TA’N TET WETAPESULTI’K
The history of Elsipogtog goes far beyond the time of the arrival of European peoples to North America. Oral traditions or story telling by elders tell us how the Mi’kmaq people came to be in existence, Ta’n tet wetapeksulti’k, through Kisu’lk, our Creator, where he created Niskam, our Grandfather Sun; Kijinu Wsitqamu, our Mother Earth; Kluskap, our leader; Nukumi, Kluskap’s grandmother; Netuwansum, Kluskap’s nephew; and Nikanaptekewi’sk, Kluskap’s mother.
For thousands of years, k’niskamijnaqi’k our ancestors, have passed on a’tukaqnn, stories & legends of the great deeds of our elders of yester years. K’niskamijnaqi’k were saqamaq chiefs, sma’knisk soldiers and warriors, puoink shaman & healers, and kinap’aq the strongest & skilled warrior.
K’niskamijnaqi’k believed the number seven was of great significance and was evident in the stories and legends. The telling of the Mi’kmaq creation story has seven levels. The sacred tool that was used by the puoin known as waltes was used to investigate the past, foretell the future, and interpret dreams for the puoin. Each part of waltes represented the seven worlds that the Mi’kmaq believed in. The bowl was the muskapi the mother’s womb where life started; The six bone pieces were the wsitqamu, Earth world; lampku’k Underground world; lampo’q Water world; amalsiktmu’k Spirit world; musikiskutuk Sky world; and finally, mestawu’lk the world above the sky.
Mi’kmaq people are from the territory know as Wapna’kik meaning the land of the dawn, and has been known as Wejipnuk, which means where the summers come. Elsipogtog is in one of the seven Mi’kmaq district territories of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council called Sikeniktuk ‘the meeting place’ (east coast of present-day New Brunswick). The French used to refer the mouth of the Richibucto River as ‘Le Grand Havre’ or The Big harbour/port. In Mi’kmaq, harbour is ‘pogtog’, to describe large or big, you would add ‘Gtji’. Bouctouche was referred to as “Le Grand Petit Havre” or Pogtogtjiitj. Through many generations, Elsipogtog has had many different names such as Magtaoegneigati, Melsignatig, Mesgig Oalnei, and most recently, Big Cove.
From the early 1500’s to about the beginning of the 1700’s the Basque fishermen and the French fur-traders visited the coast and mouth of the Richibucto River. Along the Richibucto River area, the French relied on the Mi’kmaq for their support in keeping the British away on and off for about 150 years.
Many peace treaties were entered into between the British and the Mi’kmaq tribes. There were over 54 peace agreements made between the Mi’kmaq and British crown. The well-known Treaties in succession were the Treaties of 1725, 1727, 1749, 1752 and 1760-61. It was the March 10, 1761 ratification of a treaty that then Richibucto Chief, Michael Augustine, signed the treaty promising that he would never go to war against the British crown.
The American Revolution began in 1766 and ended in 1783. People who stayed loyal to Britain, large grants of land were given to these veterans of the American Revolution. The only problem was that the lands that the Mi’kmaq and other tribes occupied were being given away by the King to those subjects without informing the Mi’kmaq people.
Each time the Richibucto tribe of Mi’kmaq were asked to stay out of the wars and not take sides with the enemy, they were promised by the British Crown that they could “continue to live as before in your districts”. This meant that we could hunt, fish, trap and live off the land, as we have for thousands of years.
From 1788 to 1800 an Acadian person by the name of Joseph Gueguen or Goguen, who is said to have had a Mi’kmaq grandmother, and who had worked with a French priests named Fathers Manach and Maillard, wrote letters on b half of the Richibucto tribe. Father Manach was attempting to study the Mi’kmaq language with the help of Mr. Goguen. Mr. Goguen wrote to the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick demanding that, because of the treaty promises, lands should be set aside for the exclusive use of the Indians of the Richibucto tribe.
Finally, after 14 years of letter writing Mr. Goguen was successful in having 51,200 acres or eighty square miles of land on the Richibucto River be set aside by an Order in Council on February 29, 1802. This took place immediately after a ban on granting lands was lifted. The ban was imposed by Lt. Gov. Thomas Carleton in 1791. Lands were being granted out at an outrageous pace, and there was little or lack of good record keeping by the Surveyor-General’s office.
In 1900, the Federal department responsible for “Indians and Lands reserved for Indians” recorded that the Richibucto Indian Reserve No. 15 in all, totaled 2,222 acres of land. From 51,200 acres to 2,222 acres in one hundred years, a very significant reduction. The Richibucto Indians had lost 48,978 acres of land that had been set aside for them in less than 100 years.