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Micmac Customs And Traditions

My information about the customs and traditions of the Micmac Indians of Nova Scotia has been derived almost entirely from Abram and Newell Glode, the first a man of seventy-three years, the latter somewhat younger and of exceptionally pure blood for a time when none are wholly so. These two Indians have justly achieved a reputation among their tribe for intelligence and knowledge of their native lore. During the many days I have spent with them at Digby and elsewhere I have invariably found them as eager and interested in being questioned as I was in catechizing them. However, in most cases I have confirmed what they told me by information obtained from others, and I have read to them what I have written in order to avoid mistakes. It is a misfortune to these Indians that while all their tribe have been taught to read the characters invented by one of the early priests they have been debarred from learning the much simpler Roman characters by the successors of that priest, who until quite recently forbade Micmac children to attend the public schools. The Micmacs have a system of communicating while in the woods. Sticks are placed in the ground; a cut on one of them indicates that a message in picture-writing on a piece of birch bark is hidden near by under a stone. The direction in which the stick leans from its base upward indicates that in which the party moved, and thus serves as a convenient hint to those who follow to keep off their hunting grounds. The Game of Altestakun A game much in...

Passamaquoddy Mythological Characters

The following are a few of the mythological characters which play a part in many of the stories of the Passamaquoddies. They are all given on one of the cylinders of the phonograph: Leux. Mischief-maker. In certain stories, simple fellow. Kewok. A formless being with icy heart, and when mentioned regarded as a terrible one. Pedogiic. Thunder. Pesok que tuk. Lightning. Ooargamess. Small beings who live about rocks and chatter in unknown tongue. Have been seen in late times. Lumpagonosis. Water beings. Kelphit. A shapeless (medicine) being who is turned over twice each year. Under him are found flowers. Pogumpt. Black Cat, Fisher. k’Chebollock. The Spirit of the Air. This being is said to be without body, but to have a heart, wings, head, and legs. Cadoux. Spirit of Night. Said to have been seen lately. An evil spirit which tears bark from the wigwam, and in many ways frightens the Indians. Pook-jin-squess. The Jug. Called also the toad woman. In some Indian stories spoken of as governor. Noosagess. A being associated with the wind. Squaw-oc-t’moos. Swamp woman. Mousham. Grandfather. Glooscap. The beneficent being whose deeds are generally superhuman, and who figures in many heroic tales of the Passamaquoddies. The term as applied to a man is one of contempt. To call a man glooscap, or a woman glooscapess, is to call them liars. Chematiquess. The big rabbit. There are many tales in relation to Chematiquess. The new one which I have treats of his efforts to escape Glooscap. Mickemnise. The good fellow. I have also heard the Ouargamiss called Mickeminn. Hespens. The raccoon. Quarbet. The giant beast. M’Sartoo....

A Passamaquoddy Story of Leux

A story of the old time. In winter, while traveling, Leux met a number of wolves, which were going in the same direction that he was. At nightfall the old wolf built a fire and gave Leux supper. He gave him skins to cover himself while he slept, but Leux said that the fire was so warm that he did not need or wish a covering. At midnight Leux awoke and was almost frozen with cold. The next morning Leux was obliged to part with the wolves.1 The old wolf said, “How far are you going?” Leux answered, “Three days’ journey.” The wolf said then, “I will do for you the very best thing I can. I will give you three fires, one for each night.” The wolf told him to gather some dry wood, put it in a pile, jump over it, and it would burn.2 Leux parted from the wolf, and as soon as he was out of sight he thought he would try to make a fire as directed by the wolf, remarking that he did not think it would burn. So he gathered some dry wood, made a little pile, and jumped over it, as he had been directed. The wood was ignited, as the wolf had predicted, much to the surprise of Leux. Leux then put out the fire. After walking a short distance he kindled another in the same way. This he put out as before, and at noon tried again, kindling the fire as before and putting it out immediately after. Now when night came Leux made a camp and collected a...

Passamaquoddy Trade Dance and More

Trade Dance – I have been told that there is an old custom among the Micmacs, still remembered by many now alive, which is probably a remnant of a ceremony with which was connected an old dance. To this custom is given the name of the “Trade Dance,” for reasons which will appear. The account of the custom was given by Peter Selmore, who witnessed it not many years ago. It is said to be more common among the Micmacs than among the Passamaquoddies. The participants, one or more in number, go to the wigwam of another person, and when near the entrance sing a song. The leader then enters, and, dancing about, sings at the same time a continuation of the song he sang at the door of the hut. He then points out some object in the room which he wants to buy, and offers a price for it. The owner is obliged to sell the object pointed out, or to barter something of equal value. The narrator remembers that the dress of the participants was similar to that of the Indians of olden times. He remembers, in the case of women, that they wore the variegated, pointed cap covered with beads, the loose robe, and leggings. The face of the participant was painted, or daubed black with paint or powder. This song is recorded on cylinder 17. The singer told me, and I can well believe it, that the song is very ancient. I have little doubt that in this ceremony we have a survival of dances of the olden times, when they assumed a significance...

The Passamaquoddy Snake Dance

The Passamaquoddies, no doubt, in old times, had many dances, sacred and secular. Some of these were very different from what they now are, and in consequence it is not easy to recognize their meaning. Indians declare that in their youth dances were much more common. Possibly some of these will never be danced again. That the Micmacs, neighbors of the Passamaquoddies, had dances in which elaborate masks were worn, seems to be indicated by pictographs found on the rocks in Nova Scotia. Mrs. Brown has in her possession a head-band made of silver, similar to those worn in ancient times on festive occasions, and probably at dances. It was not necessarily a badge of a chief. In excavations made at East Machias, an Indian was found with a copper head-band and the remnant of a woven tiara. These relics are now in the hands of Dr. Shehan, of Edmunds, Maine. Copper head-bands have repeatedly been found on the skulls of Mound Indians. When a boy, I myself was present at the work of excavating an Indian burial place on the banks of Charles River, near the end of Maple Street, Watertown. With one of these skeletons a turtle shell was found, which was possibly an old Indian rattle. One of the most interesting of the selections mentioned is the Song of the Snake Dance, No. 8. Although the ceremonial element has now disappeared from this song, it may be presumed that it originally had a religious importance similar to that of the Snake Dances of the Southwest, since the extent of the worship of the snake among North...

Passamaquoddy Aboriginal Folklore

The study of aboriginal folk-lore cannot reach its highest scientific value until some method is adopted by means of which an accurate record of the stories can be obtained and preserved. In observations on the traditions of the Indian tribes, the tendency of the listener to add his own thoughts or interpretations is very great. Moreover, no two Indians tell the same story alike. These are sources of error which cannot be eliminated, but by giving the exact words of the speaker it is possible to do away with the errors of the translator. I believe that the memory of Indians for the details of a story is often better than that of white men. There may be a reason for this, in their custom of memorizing their rituals, stories, and legends. The Kaklan, a Zuñi ritual, for instance, which is recited by the priest once in four years, takes several hours to repeat. What white man can repeat from memory a history of equal length after so long an interval Phonetic methods of recording Indian languages are not wholly satisfactory. It is very unlikely that two persons will adopt the same spelling of a word never heard before. Many inflections, accents, and gutturals of Indian languages are difficult to reduce to writing. Conventional signs and additional letters have been employed for this purpose, the use of which is open to objections. There is need of some accurate method by which observations can be recorded. The difficulties besetting the path of the linguist can be in a measure obviated by the employment of the phonograph, by the aid of...

How a Medicine Man Was Born, and how He Turned Man into a Tree

A story of old times. There was once a woman who traveled constantly through the woods. Every bush she saw she bit off, and from one of these she came to be with child. She grew bigger and bigger until at last she could travel no longer, but built a wigwam near the mouth of a stream. The woman gave birth to a child in the night. She thought it best to kill the child, but did not wish to murder her offspring.1 At last she decided to make a canoe of bark, and in it she put her child and let it float down the river. The water of the river was rough, but the child was not harmed, or even wet.2 It floated down to an Indian village, and was stranded on the shore near a group of wigwams. A woman of the village found the baby on the shore and brought it to her home. Every morning, after the baby had been brought to the place, a baby of the village died. The Indians did not know what the matter was until they noticed that the waif which the woman had found in the bark on the river bank went to the river every night and returned shortly after. A woman watched to see what this had to do with the death of the babes, and she saw the child, when it returned to the wigwam, bring a tongue of a little child, roast and eat it. Then it laid down to sleep. The next morning another child died, and then the Indian knew that its...

A Visit to Spirit Land or The Strange Experience of a Woman in Kona, Hawaii

By: Mrs. E. N. Haley Kalima had been sick for many weeks, and at last died. Her friends gathered around her with loud cries of grief, and with many expressions of affection and sorrow at their loss they prepared her body for its burial. The grave was dug, and when everything was ready for the last rites and sad act, husband and friends came to take a final look at the rigid form and ashen face before it was laid away forever in the ground. The old mother sat on the mat-covered ground beside her child, brushing away the intrusive flies with a piece of cocoanut-leaf, and wiping away the tears that slowly rolled down her cheeks. Now and then she would break into a low, heart-rending wail, and tell in a sob-choked, broken voice, how good this her child had always been to her, how her husband loved her, and how her children would never have any one to take her place. “Oh, why,” she cried, “did the gods leave me? I am old and heavy with years; my back is bent and my eyes are getting dark. I cannot work, and am too old and weak to enjoy fishing in the sea, or dancing and feasting under the trees. But this my child loved all these things, and was so happy. Why is she taken and I, so useless, left?” And again that mournful, sob-choked wail broke on the still air, and was borne out to the friends gathered under the trees before the door, and was taken up and repeated until the hardest heart would have...

The Tomb of Puupehe

A Legend of Lanai From “The Hawaiian Gazette” One of the interesting localities of tradition, famed in Hawaiian song and story of ancient days, is situate at the southwestern point of the island of Lanai, and known as the Kupapau o Puupehe, or Tomb of Puupehe. At the point indicated, on the leeward coast of the island, may be seen a huge block of red lava about eighty feet high and some sixty feet in diameter, standing out in the sea, and detached from the mainland some fifty fathoms, around which centers the following legend. Observed from the overhanging bluff that overlooks Puupehe, upon the summit of this block or elevated islet, would be noticed a small inclosure formed by a low stone wall. This is said to be the last resting-place of a Hawaiian girl whose body was buried there by her lover Makakehau, a warrior of Lanai. Puupehe was the daughter of Uaua, a petty chief, one of the dependents of the king of Maui, and she was won by young Makakehau as the joint prize of love and war. These two are described in the Kanikau, or Lamentation, of Puupehe, as mutually captive, the one to the other. The maiden was a sweet flower of Hawaiian beauty. Her glossy brown, spotless body “shone like the clear sun rising out of Haleakala.” Her flowing, curly hair, bound by a wreath of lehua blossoms, streamed forth as she ran “like the surf crests scudding before the wind.” And the starry eyes of the beautiful daughter of Uaua blinded the young warrior, so that he was called Makakehau, or...
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