Mi'kmaq\Acadie Ties

Strong bonds between Mi’kmaq and Acadians: echoing harmonies of friendship, footprints on a path walked together.

Photo courtesy of L'Nuey

Les ancêtres Mi’kmaq se sont établis sur l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard il y a plus de 12 000 ans. Le nom de cette nation vient de ni’kmaq, « mes proches parents ».  

The ancestors of the Mi’kmaq arrived on Prince Edward Island more than 12,000 years ago. Their Nation’s name comes from the word ni’kmaq, meaning “my kin-friends.”
The Mi’kmaq of the Atlantic Coast have, throughout history, been perceived as “people of the sea.” Mastering the art of navigation, they took to the Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence in canoes. They were recognized as skillful astronomers, using the Milky Way and constellations to guide their movements, and they handled European vessels as adeptly as the French sailors. Nomadic hunters and collectors, they were also known to be highly skilled fishers.

Mi’kma’ki is the name given to the territory of the Mi’kmaq Nation, which extends from the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec, eastern New Brunswick, all of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and as far as southern Newfoundland. The Nation is divided into eight districts, the one that includes the Island was named Epekwitk aq Piktuk (PEI and Pictou), or “lying in the water and the explosive place” 

First contact

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.”

In addition to forging strong ties in terms of shared values and practices, each people borrowed words from the other’s language. Examples include the following:

• Atouray (Pidgin Basque): atla:y (Mi’kmaq): shirt
• Adiu (Basque) and adieu (French): atiyu (Mi’kmaq): goodbye
• L’assiette (French): lasiyet (Mi’kmaq): plate
• La cheminée (French): lasinamey (Mi’kmaq): chimney
• Les clous (French): pleku (Mi’kmaq): nails
• Magasin (French): makasan (Mi’kmaq): store
• Matelot (French): matlot (Mi’kmaq): sailor
• La moutarde (French): lamutta:lt (Mi’kmaq): mustard
• Ma poche (French): mapos (Mi’kmaq): my pocket
• Sainte-Anne (French): Se:ta:n (Mi’kmaq): St. Anne
• Noël (French): Nuwel (Mi’kmaq) = Christmas

Key Events

Although the Great Deportation, combined with the First Nations cultural genocide, broke both these peoples and frayed their close ties, they showed resilience and courage over the ensuing years. Today, Acadians and members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation continue to stand tall and celebrate the strength and pride of their unique and shared heritage. 

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