Native Languages of the Americas: Mi'kmaq (Mi'kmawi'simk, Mi'kmaw, Micmac, Mikmaq)
Language: The Mi'kmaq language, Míkmawísimk, is an
Algonquian language spoken by 8000 Indians in the Canadian Maritimes
(particularly Nova Scotia) and a few US communities. The Mi'kmaq dialect spoken in Quebec is called Restigouche (or Listuguj) and can be hard
for other native speakers to understand.
Mi'kmaq is written alphabetically today, but in the past it was written in
pictographs. Though these pictographs were modified by Jesuit missionaries,
who used them to teach Christian prayers to Micmac people, they
probably predated European contact. Micmac hieroglyphics do not resemble Ancient Egyptian or Mayan hieroglyphs;
see here for an explanation of these different writing systems.
Mi'kmaq is not linguistically related to Ancient Egyptian or any other semitic languages.
The Mi'kmaq language is entirely native to the New World
and is related to other major North American Indian languages like Lenape,
Ojibwe, and Cree.
Although Mi'kmaq is one of the healthier American Indian languages, the number of children learning the language has been in decline since the 1970's.
The Mi'kmaq people are working to reverse this trend before their language, like so many others, is threatened with extinction.
Mi'kmaq is a polysynthetic language with complex verb morphology and fairly free word order.
People: The Micmac First Nations are indigenous people of eastern Canada, variously spelled Mi'kmaq, Míkmaq, Mikmak, Mi'gmak, or Mikmaq.
Their original term for themselves was Lnu'k (or L'nu'k), "the people." Mi'kmaq comes from a word in their own language meaning "my friends";
it is the preferred tribal name now, though fluent speakers often use the adjective form, Mi'kmaw.
The Micmacs were sometimes also called Porcupine Indians because of their porcupine-quill art. They were kinfolk and
traditional allies of the Abenaki, Penobscot,
Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet Indians,
with whom they formed the historic Wabanaki Confederacy of New England and the Maritimes.
Traditional Micmac territory is concentrated in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but the Micmac people also had a presence in parts of
Quebec, Newfoundland, and Maine. There are about 25,000 Mi'kmaq Indians today, most of whom still live on their traditional lands.
History: In allying with the French, the Mi'kmaq tribe did not pick the winning
side in the European fight over Nova Scotia; they did, however, pick pretty good friends. Not
only didn't the French massacre the Mi'kmaqs, they kept their own settlements to the
coast and didn't infringe much on Mi'kmaq hunting grounds. For their part, the Mi'kmaq people were
staunch allies of the French in good times and bad, and if the tribe had not been devastated by smallpox
and other European diseases, the history of Nova Scotia might have been written very differently. As it
was, the English, helped by the Mohawk
and other Iroquoians,
did eventually defeat and deport the French, but the Mikmaq tribe remains in the Maritimes to this day.