Micmacs, the most easterly branch of the Algonquin family of Indians, spread over northern New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and Gasp6. They were called by the early French writers Souriquois, and by the neighboring Indians "Salt Water Indians," as they always cling to the seacoast. The Indians taken to England by Cabot in 1497, and to France by Aubert in 1508, were apparently Micmacs. From a very early period they waged fierce war with the Little Esquimaux north of the St. Lawrence. They were expert canoe men, and lived by fishing and hunting. They knew maize and tobacco, but there was no cultivation of maize among them, or indeed east of Saco. When the French under Pe Monts began to settle Canada, the Micmacs were estimated at 3,000 or 3,500, and their greatest chief was Membertou, who is said to have seen Cartier. Missions were soon begun, and the French secured permanently the friendship of the Micmacs. They figure in many of the border wars, and after the English established Annapolis, the Micmacs destroyed Capt. Pigeon's force at Bloodv Creek in 1711. They constantly plundered English vessels on the coast, in 1722 taking several in the bay of Fundy, and 18 in the harbors, They cruised along in their prizes, and actually engaged two British armed vessels sent out against them.
They attacked Annapolis in 1724 and 1744, Port Lajoie in 1746, and the fort at Mines in 1749, capturing a lieutenant and 18 men; and in 1751 they took Dartmouth, opposite Halifax. Band after band made peace, but it was not till 1760 that the Richibucto Micmacs, the most warlike and formidable, laid down their arms. A series of treaties followed, and the Micmacs submitted to English rule. From 1783 to 1841 reservations were allotted to them in New Brunswick, and in other colonies attempts were made to induce them to become agricultural; but they were strongly averse to it, and in 1844 New Brunswick began a series of acts for selling the land. Nova Scotia and Cape Breton did the same, investing the proceeds for the benefit of the Indians. Catholic missions have existed among them from early times, and Protestant missions have been actively maintained for several years past. In 1873 the Micmacs were estimated at 1,765 in Nova Scotia, and 1,386 in New Brunswick; there were 400 on Cape Breton in 1861, and 70 in Newfoundland; so that they are about as numerous as they were 270 years ago. The Micmacs worshipped the sun. Papkootparout, the governor and ruler of the land of souls, was their great benefactor, having given them corn and tobacco. Glooscap is another great mythical character.
Le Clercq, toward the close of the 17th century, found at Gaspe great reverence for the cross, and many theories were based on the fact; but Lescarbot many years before mentions their setting up crosses in imitation of the French. They made no pottery, had no hemp like neighboring tribes, made breech cloths and mantles of skins, strings for bows and fishing lines of intestines, and lodges of bark or skins. They had a system of hieroglyphics more comprehensive than has been found in other northern tribes. Le Clercq, seeing boys take down the prayers he was teaching them, adopted and improved these hieroglyphics, and as finally established they are still employed. Three books in this character have long been in use among them in manuscript, and one was recently printed at Vienna. A grammar of the Micmac language, by the abbe Maillard, revised by Bel-lenger, was printed at New York in 1864; and portions of Scripture, tracts, and books of devotion have been printed in the language, some in phonetic characters and some in ordinary type.