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Old 11-20-2018
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en Champlain first visited our shores the savages had nothing better than stone axes to use in clearing their lands. It is to their credit that with such rude implements they contrived to hack down the trees and, after burning the branches and trunk, planted their corn among the stumps and in the course of time took out the roots. In cultivating the soil they used an implement of very hard wood, shaped like a spade, and their method of raising corn, as described by Champlain, was exactly the same as that of our farmers today. The corn fields at the old Medoctic Fort were cultivated by the Indians many years before the coming of the whites. Cadillac, writing in 1693, says: “The Maliseets are well shaped and tolerably warlike; they attend to the cultivation of the soil and grow the most beautiful Indian corn; their fort is at Medocktek.” Many other choice spots along the St. John river were tilled in very early times, including, probably, the site of the old Government House at Fredericton, where there was an Indian encampment long before the place was dreamed of as the site of the seat of government of the province.

Lescarbot, the historian, who wrote In 1610, tells us that the Indians were accustomed to pound their corn in a mortar (probably of wood) in order to reduce it to meal. Of this they afterwards made a paste, which was baked between two stones heated at the fire. Frequently the corn was roasted on the 10 ear. Yet another method is thus described by the English captive, John Gyles, who lived as a captive with the St. John river Indians in 1689: “To dry the corn when in the milk, they gather it in large kettles and boil it on the ears till it is pretty hard, then shell it from the cob with clam shells and dry it on bark in the sun. When it is thoroughly dry a kernel is no bigger than a pea, and will keep years; and when it is boiled again it swells as large as when on the ear and tastes incomparably sweeter than other corn. When we had gathered our corn and dried it in the way described, we put some of it into Indian barns, that is into hole in the ground lined and covered with bark and then with earth. The rest we carried up the river upon our next winter’s hunting.”

The Indians were a very improvident race, and in this respect the Maliseets were little better than the Micmacs, of whom Pierre Biard writes: “They care little about the future and are not urged on to work except by present necessity. As long as they have anything they are always celebrating feasts and having songs dances and speeches. If there is a crowd of them you certainly need not expect anything else. Nevertheless if they are by themselves and where they may safely listen to their wives, for women are everywhere the best managers, they will sometimes make storehouses for the winter where they will keep smoked meat, roots, shelled acorns, peas, beans, etc.”

Although the Indians living on the St. John paid some attention to the cultivation of the soil there can be no doubt that hunting and fishing were always their chief means of support. In Champlain’s day the implements of the chase were very primitive. Yet they were able to hunt the largest game by taking advantage of the deep snow and making use of their snow-shoes. Champlain says. “They search for the track of animals, which, having found, they follow until they get sight of the creature, when they shoot at it with their bows or kill it by means of daggers attached to the end of a short pike. Then the women and children come up, erect a hut and they give themselves to feasting. Afterwards they proceed in search of other animals and thus they pass the winter. This is the mode of life of these people, which seems to me a very miserable one.”
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