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Old 11-20-2018
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A careful examination of the relics discovered at the sites of the old camping 11 grounds suffices to confirm the universal testimony of early writers regarding the nomadic habits of the Indians. They were a restless race of people, for ever wandering from place to place as necessity or caprice impelled them. At one time they were attracted to the sea side where clams, fish and sea fowl abounded; at another they preferred the charms of the inland waters. Sometimes the mere love of change led them to forsake one camping place and remove to some other favorite spot. When game was scarce they were compelled by sheer necessity to seek new hunting grounds. At the proper season they made temporary encampments for salmon fishing with torch and spear. Anon they tilled their cornfields on the intervals and islands. They had a saying: “When the maple leaf is as big as a squirrel’s foot it is time to plant corn.” Occasionally the outbreak of some pestilence broke up their encampments and scattered them in all directions. In time of peace they moved leisurely, but in time of war their action was much more vigorous and flotillas of their bark canoes skimmed swiftly over the lakes and rivers bearing the dusky warriors against the enemies of their race. Many a peaceful New England hamlet was startled by their midnight war-whoop when danger was little looked for.

It is a common belief in our day that the Indians were formerly more numerous than they now are. Exactly the same opinion seems to have prevailed when the country was first discovered, but it is really very doubtful whether there were ever many more Indians in the country than there are today. In the year 1611 Biard described them as so few in number that they might be said to roam over rather than to possess the country. He estimated the Maliseets, or Etchemins, as less than a thousand in number “scattered over wide spaces, as is natural for those who live by hunting and fishing.” Today the Indians of Maine and New Brunswick living within the same area as the Etchemins of 1611, number considerably more than a thousand souls. There are, perhaps, as many Indians in the maritime provinces now as in the days of Champlain. As Hannay observes, in his History of Acadia, excellent reasons existed to prevent the Indians from ever becoming very numerous. A wilderness country can only support a limited population. The hunter must draw his sustenance from a very wide range of territory, and the life of toil and privation to which the Indian was exposed was fatal to all but the strongest and most hardy.

One of the most striking Indian characteristics is the keenness of perception by which they are enabled to track their game or find their way through pathless forests without the aid of chart or compass. The Indian captive, Gyles, relates the following incident which may be mentioned in this connection:

“I was once travelling a little way behind several Indians and, hearing them laugh merrily, when I came up I asked them the cause of their laughter. They showed me the track of a moose, and how a wolverene had climbed a tree, and where he had jumped off upon the moose. It so happened that after the moose had taken several large leaps it came under the branch of a tree, which, striking the wolverene, broke his hold and tore him off; and by his tracks in the snow it appeared he went off another way with short steps, as if he had been stunned 12 by the blow that had broken his hold. The Indians were wonderfully pleased that the moose had thus outwitted the mischievous wolverene.”

The early French writers all notice the skill and ingenuity of the savages, in adapting their mode of life to their environment. Nicholas Denys, who came to Acadia in 1632, gives a very entertaining and detailed account of their ways of life and of their skillful handicraft. The snowshoe and the Indian bark canoe aroused his special admiration. He says they also made dishes of bark, both large and small, sewing them so nicely with slender rootlets of fir that they retained water. They used in their sewing a pointed bodkin of bone, and they sometimes adorned their handiwork with porcupine quills and pigments. Their kettles used to be of wood before the French supplied them with those of metal. In cooking, the water was readily heated to the boiling point by the use of red-hot stones which they put in and took out of their wooden kettle.

Until the arrival of Europeans the natives were obliged to clothe themselves with skins of the beaver and other animals. The women made all the garments, but Champlain did not consider them very good tailoresses.

Like most savage races the Indians were vain and consequential. Biard relates that a certain sagamore on hearing that the young King of France was unmarried, observed: “Perhaps I may let him marry my daughter, but the king must make me some handsome presents, namely, four or five barrels of bread, three of peas and beans, one of tobacco, four or five cloaks worth one hundred sous apiece, bows, arrows, harpoons, and such like articles
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