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Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Recognize 30 Centuries of Mi’kmaq History and Culture

by NationTalk on June 23, 20081076 Views

METEPENAGIAG, NB, June 21 – Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada today announced the unveiling of two plaques commemorating the national historic significance of Augustine Mound and Oxbow.

The Augustine Mound is a ceremonial burial site associated with Adena (Pre-Columbian Native American culture) traditions, built approximately 2,500 years ago. The site is sacred to the Mi’kmaq and holds a deep spiritual significance for the community. The Oxbow is a remarkably well-stratified archaeological site. Excavations revealed that it was a continuously occupied 3000-year-old fishing village, with links to present-day Metepenagiag; thereby making it the oldest continuously inhabited village in New Brunswick.The plaques are located at the Metepenagiag Heritage Park, a world-class cultural tourism facility that opened last year. Working in partnership with the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation, the Government of Canada invested 5.9 million dollars in the facility. Today it welcomes guests from Canada and around the world.

Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of the Environment about the national historic significance of places, persons and events that have marked Canada’s history. The placement of a commemorative plaque represents an official recognition of their historic value. It is one means of educating the public about the richness of our cultural heritage, which must be preserved for present and future generations.

Background for Ceremony Program

The Augustine Mound and Oxbow NHSC are located in the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation, situated at the junction of the Northwest Miramichi and Little Southwest Miramichi Rivers in northeastern New Brunswick. “Metepenagiag” is the traditional Mi’kmaq name for the settlement at the head of tide, formerly known as Red Bank.

The Augustine Mound is a ceremonial burial site, which was built approximately 2500 years ago. The site is sacred to the Mi’kmaq and holds a deep spiritual significance for the community today. In 1972, the late Joseph Michael Augustine, then a Councillor and former Chief, recognized the burial mound and brought it to the attention of the community. Five years later, Mr. Augustine also found the Oxbow, a remarkably well-stratified archaeological site. Excavations revealed that it was a continuously occupied 3000-year-old fishing village, with links to present-day Metepenagiag; thereby making it the oldest continuously inhabited village in New Brunswick.

For the people of Metepenagiag, lands at the head of tide have been their ancestral home since time immemorial. Over 100 archaeological sites are known to exist in the area, making this the densest concentration of Aboriginal sites in New Brunswick, if not all of Atlantic Canada. These sites include at least three large villages, numerous campsites, activity areas, and five cemeteries.

While the culture of the people changed over the centuries, with new technologies and styles often introduced through contact with other areas, the basic way of life and economy remained rooted in the fishery. All of the major sites are located by fishing locales. Atlantic salmon and sturgeon, gaspereau, smelts, shad, striped bass, tomcod, and American eels were seasonally harvested. Their abundance provided stability for a growing population. Land mammals, migratory birds, and a wide variety of plants supplemented this rich harvest.

People moved to the riverside fishing sites in spring to harvest smelts, sturgeon, and the first run of salmon. Fresh fiddleheads and cattail shoots were harvested. In the summer, shad, striped bass and sea trout joined the salmon and sturgeon in the river. Metepenagiag became an important social and cultural centre as the prosperous settlements enjoyed large communal gatherings for activities such as meetings of chiefs, weddings, funerals, and games. The fall run of salmon kept people by the river and migratory birds were hunted. Storage pits were filled with preserved foods for the cold season. Finally, the people moved onto more sheltered, higher terraces away from the river for the winter months. Ice fishing, trapping, and hunting supplemented the preserved foods. Making and repairing clothing and tools filled the long hours, as did storytelling and games.

European contact brought major changes, causing a disruption of the population, economy, and settlement pattern. Traditional hunting-and-gathering activities declined in importance as a cash-based economy led people to the fur trade and later to wage economies in guiding, forestry, and the commercial fishery.

Today, members of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation continue their centuries-old heritage of subsistence and commercial activities along the Miramichi River. The recently opened Metepenagiag Heritage Park preserves and presents the vibrant and outstanding cultural history of Metepenagiag.

For further information: Claude DeGrâce, Manager, National Historic Sites, Northern New Brunswick, Parks Canada, (506) 851-3084; (Also available on the Internet at www.pc.gc.ca under Media room.)

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