2019 Winning Essays

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First Place Middle School Division

Justice Marable
7th Grade, Windsor Elementary School

The Life of Maine’s Micmac (Mi’kmaq)

As I watched my father get ready for the trip, I followed in his footsteps. We grabbed a canoe and headed off on the adventure. I felt really excited because this was my first time fishing at night. My father handed me the torch already lit. I held it slightly over the water watching the fish come closer towards the light, towards its death that it offers for my life. This is what the life of a young Micmac boy was like many years ago.

The Micmac relied heavily upon the water and its products. The fishing supplied 90% of their available food. The Micmac caught fish such as sturgeon, salmon, flounder and so much more. Early in the year, the Micmac people lived on the shallow water fish such as flounder. The flounder live on mudflats in the low tide zone and in the mouth of the river. In the middle of March, the fish would spawn and that's when the Micmac would try to fish. To hunt the fish, they used fishing spears, hooks, nets, and weirs. Weirs were simply V-shaped lines of wood or stone. They were usually constructed across the whole stream so the fish would be forced into the basket or net. There were other ways the Micmac hunted for the fish. They also used birch bark torches to attract sturgeon. Curiously the fish would circle around the canoe, and then the Micmac would use a spear. They used the spear on fish like sturgeon and salmon, because of how big they were.

Today when hunting, most people use guns some and some use a bow and arrow, but mostly guns. The Micmac Native Americans mostly used bows and arrows for hunting. They also used the bow for war. The arrow heads were made with stone or antlers. The Micmacs also use bone spears and wooden clubs for war. The Micmac hunters were excellent trackers, and they could tell the sex of the animal by their tracks and their dung. The Micmacs didn’t just use weapons; they also used traps. They used traps called snares and deadfall traps. The snares were usually used for smaller animals, but the deadfall traps could kill things as big as bears! The Micmac people killed a variety of animals to survive. But moose (Tiyám) was very valuable to their diet. They didn’t just hunt things like deer, foxes, and other land mammals; they also killed waterfowl (things like geese and ducks). Late at night is when the Micmac would hunt the fowl. They would take canoes and drift out into the flock because the geese and ducks slept on water (Eau). The fowl would fly straight up, and that's when the Micmac would strike or catch them. They would use sticks to whack them when the fowl were flying and confused.

The women (Epit) in the tribe were very important to how the Micmac lived. While the men were hunting, the women would be at home cooking, cleaning, and working on the homes and clothing. The women also took good care of the children that were in the homes helping. When the mothers went anywhere with the infants, they carried them in cradleboards.  The women also gathered plants to eat and herbs for medicine.

The men (Jinm) in the tribe were very important. The men did all the hunting and gathered most of the food for the whole tribe. They also protected the tribe with their lives. The men and women also told their children stories (A’tugauqan) from their ancestors. Today Micmac men and women share the jobs.

The children of the Micmac tribe did basically what all children did. They played, later in time went to school, spent time with their friends, helped around the house, and did their chores. The girls played with dolls and other toys. The teens played a stick and ball game as we know today as hockey. However, Micmac children did more chores than play. They learned what chores and roles they played, depending on their gender. Micmac children watched and learned from their parents. The boys loved to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. The girls would stay at home and help their mothers. In modern times when we think of people and where they sleep we think about houses and apartments, but in the early times, the Micmac people lived in wigwams. They didn’t live in teepees. The wigwam was the Micmac’s most common shelter. The Micmac made two types of wigwams, a smaller and a larger one. The smaller one could hold up to ten occupants; the larger one could hold up to 24 occupants. Both of the structures were based off of a pole frame. Then when the Micmac finished with that ,they would cover it with birch bark or oak wood. Depending on the condition of the coverings, the Micmac would reuse the coverings by carrying them to different locations. Typically one family would live in wigwams, and more people would stay there on some occasions. Today most Micmac people live in apartments, but some do stay in wigwams but only to connect to their ancestors. The Micmac people were very creative in making homes.

Before I started my research on the Micmacs, I didn’t know anything about the tribe or any other tribes for that matter. I know in my essay, I only wrote about a few things, but there is so much more to learn about. For example did you know the Micmac are famous they are for their porcupine quillwork beadwork and basket weaving? Writing this essay and researching helped me learn a lot about how the Micmac lived, and what they did to survive. While I wouldn’t like to live like they did, I feel it is pretty cool how the Micmac managed. I have a new respect for these early people of Maine.

Works Cited

Mi'kmaw Daily Life - Hunting and Fishing Methods ,www.muiniskw.org/pgCulture1c.htm.

Housing , www.micmac-nsn.gov/html/housing.html.

Migmaq/Mikmaq Online Word List,

www.mikmaqonline.org/servlet/dictionaryFrameSet.html.

“Micmac Indian Fact Sheet.” Facts for Kids: Micmac Indians (Micmacs, Mi'kmaq),

www.bigorrin.org/mikmaq_kids.htm.

Neptune, Jennifer Sapiel, and Lisa K. Neuman. “Basketry of the Wabanaki Indians.”

SpringerLink, Springer, Dordrecht, 3 Feb. 2015,

link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-94-007-3934-5_10220-1.

“Penobscot Basket Maker.” Jim Sharkey, 2003.

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2nd Place Middle School Division

Madison McNeff
7th Grade, Windsor Elementary School

The Evolution of the Micmac

What would it be like to live at a time when there was no stores, cars, or electricity? That is how the Micmac Native Americans lived in the 1500’s. Basing their lives off of family and survival, the Micmac Tribe created traditions and a new way of life. Unfortunately, the Europeans forever changed that way of life. The evolution of the world, as a whole, over the years is incredible, and the evolution of the Micmacs’ life is just as fascinating.

The Micmac’s early lifestyle consisted of each person in the tribe doing their jobs. For example, the men would hunt for food such as deer, beaver, and caribou. The women would stay at home and prepare meals. Children played and learned how to do jobs in the village. It took everyone to make the village function.

The Micmacs were also semi nomadic, which means they moved according to the season. In the fall, they moved inland to the forests to hunt for moose and other woodland animals. In the winter, they would stay in the villages and prepare for the cold. Winter was the hardest time for the Micmac because they didn’t always have enough food and staying warm was difficult. Back then, they lived in wigwams or longhouses, which weren’t warm. In the spring and summer, they moved to the shores or lakes and oceans to fish for sea animals.

Life, before the Europeans came, was joyful; the Micmac were self sufficient, and there were so many relationships based on friendship or kinship. Their close community changed forever after European contact. Life was never the same.

Around 1500, the Europeans arrived in Maine. The first explorer is believed to be an Italian explorer, Giovani Verenznao, who came to Maine in 1524. He charted the Atlantic coast from the Carolinas to Newfoundland. He first heard of Maine, when the explorer Samuel Champlain said that there was a place in Maine that was full of gold and silver; he named this place Norumbaga. Of course, there was no such place.

As more and more Europeans came to the new world, the more changes were made. Some of the biggest changes that came after European contact were in trading, the land, and disease. When the Europeans first arrived, they had good intentions of spreading their religion and getting spices and gold, but what they did was the opposite.

Before the Europeans came, the land in Maine was miles of forests, abundant wildlife, and clean waters. When the Europeans came, they started to build houses and farms, so they clear cut the forests. Of course, this was the Native American’s land. Another issue began about three hundred years later, and that was water pollution. The Micmac used the lakes, rivers, and oceans as a huge food source and still do. However when non-Native Americans built factories, the water began to get polluted with a toxic chemical called dioxin, which can cause birth defects and cancer. The fish drank polluted water, and the Micmac would later eat those fish, making them sick.

The Euopeans massively changed the Micmac way of life from trading. The Europeans traded guns for furs. The Micmac had always used their own hunting tools, things like atlatls or bows and arrows, but when the Europeans arrived, they introduced the tribe to guns. As more and more of the Micmac people got guns, the more they needed the Europeans for ammunition. When the Micmac started trading with the Europeans, they also started over hunting the animals for fur trading, killing almost half of the population of moose, beaver, and caribou. The very same animals the Micmacs depended on for survival.

One of the most destructive things that the Europeans brought to the New World was disease. Before European contact, Maine was known to be a disease free paradise. The Europeans brought diseases that the Micmac had no immunity to. These diseases included smallpox, measles, tuberculosis, cholera, and scarlet fever. During a time known as The Great Dying , from 1616-1619, many fatal diseases came to Maine. Because the Micmac had no real way to cure these diseases, they used herbs, which were useless against these threats. The death rate at that time was almost 75%. Entire villages were wiped out. Disease in itself killed about 90% of the natives. The worst part was the fact that it wasn’t just once that there was a great spread of disease. In 1639 there was a smallpox spread, as in 1669, and through the 1700’s. The Europeans left a mark on the Micmac, leaving them at their lowest point.

Today the Micmac live mostly in Aroostook County, Maine and on the Canadian side of the border. The Aroostook Band of Micmacs has around 1,240 members. They live in houses and wear modern clothes. Today, the Micmac are best known for their basket making. In fact, someof the Micmacs make baskets for a living. While a lot has changed for the Micmacs over the years, they still celebrate ancient traditions like Mawiomi, which means gathering in Algonquin. At the Mawiomi there is singing, dancing, drumming, and of course, basket making. More than five hundred people come to this annual event, which is a three day gathering that celebrates the Micmacs ancestors, family, and friends. The Micmac tribe is alive and well, cherishing every moment of life.

The Micmac Tribe has persevered through rough times, but in the end, I hope we can continue to celebrate our differences to live a peaceful life together in the home that we call Maine. 

Works Cited

ARCHIVED - Daily Life: Way of Life - Mi'kmaq - Explore the Communities - The Kids' Site of

Canadian Settlement - Library and Archives Canada,

www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/settlement/kids/021013-2091.6-e.html.

Aboriginal Relations with Europeans 1600-1900,

www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/exploration/aboriginal-relations.php.

Admin, and Mattstriker. “American Indians and European Diseases.” Native American Netroots,

29 Dec. 2009, nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/325.

Mi'kmaw Daily Life - The Semi-Nomadic Lifestyle, www.muiniskw.org/pgCulture1a.htm.

“Micmac Indian Fact Sheet.” Facts for Kids: Micmac Indians (Micmacs, Mi'kmaq),

www.bigorrin.org/mikmaq_kids.htm.

“Micmac Indian Fact Sheet.” Facts for Kids: Micmac Indians (Micmacs, Mi'kmaq) ,

www.bigorrin.org/mikmaq_kids.htm .

National Park Service. Epidemic: A Story of Loss [PDF file]. Retrieved from

https://www.nps.gov/acad/learn/education/upload/background8.pdf

Whitehead, Ruth Holmes., et al. The Micmac: How Their Ancestors Lived Five Hundred Years Ago. Nimbus Pub., 2005.


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