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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 23

Gaspé, 1760-1867

by David Lee

Part III: The People of Gaspé

The Indians

In the historical period Micmac Indians were reported at various places along the coast, including Matane, Mont-Louis, Gaspé and Pointe-St-Pierre,1 but the main concentrations were at the mouths of the Cascapédia and Restigouche rivers. These rivers were the best salmon streams on the Gaspé peninsula and salmon was the Micmacs' most important single dietary staple. In winter the bands normally dispersed up the river valleys to hunt, but every summer they gathered at the river mouths, especially at Pointe de la Mission near the mouth of the Restigouche. Here they had a rough chapel which had been served, off and on, since the 1730s by French Roman Catholic missionaries. At one time the village and church had been on the south side of the river, but they were moved to the north shore in the English period. Two churches were reported on the river in 1775. A new church, erected at Pointe de la Mission in 1791, became the focal point for all the Micmacs of Gaspé.2

The Micmacs had always wanted their own resident priest, but the missionaries complained that the Indians could not afford even to keep the church or presbytery in good order. As early as 1798 the government was providing an annual stipend of £50 to the church for a "Missionary to the Restigouche Indians." This was a considerable sum at that time — the government schoolmaster at New Carlisle was receiving only £25.3 The stipend was increased to £75 in 1816, but it was not until 1843 that the church sent a full-time missionary to the Restigouche Indians.4 The missionaries were habitually more interested in the European population than in the Indians even though they were paid to serve the Micmacs, and when they did minister to the Indians they were habitually careful to serve the government's interests. As Monseigneur Plessis remarked to the governor, the missionary to the Restigouche Indians was fluent in Micmac and thus better able to promote religion, morality and fidelity to their government.5

In 1760 the Micmac population on the Restigouche was estimated at 250, but in the 1765 census only 87 Indians were listed. By 1820 the figure rose to 194 on the Restigouche and 41 on the Cascapédia; 20 years later 353 Indians were reported at Pointe de la Mission. In 1858 there were 473 on the Restigouche reserve and 83 at the Maria reserve on the Cascapédia.6 The inconsistencies in these figures may have been due to many Indians being absent hunting and the apparent population increase later possibly resulted from the Micmacs becoming sedentary, permanent residents in a village where they could be counted. Also, in the French period there was some intermarriage between the Micmacs and the French and some of the offspring of these unions chose the Indian way of life and were counted as Micmacs.7

Before the Europeans arrived, hunting was almost as important to the Micmac economy as fishing. At first hunting was promoted because traders occasionally came to bargain for furs, as Charles Robin did on his early voyages.8 Later traders brought liquor and some witnesses claim that the resultant intoxication ruined the fur trade for the Indians became less willing and less able to go into the woods in the winter. The Gaspé fur trade was never large and it soon virtually disappeared. One witness predicted that due to degradation and intoxication the Indians too would soon disappear.9

Fishing thus became even more important to the Indians both as a replacement for meat in their diet and as a staple to trade to visiting merchants. Charles Robin wrote in his 1767 journal that the Indians fished from their canoes and then dried their fish on flakes like the Europeans; this fish would have been for their own use. For the trade they speared salmon, but eventually fishing, especially for salmon, declined as a result of depletion and government restrictions.

The band was able to subsist through other employment, some of the men, for example, hiring themselves out for labouring jobs on the Kempt Road or cutting timber for lumber merchants. Some of the women went to work as domestics in Dalhousie and Campbelltown. Much was written about assisting the band to learn agriculture, but the government never acted on the suggestions; however, most of the Indians kept small gardens and 400 acres were reported under cultivation in 1858. They also kept some livestock and poultry and continued to make maple sugar in the spring.10

A commission of inquiry reported in 1858 that the Restigouche Indians "have been left very much to their own resources, having never received any presents, and but a scanty share of the Provincial Parliamentary Grant."11 The grant included such assistance as salaries for the missionaries and the schoolmaster, and occasional aid in times of hardship.

When the Restigouche Indians inquired in 1796 why they received no presents like the other Indians, they were told that, unlike the others, they would have to come to Quebec.12 In 1841 or 1842 three members of the band council went to England to see the queen about an internal wrangle in the council and about getting a grant for the construction of a new church. As a result of their visit, the governor general sent them £30 for the church.13

The school on the Restigouche reserve was opened in 1856. The government paid $200 annually for the schoolmaster's salary but, according to the 1858 report, the schoolhouse was "built principally by the Indians." A school was established on the Maria reserve on the Cascapédia River in 1864, the teacher there being paid $220 per annum. The children were taught in English. Although Micmac was certainly still the Indians' first language, many of them spoke English and a few spoke French.14

The government policy towards the Indians of Gaspé was not one of "benign neglect"; it was simple lack of interest. Two issues which particularly vexed the Micmacs of Gaspé were the government's handling of the disputes between Indians and Europeans over land claims, and the salmon fisheries.

The Indian Land Question

After the British troops left Chaleur Bay in the autumn of 1760, the commanding officer of Fort Cumberland on the Chignecto Isthmus, Captain Roderick Mackenzie, received a letter from Joseph Glaude, chief of the Restigouche Micmacs. The letter, delivered by the chief's son and nephew, was dated 7 January 1761. Mackenzie found it very difficult to understand because of its strange grammar. It was written in French, but there is no indication whether Chief Glaude wrote it himself or had someone else write it for him.

The letter indicates that the Indians realised that the British had replaced the French as the political masters of the area. They asked for British assistance in the form of provisions and protection from the Acadians whom they said were trespassing on their hunting and fishing grounds. They also claimed that the Acadians in the area were constructing new boats with the intention of working as pirates raiding shipping in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This claim was exaggerated, but it indicates that the bad feeling between Acadians and Micmacs dates from very early. When the Acadians wrote Mackenzie a little later, they advised him not to listen to the Indians for they could not be trusted.

On 23 February 1761 Captain Mackenzie sent the two young Micmacs back to the Restigouche with an answer that they should be assured that "the great King, George, is willing to receive you into his Protection and Friendship; otherwise I would not write an answer to your letter, as I do." Mackenzie said he was "well pleased with the information you sent me as to the vessels the Acadians are building, and you may be assured that you will be well Rewarded for any services you do to the English." He promised them that English ships would be sent to destroy the Acadian ships and to prevent them from interfering in the Micmacs' hunting and fishing. Mackenzie's superior officer in Halifax approved the reply to the Indians and in the autumn MacKenzie visited Nepisiguit (now Bathurst, New Brunswick), Caraquet and Shippegan with an armed force and removed some Acadians from this southern shore of Chaleur Bay. He did not visit the Restigouche or the north shore of the bay because of the lateness of the season nor did he fulfill his promise of protection.15

On 7 October 1763 the king issued his proclamation concerning the future administration of his new territories recently acquired from the French. The proclamation created the new colony of Quebec and provided for a governor and council. The new colony was

bounded on the Labrador Coast by the River St. John, and from thence by a Line drawn from the Head of that River through the Lake St. John, to the South end of the Lake Nipissim; from whence the said Line, crossing the River St. Lawrence, and the Lake Champlain, in 45. Degrees of North Latitude, passes along the High Lands which divide the Rivers that empty themselves into the said River St. Lawrence from those which fall into the Sea; and also along the North Coast of the Baye des Chaleurs, and the Coast of the Gulph of St. Lawrence to Cape Rosieres, and from thence crossing the Mouth of the River St. Lawrence by the West End of the Island of Anticosti, terminates at the aforesaid River St. John.16

Gaspé was thus part of the new colony of Quebec. The territory outside Quebec and the other British colonies was set aside as Indian land.

With regard to Indian policy the proclamation read:

And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our Interest, and the Security of our Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who live under our protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds.17

It has been a matter of debate18 whether this policy was intended to apply exclusively to the Indian lands outside the established colonies or if it applied to Quebec as well. In the years immediately following the issuance of the proclamation, the governor of Quebec and his council apparently considered that this policy did indeed apply to Quebec as well, as can be seen in the council's attitude towards lands in Gaspé.

Shortly after the Conquest there was a small rush by Europeans to acquire land in Gaspé and among the requests was one by a certain Marie-Joseph Philibot for 20,000 acres on the Restigouche. Indeed, Philibot had been granted title to this land on 18 June 1766 by a decree from the Court of St. James. However, in December of the same year a committee of the governor's council in Quebec annulled the grant on the grounds that the land concerned was considered to be the "property of the Indians and as such by His Majesty's express command as set forth in his Proclamation in 1763, not within their power to grant."19

In May 1767 the council again rejected a land application, this time from "Hugh Finlay, in behalf of certain Acadians for a grant of a Tract of land upon or near the River Restigouche in the Bay of Chaleur." The council argued that "the lands mentioned in the Petition are lands claimed by the Indians whose right has not yet been ascertained — till it is no grant should be given that may prejudice their claim." In 1775 the colonial secretary cautioned against challenging Indian claims on the Restigouche.20

In 1780 the Restigouche band again petitioned the governor at Quebec to stop the Acadians from trespassing on their hunting grounds. The petition this time was in English and may have been written by the two local merchants who signed as witnesses. Their interest in the matter is accounted for with a remark that the Indians are "very willing" to trade with any English merchant who visited them, as the two witnesses could testify. But the principal issue of the petition concerned the Acadians who persisted in hunting and fishing in Indian territory. The Indians claimed all the land from the Cascapédia River to the Restigouche and stated that the governor had granted them these lands and the Restigouche River itself "as our property for us and our children forever." In 1765 Chief Glaude had claimed an area including all land between the Restigouche and Cascapèdia, and since this claim was officially noted in the Quebec census of 1765, perhaps the Indians felt that this meant that the governor accepted their claim.21

In 1780 Governor Haldimand wrote Lieutenant Governor Cox asking for more information about the case. Haldimand felt that the Indians "must be supported in whatever Rights or Privileges respecting their Hunting etc. they are entitled to at Restigouche but at the same Time, by no means to take any step by which a fair and tree Trader may be injured."22 But everyone was too busy with the war at the time and nothing could be done immediately.

By February 1783 the war had subsided somewhat and the Acadians took the opportunity to petition the governor, complaining that the Indians had become more aggressive recently. It appears that because of the war there were no fish exporters operating on Chaleur Bay and a growing number of Acadians had been forced to turn to hunting and agriculture, both of which involved the use of lands claimed by the Indians. The Acadians complained that the Micmacs prevented them from setting traps in the woods, from cutting marsh hay which was useless to the Indians and from salmon fishing even though there was enough for everyone.23

Felix O'Hara, as senior magistrate of the District of Gaspé, was sent to the Restigouche to investigate, and later reported the feelings of the Micmacs to Haldimand.

God, and Nature, they say put them in Possession of Rustiguish, with all the Lands, Rivers, Lakes etc. Contiguous thereto, and That Them and theirs has Enjoy'd uninterrupted possession of the same, from Time Immemorial. . . . I observed to the Chief that I could not see how the Indians could be sufferers by leting the Acadiens cut the Hay on each side of the River, as they themselves did not pretend to make use of the same. He was not long in convincing me that in this I was mistaken; he sagaciously pointed out that by Cutting away the Grass, they were deprived of their lurking places, where they could creep to their Game undiscovered. But now that it's gone Their Game has forsaken their usual haunts, which often reduces them to extream want. They seem'd much pleased when I gave them to understand That your Excellency would see them done Justice to.24

In 1784 Father Bourg, missionary to the Acadians, asked Lieutenant Governor Cox to mediate the dispute though Bourg himself felt that the Indians were mostly to blame. His petition includes the first indication that the Acadians were actually paying a fee to the Indians for the hay which they cut.25 Cox arrived within ten days, met with both groups at Tracadigash (Carleton) and imposed his own solution.26 Cox formalized the tradition that the Acadians should pay the Indians one dollar per year per cow to cut hay on the Restigouche marshes. He also confirmed to the Indians the "sole & usual right of hunting & fishing in & contiguous to the said River Restigouche." The arrangement, which was to "remain during pleasure," also appeared to create a buffer zone which both groups could use for hunting. The zone had as its eastern boundary a line drawn north-south from the Nouvelle River "to the Island called Islo"; its western boundary would appear to have been a similar line one league to the west. It is difficult to pinpoint on a map the island called "Islo," but a year later Charles Robin mentioned in his journal having lunched "at the slots," five hours' march from Pointe de la Mission.27

Cox's solution was committed to writing and signed by Micmac and Acadian representatives. In communicating the document to Haldimand, Cox made it clear that it was intended to serve as only a temporary arrangement. He noted that "as the Accadians have increased in number, and [are] now stronger than the Savages, they would soon have forced a Settlement, for their common conversation is they could soon beat them out of the Province." He emphasized that a definitive boundary line would have to be drawn soon. The next year (1785) Judge O'Hara visited the Indians again, reported on the tense situation and again urged an early solution.28

It was obvious that the situation was becoming serious for it was at this time that a third and even more aggressive group, the Loyalists, was being introduced into this region of unsettled title. As early as 1780 the Mann family had asked for and received 2,000 acres of land on Chaleur Bay west of the Nouvelle River, which the Indians now claimed as their eastern limits, and west of the buffer zone Cox was to set aside four years later. In their petition they had added that they hoped that "when the Indians remove further from the Western boundary of the Tract, it may be enlarged by a new grant."29

In his 1783 report on land for Loyalist settlement, Justus Sherwood mentioned the Nouvelle River, where he found "a large body of good land, but the Restigouche Indians claim it, as they do all the Meadows up the Restigouche River, which are the largest and finest that I know of in the world."30 Haldimand realised that when the Loyalists came to Gaspé the Indian lands would be under new pressure and directed Lieutenant Governor Cox to

consider those Indians under your protection, and not permit their rights to be in any respect invaded, by suffering any persons to interfere with their Salmon Fishery, or to cut Hay upon their Land, without first obtaining their consent, and allowing them such compensation as they shall require.31

By 1786 the Loyalists were settled on Chaleur Bay and the new governor, Lord Dorchester, made an attempt to resolve the boundary question definitively. He sent Cox and Deputy Surveyor General John Collins to meet with three chiefs of the band over a period of three days between 29 June and 1 July.

The Indians made two claims: all the land from the Nouvelle River to the Restigouche and the exclusive right to the salmon fishery on that river. On the third day Cox and Collins reminded the Micmacs that the French had granted some of this land as a seigneury, but the English king only wanted to help them so he had recently purchased the land which "we are persuaded that his representative Sir Guy Carleton [Lord Dorchester] . . . will give up to accommodate you." In return they hoped the Indians would "give up a portion of your extensive claims to settle others of his children the English & Acadians. . . . We have reason to believe that from our representations you will receive a just equivalent not less useful to you than what you sacrifice." In return for renouncing their claims in the area of the Nouvelle River and Pointe Miguasha, "an extensive tract along the Western Bank of the River Restigouche to its source will we doubt not be assigned to you for the purposes of the chase . . . & further that in exchange for this trifling concession you will receive a gratuity from the British Government more valuable to you." With respect to the Restigouche salmon fishery, "we are well assured that [Lord Dorchester] . . . will continue to protect you in all your ancient rights and privileges." Cox and Collins reported that the band "consented peaceably to assign for His Majesty the Great River Nouvelle and Point Macguache."32 Although Cox and Collins said that they came to the Restigouche to arrange "a final settlement," it must be noted that they could never make fixed promises for the governor and his council would have had to approve them; nevertheless, they did give the Indians the impression that many good things would be done for them.

None of the assurances made by the commissioners was to be fulfilled:

(1) The truth about the seigneury was far from what Cox and Collins claimed. In 1786 the government was only thinking about buying the Deneau and Restigouche seigneuries and it was another ten years before the purchase was consummated. Besides, the government at this time was actually planning to use it as land for further Loyalist settlement, not for Indians. Furthermore, the commissioners exaggerated the extent of the land involved.33

(2) The "extensive tract" on the west (or south) bank of the Restigouche River was not even in the Province of Quebec but in New Brunswick so Cox and Collins had no authority to make such a promise.

(3) The "valuable" gratuity was never heard of again.

(4) The protection of the Indians' "ancient rights and privileges" in the Restigouche salmon fishery was quickly forgotten.

In any case, the arrangement appears to have been rejected by the governor or his council. A report on the matter, written by John Shoolbred, was read to the council on 2 March 1787. It listed numerous reasons against granting such a large tract of land to the Micmacs despite the fact that it acknowledged that "Messrs. Cox and Collins have . . . given assurances to the Indians that Government here will Confirm their Right." The basic objection was that it was foolish to grant the territory "to a Description of Men, who do not know how to improve it." British settlers would exploit the fisheries more efficiently and consequently encourage trade, manufacturing and shipping. Besides, the salmon which the Indians currently bartered to the traders were poorly preserved and partly spoiled because they were speared rather than netted; such fish could only be sold in the West Indies for low prices. As well, if the Indians became too involved in the salmon fishery, the small fur-trading production of the area would totally disappear. Instead, the report suggested, the Indians should be given a grant in the interior with a limited access to the river.34

Isaac Mann had already applied for some of the land and five months after the report was read the council approved his request. The council commented,

It is recommended that Lieut. Governor Cox be directed to send up a statement to His Lordship of such presents as will be necessary to extinguish the claims of the Indians to the hunting grounds offered by them to be given up, as mentioned in a Report of Lieut. Governor Cox and Mr. Collins's, dated the 29th of June, 1st of July 1786.35

The council simply accepted the Indians' cession of their land claims, ignored what Cox and Collins had "assured" them in return, and decided to send some presents instead. There is no evidence to suggest that the gifts ever arrived.

The Restigouche Indians apparently were not notified of this change in policy. What happened was that land was simply granted to Loyalists on both sides of the Indians, leaving them a small tract around their church at Pointe de la Mission. William Vondenvelden, who surveyed the area in November 1787, drew a line between the Micmacs and Isaac Mann, their neighbour to the east, running north 45 degrees west, two chains past Pointe a la Croix. A subsequent description dated 22 May 1788, written by Vondenvelden's superior, John Collins, shows this boundary as bearing north 12 degrees east, which was more natural for it would be parallel to all the other boundary lines in the area, including the eastern boundary of Mann's lot. Vondenvelden also drew the western boundary of the Indian land parallel to north 12 degrees east, with the result that 200 Indians were left with a triangular lot of 840 acres "for the purposes of the chase," while the Mann family received 2,000 acres for their farm in addition to their several hundred acres near New Carlisle. Apparently two minutes were issued by the governor's council, one ordering a grant on the Vondenvelden lines and the other on the Collins line. Thus the boundary remained unsettled.

The Gaspé Land Commission, which was created to adjudicate boundary disputes in the early 1820s, ruled in favour of the Mann family and the Vondenvelden survey. The Indians could have appealed the ruling but, according to their missionary, did not know that they could do so. When they did protest in the 1830s, the government again favoured the Vondenvelden survey. The explanation given was that Collins, working in Quebec, had simply used a line parallel to the others, while Vondenvelden, working in the field, knew the local situation better and gave Mann an extra portion of land which he needed for his farm. Collins, of course, had been well acquainted with the local situation: after all, he had been one of the agents who had met the Indians in 1786 and he had been surveying in Gaspé since at least 1765.36

In any case, it is evident that the Micmacs of the Restigouche did abandon their claims to the territory around the Nouvelle River and Pointe Miguasha. They did not get the hunting grounds assured them by Cox and Collins, nor the gratuity, nor the new lands on the New Brunswick side of the river, nor the exclusive rights to salmon fishing in the Restigouche. With the arrival of the Loyalists and the prevalence of large Acadian families, the European population of the area quickly surpassed that of the Indians and the latter became quite passive for a generation.

It was the Acadians who disputed the large grant given to Isaac Mann. In 1790 they sent two petitions to the governor complaining that for many years they had been accustomed to paying the Indians an annual fee to cut hay on this land and therefore felt that they had some claim to it. (A copy of one rental agreement between the Indian chief and an Acadian is in the archives of the Restigouche Indian mission.37) In an appearance before the land committee of the governor's council, Mann pointed out that since the Acadians paid rent to the Indians, it was clear that they had no title to the hay marshes. He also noted that the government had cleared all Indian claims to the land before granting it to him. The committee accepted Mann's argument and Mann said he would allow the Acadians to rent from him;38 however, it must be noted that Mann was in an advantageous position for he had been a local justice of the peace since November 1788 and a member of the land board of the District of Gaspé since March 1789. As well, his son Isaac Junior was a judge of the local Court of Common Pleas and another son, Thomas, was the sheriff of the entire Gaspé district.39 In 1819 the Acadians again complained to the governor general that Isaac Mann Junior was "all powerful in those remote places." As a justice of the peace he imprisoned them "and with his tyrannical Dominion" over the Indians he induced the latter to be hostile to the Acadians.40

In 1812 Monseigneur Plessis visited the Restigouche Indian mission and reported on the apathy of the Indians. The Europeans tricked them out of their land, cut their hay and used their fishing grounds but they offered no resistance. Plessis recognized Mann as "un de leurs spoliateurs et assurément le plus subtil," but when Mann invited him to dinner he accepted gladly for the meal was sure to better than what the Indians had been feeding him. He reported that "la soirée se passa fort agréablement."41 The Gaspé Land Commission (1819-25) affirmed the 840-acre triangular lot and the matter of native land rights on Chaleur Bay was considered settled. As Robert Christie, a member of the commission, stated in 1826, any relief given the Indians should not be based on legal merit but on the governor general's pleasure or charity.42 When Governor General Lord Dalhousie visited Gaspé in 1826, he offered the Indians £600 and twice as much land on Lake Matapédia if they would resign their title, but they refused to leave the land of their forefathers.43 Christie soon became actively involved in the issue for he bought the Mann family's lands by sheriff's sale. Perhaps it was due to the insecurity of his elected position in the legislative assembly that he became desirous of selling some of his land to the government for the Indians.

In the 1830s the Indians threw off their apathy and occupied 1,200 to 1,500 acres they felt they had been cheated out of by the late Isaac Mann. Joseph Duchesnay, a government official, tried to enlist the aid of the missionary to intercede with the Indians on behalf of the government, but the priest was either unable or unwilling to persuade the Indians to withdraw. Duchesnay, earlier a member of the Gaspé Land Commission, reported that the Indians had had 12 months to appeal the adjudication of the commission, "but they never attempted it, if they had they could not succeed to have it reversed"; however, he felt that it was "most desireable & necessary to their wellfare" to allot them additional land.44

The surveyor whom the government sent to report on Christie's land concluded that the Indians did not need all they were claiming and evaluated only about half of it. Christie, dissatisfied with this decision and the price per acre, called upon locals who were more familiar with the situation for a re-evaluation which resulted in a higher price per acre.45 He also supported the Indians' case that they "no doubt have been neglected and have a strong claim upon Government from the manner in which they were dealt with at the outset of the settlement of this River."46

Christie asked two local justices of the peace, long-time residents of the area, to help the Indians plead their case. The result was a lengthy petition dated 21 May 1838. According to it, although the Indians feared that their numbers were diminishing, a large number of families were still trying to subsist on a very small plot of land. The land produced only a few potatoes and was now stripped of all firewood and its hunting and fishing resources were "in a manner exhausted." The petition includes a copy of the Collins-Cox account of their conference of 1786.47

In 1840 a government agent was sent to the bay to investigate the needs of the Restigouche Indians. In his report he recommended they be given a grant inland from their reserve to provide them with their fuel requirements, that they be instructed in agriculture and be given a school for their children. If the government had no money for a teacher, he suggested that it be taken from the £75 annual grant paid to the missionary who visited them only rarely.48

In 1843 the government asked A. Russell, superintendent of the Kempt Road construction project, to look into the matter. He knew the local Indians well, having employed them in construction work, and found them "sober, virtuous, quiet and industrious." In his report Russell notes that the Indians had recently shown an interest in agriculture and suggested that the government encourage this interest by supplying seeds and equipment; however, he made no reference to land requirements.49

In 1845 the government approved, by order in council, the principle of granting the Micmacs of the Restigouche "the unused Tract of Land of Ten or Twelve Miles Square as a Reserve from which they may supply themselves with fuel."50 Three years later the commissioner of crown lands confirmed that such land was available.51 No further steps had been taken by 1850, the delay possibly due to difficulties financing a survey, so the chief of the band wrote the governor general offering to pay for the undertaking.52 A large grant of land in the rear of their original grant was finally awarded the Indians in 1851 by an Act of the provincial assembly.53 When the band again petitioned the government in 1857 for the long-disputed tract granted Isaac Mann, the government replied that this claim had been "fairly settled by the appropriation" of 1851,54 an admission, perhaps, that the Indians had been right all along. A similar statement is made in the Report of the Special Commissioners of Indian Affairs of 1858 which also notes that the reserve was subject to "extensive encroachments" due to the "cupidity of the neighbouring settlers."55 Although the Indians protested the trespasses, the offences continued unchecked.

The 1858 report stated that the exact size of the 1851 addition had not yet been settled. The original grant had been for 9,600 acres but a few European squatters had occupied some of it. The report recommended that the Indians be recompensed, for the squatters" rights had been recognised and now the reserve totalled only 8,916 acres.56 The matter was further confused by a letter dated 24 April 1871 which said that the additional grant of 1851 had totalled 9,642 acres.57 In 1913 the reserve as a whole was reported to cover 8,869 acres.58

The Salmon Fisheries

The most important dietary staple of the Micmacs of Gaspé was salmon and, as noted earlier, the two best salmon rivers of Gaspé were the Restigouche and the Cascapédia. Europeans were established at the mouths of these rivers as early as the 1760s, trading for salmon and fishing for themselves. After a few years it became evident that the salmon were becoming depleted. An estimated 6,000 barrels of salmon were caught in the Restigouche in 1790 but by 1823 production had fallen to 1,000 barrels. The Indians were blamed for taking salmon before they spawned, but it was the Europeans who totally blocked some streams with nets and later with dams built for lumber mills, which, in turn, choked the rivers with logs, bark and sawdust.

In 1786 Cox and Collins had "assured" the Indians the exclusive right to the salmon fishery of the Restigouche River, even though half of it was in New Brunswick. In 1807 the government took its first legislative steps to try to conserve the salmon resources of the area. Salmon fishing was forbidden between 15 August and 1 December except by the Indians for their own use, and nets and seines were prohibited above the first rapids of both the Restigouche and Cascapédia rivers.59

In 1824 a new Gaspé Fisheries Act imposed further restrictions. The off season was lengthened; everyone, including the Indians, was forbidden to fish for salmon after 1 August. The Indians were not to use weirs to catch salmon nor to fish at night by means of torches at any time of the year. No one was allowed to trade for or buy salmon from the Indians at any time on any river in Gaspé.60

Although these laws were often difficult to administer, they still proved a hardship to the Micmacs. The 1824 law was particularly so and the government realised it. The Indians suffered the very first summer61 and when Dalhousie visited Gaspé in 1826 he gave them some special gifts "in consideration of their destitute state this year, arising out of the hardships occasioned by the Act of the Provincial Parliament, for the protection and regulation of the salmon fisheries."62 By 1828 the Indians were in such poor straits that they were apparently ready to rise up and drive all the European residents from the area. Father Faucher, their priest, succeeded in calming them with the assurance that the law would be changed the next year.63 Faucher knew that the 1824 Act was due to expire in 1829 and, indeed, a new Act in 1829 did drop many of the restrictions which were particularly harmful to the Indians.64 By 1839 the legislature had enacted a new law restoring all the old restrictions and shortening the fishing season to the period before 20 July;65 however, many of these restrictions were dropped again by the legislature of the new United Province of Canada in 1841.66

In dealing with the Indians of the Cascapdia the government was more straightforward; it gave them no assurances of exclusive fishing rights. When the Indians had met with Lieutenant Governor Cox in 1784 and claimed all the land from the Restigouche to the Nouvelle River and the Cascapédia River as well, there were only four or five Indian families permanently living on the Cascapédia.67 At that time Cox felt that the Indian claim was "unreasonable" and the Cascapédia Micmacs never gained exclusive rights to the fishery on that river; however, their occupation of the west bank was tolerated and eventually accepted.

By 1840 there were 18 families (71 people) reported on the Cascapédia, cultivating 12 acres of land.68 In 1858 the special commissioners on Indian Affairs reported "83 persons divided among 18 families, who support themselves principally by fishing. It would be desireable to concentrate these Stragglers in the Reserve at Mission Point."69 The Cascapédia Indians were also accustomed to using Ile du Cheval (Horse Isle) for maple sugaring. This island in the Cascapédia River covered an area about equal to the present reserve. In 1846 they complained to the superintendent of Indian Affairs that the land commissioner had sold the island to an European. The superintendent replied that he regretted the sale but that nothing could be done about it now. The Indians submitted another complaint in 1896, but were told that they had been granted land on the Cascapédia as a reserve "in satisfaction of their claims to other lands."70 The reserve was called Maria, taking its name from the township wherein it is located and which was named for Maria Carleton, wife of Governor Carleton. The reserve now covers 416 acres, its title based on Indian occupancy "from time immemorial."71

Not occupying a strategic area, the Micmacs of Gaspé were of little importance to the government and consequently received little attention. The few times the Indians dealt with the government gave them every reason to distrust it for it usually appeared to side with the European settlers of Gaspé. Intermarriage between the Europeans and Indians did not result in an integrated society and, indeed, relations between the two groups before 1867 were often hostile. The Indians of Gaspé certainly felt no affinity towards the rest of the population of Gaspé or towards the Province of Canada and its government.

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