nor does the ability to point exploding sticks that cause
instantaneous death or injury, or to launch missiles that could blow
the world apart, provide a moral basis to declare one's culture more
civilized than another. The question to ask when judging the values
and merits of a civilization must always be: "How does the civilization
respond to the human needs of its population?" By this standard, because
they created social and political systems that ensured personal liberty,
justice and social responsibility, most Amerindian civilizations must
be given very high marks.
When making an unbiased assessment, and comparing the values of early
American civilizations with those of European civilizations, one cannot
but find that the suppression and wanton destruction of American civilizations
by European civilizations was in many ways a case of inferior civilizations
overcoming superior ones. This is especially true in the area of respect
for human rights. Although they were not as technologically advanced
as the Europeans were by 1492, many Amerindian Nations possessed democratic
political practices that were light years ahead.
The Mi'kmaq have been occupants of a large section of northeastern
North America for approximately 5,000 to 10,000 years. The Nation's
original territory covers most of what is today Canada's Maritime Provinces
and a good part of eastern Quebec. There is evidence that the boundary
line may have included northern Maine. The approximate boundary of the
vast territory is shown on on the map on the facing page.
The territory was divided
into seven distinct "Districts." Their names were: Kespukwitk,
Sipekne'katik, Eskikewa'kik, Unama'kik, Epekwitk Aqq Piktuk, Siknikt,
and Kespek. The English translations are shown on the map on page
11 and are as close as one can come to conveying their true meaning
in that language.
Citizens lived in small villages which were populated by fifty
to five hundred people. The number of villages and total population
within each District is subject to conjecture.
District governments comprised a District Chief and Council.
The Council included Elders, Band or Village Chiefs, and other
distinguished members of the community. Among these leaders the
Elders, both men and women, were the most appreciated. The Mi'kmaq
held them in the highest regard and accorded them the utmost respect.
Their advice and guidance was considered to be essential to the
decision-making process, and thus no major decision was made without
their full participation. A District government had conditional
power to make war or peace, settle disputes, apportion hunting
and fishing areas to families, etc. Thus a District may be likened
to what we call a "country" today.
At an unknown point in the distant past a Grand Council was established
by the Districts to coordinate the resolution of mutual problems,
promote solidarity and act as a dispute mediator of last resort.
District Chiefs elected one of their number as Grand Chief. The
Grand Council's influence was derived from the esteem in which
the District Chiefs were held. The Council did not have, beyond
friendly persuasion, any special powers other than those assigned
to it by the Districts. At sittings of these Councils, all men
and women who wanted to speak were heard, and their opinions were
given respectful consideration in the decision-making process.
In modern terms, the Grand Council may be compared to the British
Commonwealth of Nations, which also has no real powers other than
Mi'kmaq Districts also belonged to a larger association known
as the "Wabanaki Confederacy," which had been formed by the northeastern
First Nations for the purpose of providing mutual protection from
aggression by Iroquoian and other hostile Nations. The Confederacy
continued to function until the early 1700s, at which time the
decimation of its member Nations by disease and wars with the
English caused its demise. The Confederacy may be compared to
the modern North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in function.
The offices of Grand, District and local Chiefs were filled by
men who were well-respected members of their communities. The
myth created by certain European accounts of Mi'kmaq history that
an ambition to become Chief was helped by being a member of a
large family was based on misperception. In fact, the customs
of the Nation were such that all members of the community considered
themselves to be an extended family. Because of this they used
family salutations to greet one another, which could have led
an outsider to believe they were all blood-related. This custom
survived into the 1960s. For example, in the 1940s, when I was
young, we were required to call all the Elders of our community
"Aunt" or "Uncle." It was a good tradition -- the community was
much closer because of it.
In contrast to most of the cultures of Europe, where the divine
right to rule was the province of the aristocrat, Mi'kmaq culture
held that a leader had to earn the right to lead. The standards
were rigid for men who aspired to leadership. Aspirants had to
be compassionate, honourable, intelligent, brave and wise. The
term of office was indeterminate, and if a leader conducted himself
well, his leadership could continue until death. Grand Chief Membertou,
the greatest Mi'kmaq chief in living memory, remained in office
until his death at an age said to be well over one hundred.
A Mi'kmaq leader's social status was also sharply different from
that of his European counterpart, who was paid handsomely, perked
indiscriminately and feared. Chiefs and other office holders were
not accorded special perks and privileges because of their positions.
Those they did receive were freely given by the people as rewards
for services rendered and as tokens of esteem.
Because of the nature of Mi'kmaq culture, political corruption
was unknown. The European practice of using one's leadership to
enhance personal and family fortunes by extracting favours from
the community or its citizens would not have been tolerated. Any
leader who engaged in such dishonourable practices would have
soon found himself deposed and disgraced. The early Mi'kmaq had
no taste for corruption and, given the principle of community
ownership, there was no need for it.Sieur de DiËreville wrote
about leadership within Mi'kmaq society:
The cherished hope of leadership inspires resolve
to be adept in the chase. For it is by such aptitude a man obtains
the highest place; here there is no inherited position due to
birth or lineage, merit alone uplifts. He who has won exalted
rank, which each himself hopes to attain, will never be deposed,
except for some abhorrent crime. No wise noteworthy are the
honours paid his high estate, for he is merely first among a
hundred..., more, or less, according to the size of his domain.5
In contrast to the respect accorded
the Mi'kmaq leader because of honourable performance, English
and other European leaders mostly garnered their reputations through
brutal force. Even the most minor offense committed against a
European official met with swift retribution. The severity of
punishment inflicted is illustrated in the minutes of a Council
meeting held at Annapolis Royal on September 22, 1726. Robert
Nichols was tried by Council for insulting the Governor of the
province. After a very short trial, Mr. Nichols was found guilty
and sentenced to brutal punishment "in order to terrify the other
Citizens." For three days, he was to sit upon a gallows for a
half hour each day with a rope around his neck and a paper upon
his breast with the words "audacious villain." Afterwards, he
was to be whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails at the rate of five
stripes upon his bare back every one hundred paces, starting from
the prison to the uppermost house of the Cape and back again.
Finally, he was to be turned over to the army to be made a soldier.6
The contributions made by the Mi'kmaq and other North American
Nations towards establishing democracy in the world was acknowledged
for the first time by a White jurisdiction in 1988. In November
of that year the Congress of the United States passed a resolution
recognizing that the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were
modelled to a large extent upon the tenets of the constitutions
and bills of rights of the Iroquoian Nations and other Amerindian
The Great Spirit's directives were the Mi'kmaq Nation's eternal
light. The People believed that His dominion was all-inclusive,
and that He encompassed all positive attributes -- love, kindness,
compassion, knowledge, wisdom etc., and that He was responsible
for all existence and was personified in all things -- rivers,
trees, spouses, children, friends etc. No initiatives were undertaken
without first requesting His guidance. His creations, "Mother
Earth" and the Universe, were accorded the highest respect. Religion
was blended into daily life -- it was lived. Nature, as was the
case with most American civilizations, supported Mi'kmaq religious
In comparison, Europeans followed religions, collectively called
Christianity, which are based upon blind belief. They too promote
a belief in a Supreme Being who possesses all good qualities,
but until recent times they also promoted a belief that God condoned
the use of several bad qualities, e.g., vengefulness to spread
and protect the word. Horrendous events such as the Crusades and
Inquisitions were initiated under the dogma of Christianity. Innocent
people who could not defend themselves against charges of heresy
were found guilty and thrown into prison or burned at the stake.
Non-believers were branded pagans and heathen savages. The Mi'kmaq,
as non-Christians, were also thus branded.
In most European minds, the vision of Mi'kmaq savagery was solidified
by the fact that the Mi'kmaq offered tobacco and other tokens
to the Great Spirit as a mark of respect and humility. Yet "Christian"
and "civilized" Whites saw no contradiction in their own offerings
of bread, wine, incense and so on to their God. Most Europeans,
especially religious leaders, also found it strange that the Amerindians
viewed the Great Spirit as a likeness of themselves, but these
same Europeans did not find it strange that they saw their own
God as a White man.
The Mi'kmaq, like most other Amerindians, had a place similar
to what the Christians called "Heaven" for the repose of their
dead, called the "Land of Souls." It was a place of eternal rest,
peace and happiness where the dead were welcomed by the Great
Spirit and their ancestors.
"Evil spirits" were also part of Mi'kmaq belief. The People believed
that these were the cause of disease, famine, natural catastrophes
and all other evils which can afflict mankind. To limit the damage
these spirits begot, the Mi'kmaq beseeched the Great Spirit for
assistance. There is little evidence that they used these spirits
to terrorize and intimidate one another. In contrast, Christianity's
"demons," especially the "Devil," were used by priests and ministers
to strike the fear of God into their congregations.
European Christians also believed that their God was to be feared
because, if they erred, He would damn them to eternal pain and
suffering. This kind of vengeful action by God was incompatible
with the Mi'kmaq belief that the Great Spirit was goodness incarnate
and there was thus no need to be terrified of Him.
Nevertheless, many people remark on the seeming ease with which
the Mi'kmaq and many other Amerindians adopted Christianity. The
simple explanation for this is the civility of the People. They
believed that a host should make every effort to please a guest.
If it required them to worship the Great Spirit in another fashion,
then so be it. After all, they reasoned, if the same God is worshipped
by all men, the mode of worship is incidental.
Morality and Customs
The modesty and chastity of the Mi'kmaq, especially the women,
were virtues well remarked upon by those who wrote about the ideals
of the culture. The fact that a woman took pride in her honour
and would not willingly compromise herself was seen as incredible
by many European writers. From their racist points of view it
was inconceivable that a people they considered heathen savages
would act in a more civilized manner than they.
From their moral outlook, the Mi'kmaq developed laws governing
relationships between the sexes. Thus marriage rites were celebrated
with great pomp, ceremony and feasting, and included present exchanges
between the families of the bride and groom. The preliminaries
leading up to a marriage provide an excellent example of the individual
freedoms the People enjoyed.
If a boy wished to court a girl, he had to ask the permission
of her father before he began. This was more a courtesy than an
obstacle. The father would normally, after much teasing, give
the young man permission to approach his daughter to ascertain
if she was willing to involve herself romantically with him. Chrestien
Le Clercq describes the process:
If the father finds that the suitor who presents
himself is acceptable for his daughter ... he tells him to speak
to his sweetheart in order to learn her wish about an affair
which concerns herself alone. For they do not wish, say these
barbarians, to force the inclinations of their children in the
matter of marriage, or to induce them, whether by use of force,
obedience, or affection, to marry men whom they cannot bring
themselves to like. Hence it is that the fathers and mothers
of our Gaspesians [Mi'kmaq from GaspÈ] leave to their
children the entire liberty of choosing the persons whom they
think most adaptable to their dispositions, and most conformable
to their affectations.7 Under the
Nation's laws marriages between blood relations, up to second
cousins, were strictly forbidden. However, there were no taboos
against marrying in-laws.
The culture also permitted polygamous marriage,
but the record indicates that it was rarely practised. Marc
Lescarbot expressed amazement that "although one husband may
have many wives ... there is no jealousy among them."8
Pierre Biard wrote:
According to the custom of the country, they
can have several wives, but the greater number of them that
I have seen have only one; some of the Sagamores pretend that
they cannot do without this plurality, not because of lust,
for this nation is not very unchaste, but for two other reasons.
One is in order to retain their authority and power by having
a number of children; for in that lies the strength of the
house; the second reason is their entertainment and service,
which is great and laborious, since they have large families
and a great number of followers, and therefore require a number
of housewives to (serve).9
of the belt carried by the Penobscot delegate to Kahnawake (Mohawks)
-- white background: peaceful mission. Four small crosses: the
four nations; Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot. Dark
purple rectangle: the nations around their council fire
The head wife in a polygamous household
was usually the one who had borne the first boy. The extent to which
polygamy was practised, like the misunderstanding about extended family,
was no doubt exaggerated by the Jesuits and others. For example, Grand
Chief Membertou had only one wife.
Love was the prime factor in creating marital bonds between Mi'kmaq
couples. For European couples, especially among the elite, marriages
were often entered into to enhance personal fortunes and stations in
life rather than for love. As a result, children were sometimes "promised"
at birth to individuals who were deemed by their families to be the
best prospect for the child's future. To the Mi'kmaq this practice would
have been considered uncivilized. However, in later years, up until
the early 1900s, many Mi'kmaq parents followed this European custom.
My maternal grandmother was victimized by the practice and lived in
a loveless marriage until she was widowed, after which she met and married
a man she loved.
Although not much mention of divorce is found in European records of
the pre-Columbian Mi'kmaq, that it was practised is another example
of their respect for human rights. However, because harmony in relationships
and respect for each other's needs were paramount, one can conclude
that instances of divorce were rare.
Funerals also called for ceremony and feasting. The Chief would be
the first to speak at "the feast of the dead" and, as related by Le
Clercq, he would talk about
the good qualities and the most notable deeds of the
deceased. He even impresses upon all the assembly, by words as touching
as they are forceful, the uncertainty of human life, and the necessity
they are under of dying, in order to join in the Land of Souls with
their friends and relatives, whom they are now recalling to memory.10
Others spoke after the Chief. Nicholas
Each one spoke, one after another, for they never spoke
two at a time, neither men or women. In this respect these barbarians
give a fine lesson to those people who consider themselves more polished
and wiser than they.
A recital was made of all the genealogy of the dead
man, of that which he had done fine and good, of the stories that
he had heard told of his ancestors, of the great feasts and acknowledgements
he had made in large number, of the animals he had killed in the hunt,
and of all the other matters they considered it fitting to tell in
praise of his predecessors. After this they came to the dead man;
then the loud cries and weeping redoubled. This made the orator strike
a pose, to which the men and women responded from time to time by
a general groaning, all at one time and in the same tone. And often
he who was speaking struck postures, and set himself to cry and weep
with the others.
Having said all he wished to say, another began and
said yet other things not said by the first. Then one after another,
each after his fashion, made his praise on the dead man. This lasted
three or four days before the funeral oration was finished.11
Denys, although impressed with many aspects
of Mi'kmaq culture, was among those with little ability to appreciate
the values of a non-Christian culture possessed by a people of colour.
Instead, as his writings indicate, he had a blind belief in the superiority
of his own. As a demonstration of how long bad habits can linger, in
the year 2000 there is still a reluctance among many Whites to accept
the fact that Amerindian cultures were well defined and that the values
they possessed are among those that modern humanity is still reaching
One can safely conclude that the social structures and democratic forms
of government found in the Americas were deemed by the European ruling
classes as a serious threat to their own exercise of absolute power
and unchallenged authority. The determination the European aristocracy
displayed in their efforts to destroy the Amerindians speaks for itself.
Dan Paul was born in 1938 onthe Indian Brook Reserve,
Hants County, Nova Scotia and now lives with his wife Patricia in Halifax.
He was employed by the Department of Indian Affairs for 15 years, was
founding executive director of the Confederacy of Mainland Micmacs in
1986 and a member of the Human Rights Commission. He holds a honorary
degree n letters from Universite Saint-Anne,
Pattern of the belt representing the union of the
Four Eastern Nations (Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Passama-quoddy, Penobscot)
Dark background: former hostility.
White border: present bonds of friendship.
Four white triangles: wigwams of the four nations.
White pipe at centre: peace ceremony.
This belt was a remin-der of the Confederacy, carried
by a messenger from any council to show the importance and sincerity
of his message.
from Maliseet Micmac: First Nations of the Maritimes by r.m. Leavitt