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- Memoir - 4/7 -


chapelet several times a day, as well as in the middle of the night, when they rise to pray. They observe all the fasts of the Church, and the penances imposed on them they generally perform on Fridays. On that day in a spirit of penitence, and in memory of the passion of Jesus Christ, a man will hold out to his wife the backs of his hands, which the wife strikes with a rod, giving twenty, thirty, or fifty blows. She then in turn presents her hands and receives the same chastisement from her husband. This chastisement is dealt out indiscriminately, children are thus chastized by their parents, and what is surprising, the little Indians when struck on the hands do not withdraw them, no matter how much they feel the pain. I have seen them bleeding, yet in spite of that they were firm and motionless. Their religion is not only exterior, they have it in their heart as will be seen by the following fact: The feast of St. Anne is a great festival for the Indians, and I made a point of being at Chezzetcook on that day. Two hundred Indians assembled, most of them came in a spirit of devotion, but some of them had evil designs, for they mediated killing their king and all his family. I discovered this plot in time, and learnt the cause with astonishment. It was that they believed that the chief and all his family would change their religion, that they had become Protestants, or that they intended so to do. This is how it came about. Some heretics called Methodists, had done all in their power to attract the king of the Indians to their sect, going so far as to give him all sorts of provisions, and other valuables, such as cows, pigs, farming implements, &c. One of these Methodists was sent among the Indians to learn their language, and so corrupt them more easily. In this way the report got about that their Chief, Benjamin (which was the name of the king) had joined the Methodists with all his family. Mr. Mignault, parish priest of Halifax, and myself knew this to be false, for Benjamin himself, whom we had warned against the dangers that threatened him, had replied: "The potatoes, cows, and the other provisions of Bromlet (which was the name of the Methodist who had given him the things) are good, I have taken them and made use of them, but his religion is worthless, I will have none of it."

In consequence of this we assembled the Indians in the church of Chezztecook, which was not large enough to hold them all, and we made the king repeat his profession of faith in their presence, so that they should no longer doubt his sincerity. He did this in a most edifying manner. His example was followed by all his officers, who also made their profession of faith. We remarked in particular one of his brothers who was conspicuous by the touching beauty and eloquence of his speech, and by the earnestness of the gestures which he employed. Some fragments of his discourse were rendered into our language by an Acadian interpreter, who understood Mic-mac pretty well.

"How," said he, "could we leave our religion that will save our souls if we follow it, this religion that comes from God, whose son died on the cross for our salvation? Shall we lose our souls that have cost Him so dear, for which he suffered so much, and which he shed all his blood to purchase? No, better die than change our faith and do such a great wrong."

I had written to Mr. Mignault to come so as to render the affair more imposing and dignified, and he arrived in good time. He carried a large crucifix, which at the conclusion of the ceremony the Indians came to venerate. The missionary then said a few words of instruction, after which the Indians embraced each other as brothers and friends, in token of general satisfaction and peace. I heard all their confessions, and a large number had the happiness of receiving Holy Communion. On the eve of St. Anne's feast, they made a bonfire, and while the wood burned they fired off guns and danced around the fire, clapping their hands in imitation of musical instruments. This lasted for a great part of the night, however, they had previously said their evening prayers, and sung hymns and canticles.

We can obtain almost anything from them in the name of our holy religion, so great is their attachment to it, as will be seen by the following: One day while I was in Halifax, a number of Indians came to the presbytery to complain to me of the Governor who resided in the town. They clamored for the guns and powder which had been promised to them, and which they were accustomed to receive every year from the English Government in addition to their gifts of woolen blankets. The missionaries distributed, or saw to the distribution of these latter. I was obliged to go myself to see the Governor on the subject of this small rebellion, for the Indians wore a threatening air. His Excellency begged me to pacify them and to tell them that their demand would soon be granted. I returned and said a few words in the name of religion, which at once quieted them.

Another time some barbarous and fanatical miscreants set a number of Indians against us, making them believe that we only drew them around us in order to do them harm, and to emperil their safety. This they apparently believed, for we were warned that they would attempt our lives. I spoke to them instructing them as well as I was able. At last by the arguments of the religion to which they are so attached, I turned them from their wicked purpose. I am sure that afterwards they experienced a lively remorse for having entertained such a thought. Formerly, that is to say, before priests came among them, they had the barbarous custom of killing their fathers and mothers when they became old and infirm. Many of the bludgeons and war clubs with which they killed their parents have been found quite recently. Now, however, they take care of them until their death, respecting and loving them. It is thought that before they had any knowledge of religion they were cannibals.

How is it that this people who were formerly so unnatural and so barbarous are to-day so different, so humane, and quiet and tractible? What has rendered them so docile and submissive; in short, what has worked this happy change if not the Catholic religion? Protestants, as we have shown above, have tried to civilize them, and to imbue them with different sentiments, even going so far as to live among them and entering into their pursuits, but their undertakings have always failed, each attempt has met with the same result It is only the true religion and its priests that have power to convert and civilize these savages and make them useful members of society. Each year they have masses said for different intentions, and in this they give evidence of generosity and nobleness of sentiment. The first mass that they recommend is for the human race, that is for all men living; the second is for the souls in purgatory; the third for all Indians and others who have died during the year; the fourth to thank God for all benefits received from His hand during the year, and the fifth to offer up to Him the coming year so that he may bless it. For this object they save their money, sometimes to the end of the year, sometimes to the feast of St. Anne, when they have an opportunity to come to their religious duties. This, however, does not prevent their having a special mass said, should any of their near relatives die. They generally recommend high masses for these general intentions, and for thanksgiving.

Before the French took possession of Nova Scotia, which they called Acadia, the Indians lived only by hunting and fishing, and had no clothing, but such as they made of the skins of wild beasts. Their houses were hut-like in form, as they are at the present time, for they have not changed their ancient manner of living. I have often slept in their cabins, which are very uncomfortable for civilized people, such as Frenchmen, although the Indians prefer them to our houses. A proof of this is that, notwithstanding the length of time they have lived among Europeans, they have not made up their mind to imitate them. This may possibly arise from idleness, for it would cost them much labor as well as time and money were they to erect houses such as ours. They are not rich enough to employ workmen, but in less than a day, without expense and with little labor, they can build the house in which they live, sleep, cook, &c., and which is much less trouble for them. They cut fifteen or twenty little trees of about the same size as the arm of a youth of fifteen. From these they remove the branches, if there be any, and make them into posts of nine or ten feet in length. They then plant them in the earth at equal distances, in the form of a circle, placing them so that they may incline inwards, so that the base is much larger than the summit. An opening is left at the apex sufficient to admit of the escape of the smoke from the fire, which is always made in the middle of the cabin. They then cover these poles with the bark of trees, leaving an open space for the entrance. If they are not too poor, they cover this space with some pieces of old blankets. Their houses are built in the shape of a sugar loaf, their bed is the naked earth, or some small branches of trees, shreded fine, that serve as a mattrass. These cabins are never more than fifteen or twenty feet in diameter.

Their cookery consists chiefly in suspending above their fire some eels or hares that they have killed. These they eat almost before they have changed color, (what the Acadians term _boucare_). There are some who have kettles, and who cook their fish in water, with potatoes, which vegetable for some time past the Indians of Nova Scotia have planted, and which now forms almost their principle nourishment. Many have boats in which they go codfishing. Although they are generally rather idle, they occupy themselves nevertheless at work which requires attention and a certain kind of application, such as making pretty boats out of bark and pretty boxes of different shapes and colors, and elegant and highly ornamented baskets. For this ornamentation they use the quills of the porcupine, an animal very common in America. These quills they die black, red, blue, &c. They make these colors themselves by means of certain barks which they boil in water. They then fasten the colored quills on the bark of their boxes in tasteful and varied patterns. This is generally considered to be women's work. That of the men is heavier, such as the making of churns and other wooden utensils for domestic use. They tan the skins of the animals they kill and make their shoes or moccasins out of them. These are very thin and do not last long. As, regards their dress, both men and women are oddly attired. Their clothes are fashioned somewhat after the manner of ours, but the sewing is all on the outside and the stitches are very large. The selvedge of the cloth, (which they are always careful to secure when buying it) also shews on the outside, from their shoulders to their heels, and is considered ornamental. The squaws' dresses are similar, with the addition of a hood, which, when turned up, completely covers their head. The more elegant are ornamented with ribbons, flowers, beads, &c. It is more particularly when they come to their devotions that they decorate themselves thus. The men also at such times dress themselves with more than usual care. They live very peaceably together, willingly lend to each other, and have almost everything in common. If one receives a gift of anything, bread for example, all the others, men and women, regard it as a present made to all, and are as grateful as if each had received it, consequently there is no such thing as jealousy among them. A beautiful example for all Christians!

We will now speak of their dexterity. It is wonderful to see them manage their bark canoes, which are extremely light. These little boats are narrow at both ends, a little wider in the middle, and generally about nine or ten feet long. They move with surprising quickness in the midst of the angry waves. Two persons are sufficient to propel them, and it can be done by one. When fishing eels they stand at the end of their canoes and spear the eels with a long stick, to the end of which is fastened a sharp pointed iron. This instrument they call _higogue_. They are so long sighted that they can see to the bottom, of water twenty feet in depth. They wait until the fish rise, then spear them as they go along. Their dexterity is such that they seldom miss their aim. I have often gone with them; we have journeyed


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