The first contact between Mi’kmaq and the Europeans is believed to have been made in the late 15th century primarily with European explorers and fishers, and trading ties were promptly established. The Indigenous people soon began bartering their seafaring experience for European goods, just as they did later on with their knowledge about the forest and the fur trade. Besides goods, they also exchanged customs. In addition to establishing strong trading ties, the parties fostered other types of alliances over time: friendship and marriage. By 1600, a number of Mi’kmaq and French had exchanged vows at Annapolis Royal, thereby creating blood ties. Many people today are able to confirm Indigenous ancestry on one, or both, sides! Over the centuries, many Indigenous surnames were incorrectly transcribed or modified in some cases; in others, Mi’kmaq couples changed names shortly before marrying.
Based on the tangible and intangible evidence left behind, the Acadians and Mi’kmaq forged solid bonds with one another. Apart from the fact that the Acadians made no effort to displace the Mi’kmaq, the two peoples were drawn together naturally based on their shared values, such as respect for one’s neighbour, democratic practices, community well-being, a desire for continued peace, the importance of oral traditions, music, dance and much more.
History books are filled with tales about the kindness, hospitality and cooperation of the Mi’kmaq, who adopted, helped, protected and supplied food to the Acadians as the latter sought to adapt to the New World and a new way of life. They taught the Acadians how to fish, hunt, make clothes and build canoes. They taught them how to insulate their homes against the cold and treat ailments by harnessing the power of “natural medicine.”