Before the arrival of
the Europeans, the members of the Wabanaki Confederation,
the Souriquois, now called the Micmacs, occupied Nova Scotia,
Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and the southern portion
of the Gaspé peninsula. In 1611, Father Pierre Briard
estimated their population at 3,000 in these areas.
A nomadic people, the Micmacs lived primarily from the traditional
activities of hunting, trapping, fishing and the harvesting
of wild berries. Because of their way of life, they built
their wigwams so that they could be easily moved from one
place to another.
In the 16th century, the Micmacs were one of the first peoples
to encounter Europeans. They tried to profit from the fur
trade between the Europeans and the tribes further to the
west by acting as middlemen.
As for all the other Aboriginal nations in America, a very
large portion of the Micmac population was wiped out by
the diseases contracted from the contacts with Europeans.
Following their victory over the French in 1763, the English
from New England moved into the Atlantic region in large
numbers. The British government tried to turn the Micmacs
into farmers; its efforts failed and instead the Micmacs
became workers in the forestry and transportation sectors,
wich produced significant sociocultural changes.
Today, there are over 15,000 Micmacs in the Maritimes. In
Quebec, over 4,300 Micmacs live in Listuguj (Restigouche),
Gesgapegiag (Maria), and in the Gaspé region.
The Micmacs are fishermen by tradition and they continue
to fish salmon. In 1982, the community of Gesgapegiag and
the owners of riverfornt property joined forces to form
the Cascapedia River Salmon Management Society, wich organizes
fishing trips for anglers. There is also the Micmac Crafts
Cooperative, wich exports its products to the United States.
They also built several facilities to deal with problems
that are present in their communities that are worth mentioning:
an addiction centre in Gesgapegiag, a youth centre and a
battered women's shelter in Listuguj. Listuguj and Gesgapegiag
are also two dynamic MicMac business communities.