The Mi'kmaq or Mi'gmaq (also Micmac, L'nu, Mi'kmaw or Mi'gmaw; English: /ˈmɪkmæk/; Mi'kmaq: [miːɡmax]) are a First Nations people indigenous to Canada's Atlantic Provinces and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec as well as the northeastern region of Maine. They call their national territory Mi'kma'ki (or Mi'gma'gi). The nation has a population of about 170,000 (including 18,044 members in the recently formed Qalipu First Nation in Newfoundland), of whom nearly 11,000 speak Mi'kmaq, an Eastern Algonquian language. Once written in Mi'kmaq hieroglyphic writing, it is now written using most letters of the Latin alphabet.
The Santé Mawiómi, or Grand Council, was the traditional senior level of government for the Mi'kmaq people until Canada passed the Indian Act (1876) to require First Nations to establish representative elected governments. After implementation of the Indian Act, the Grand Council took on a more spiritual function. The Grand Council was made up of chiefs of the seven district councils of Mi'kma'ki.
On September 26, 2011 the Government of Canada announced the recognition of Canada's newest Mi'kmaq First Nations Band, the Qalipu First Nations in Newfoundland and Labrador. The new band, which is landless, had accepted 25,000 applications to become part of the band by October 2012 , The number of applications received by the application deadline on November 30, 2012 exceeded 100,000; as of January 2013, the majority of those had not been processed. The band extended the deadline to January 31, 2014, and then to February 10, 2014. Its members are recognized as Status Indians, joining other organized and recognized Mi'kmaq bands in southeast Canada.
A Mi'kmaq father and child at Tufts Cove, Nova Scotia, around 1871
|168,480 (2016 census)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Canada, United States (Maine)|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||36,470|
|Prince Edward Island||2,330|
|English, Mi'kmaq, French|
|Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic), Mi'kmaq traditionalism and spirituality, others|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Abenaki Maliseet Passamaquoddy Penobscot|
The ethnonym has traditionally been spelled Micmac in English. The people themselves have used different spellings: Mi’kmaq (singular Mi’kmaw) in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland; Miigmaq (Miigmao) in New Brunswick; Mi’gmaq by the Listuguj Council in Quebec; and Mìgmaq (Mìgmaw) in some native literature.
Until the 1980s, "Micmac" remained the most common spelling in English. Although still used, for example in Ethnologue, this spelling has fallen out of favour in recent years. Most scholarly publications now use the spelling Mi'kmaq, as preferred by the people. The media has adopted this spelling practice, acknowledging that the Mi'kmaq consider the spelling Micmac as "colonially tainted". The Mi'kmaq prefer to use one of the three current Mi'kmaq orthographies when writing the language.
Lnu (the adjectival and singular noun, previously spelled "L'nu"; the plural is Lnúk, Lnu’k, Lnu’g, or Lnùg) is the term the Mi'kmaq use for themselves, their autonym, meaning "human being" or "the people".
Various explanations exist for the origin of the term Mi'kmaq. The Mi'kmaw Resource Guide says that "Mi'kmaq" means "the family":
The definite article "the" suggests that "Mi'kmaq" is the undeclined form indicated by the initial letter "m". When declined in the singular it reduces to the following forms: nikmaq - my family; kikmaq - your family; wikma - his/her family. The variant form Mi'kmaw plays two grammatical roles: 1) It is the singular of Mi'kmaq and 2) it is an adjective in circumstances where it precedes a noun (e.g., mi'kmaw people, mi'kmaw treaties, mi'kmaw person, etc.)
The Anishinaabe refer to the Mi'kmaq as Miijimaa(g), meaning "The Brother(s)/Ally(ies)", with the use of the nX prefix m-, opposed to the use of n1 prefix n- (i.e. Niijimaa(g), "my brother(s)/comrade(s)") or the n3 prefix w- (i.e., Wiijimaa(g), "brother(s)/compatriot(s)/comrade(s)").
Other hypotheses include the following:
The name "Micmac" was first recorded in a memoir by de La Chesnaye in 1676. Professor Ganong in a footnote to the word megamingo (earth), as used by Marc Lescarbot, remarked "that it is altogether probable that in this word lies the origin of the name Micmac." As suggested in this paper on the customs and beliefs of the Micmacs, it would seem that megumaagee the name used by the Micmacs, or the Megumawaach, as they called themselves, for their land, is from the words megwaak, "red", and magumegek, "on the earth", or as Rand recorded, "red on the earth," megakumegek, "red ground," "red earth." The Micmacs, then, must have thought of themselves as the Red Earth People, or the People of the Red Earth. Others seeking a meaning for the word Micmac have suggested that it is from nigumaach, my brother, my friend, a word that was also used as a term of endearment by a husband for his wife... Still another explanation for the word Micmac suggested by Stansbury Hagar in "Micmac Magic and Medicine" is that the word megumawaach is from megumoowesoo, the name of the Micmacs' legendary master magicians, from whom the earliest Micmac wizards are said to have received their power.
Members of the Mi'kmaq historically referred to themselves as Lnu, but used the term níkmaq (my kin) as a greeting. The French initially referred to the Mi'kmaq as Souriquois and later as Gaspesiens, or (transliterated through English) Mickmakis. The British originally referred to them as Tarrantines.
Archaeologist Dean Snow says that the fairly deep linguistic split between the Mi'kmaq and the Eastern Algonquians to the southwest suggests the Mi'kmaq developed an independent prehistoric sequence in their territory. It emphasized maritime orientation, as the area had relatively few major river systems. According to ethnologist T. J. Brasser, as the indigenous people lived in a climate unfavorable for agriculture, small semi-nomadic bands of a few patrilineally related families subsisted on fishing and hunting. Developed leadership did not extend beyond hunting parties.
The Mi'kmaq lived in an annual cycle of seasonal movement between living in dispersed interior winter camps and larger coastal communities during the summer. The spawning runs of March began their movement to converge on smelt spawning streams. They next harvested spawning herring, gathered waterfowl eggs, and hunted geese. By May, the seashore offered abundant cod and shellfish, and coastal breezes brought relief from the biting black flies, stouts, midges and mosquitoes of the interior. Autumn frost killed the biting insects during the September harvest of spawning American eels. Smaller groups would disperse into the interior where they hunted moose and caribou. The most important animal hunted by the Mi'kmaq was the moose, which was used in every part: for example, the meat was processed for food, the skin for clothing, tendons and sinew for cordage, and bones for carving and tools. Other animals hunted/trapped included deer, caribou, bear, rabbit, beaver, porcupine and small animals.
Bear teeth and claws were used as decoration in regalia. The women also used porcupine quills to create decorative beadwork on clothing, moccasins, and accessories. The weapon used most for hunting was the bow and arrow. The Mi'kmaq made their bows from maple. They would store lobsters in the ground for later consumption. They ate fish of all kinds, such as salmon, sturgeon, lobster, squid, shellfish, and eels, as well as seabirds and their eggs. They hunted marine mammals: porpoises, whales, walrus, and seals.
Throughout the Maritimes, moose was the most important animal to the Mi'kmaq. It was their second main source of meat, clothing and cordage, which were all crucial commodities. They usually hunted moose in groups of 3 to 5 men. Before the moose hunt, they would starve their dogs for two days to make them fierce in helping to finish off the moose. To kill the moose, they would injure it first, by using a bow and arrow or other weapons. After it was down, they would move in to finish it off with spears and their dogs. The guts would be fed to the dogs. During this whole process, the men would try to direct the moose in the direction of the camp, so that the women would not have to go as far to drag the moose back. A boy became a man in the eyes of the community after he had killed his first moose. It marked the passage after which he earned the right to marry. Once moose were introduced to the island of Newfoundland, the practice of hunting moose with dogs was used in the Bay of Islands region of the province.
The Mi'kmaq territory was the first portion of North America that Europeans exploited at length for resource extraction. Reports by John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, and Portuguese explorers about conditions there encouraged visits by Portuguese, Spanish, Basque, French, and English fishermen and whalers, beginning in the early years of the 16th century. Early European fishermen salted their catch at sea and sailed directly home with it. But they set up camps ashore as early as 1520 for dry-curing cod. During the second half of the century, dry curing became the preferred preservation method.
These European fishing camps traded with Mi'kmaq fishermen; and trading rapidly expanded to include furs. By 1578 some 350 European ships were operating around the Saint Lawrence estuary. Most were independent fishermen, but increasing numbers were exploring the fur trade.
Trading furs for European trade goods changed Mi'kmaq social perspectives. Desire for trade goods encouraged the men devoting a larger portion of the year away from the coast trapping in the interior. Trapping non-migratory animals, such as beaver, increased awareness of territoriality. Trader preferences for good harbors resulted in greater numbers of Mi'kmaq gathering in fewer summer rendezvous locations. This in turn encouraged their establishing larger bands, led by the ablest trade negotiators.
The Mi'kmaq territory was divided into seven traditional districts. Each district had its own independent government and boundaries. The independent governments had a district chief and a council. The council members were band chiefs, elders, and other worthy community leaders. The district council was charged with performing all the duties of any independent and free government by enacting laws, justice, apportioning fishing and hunting grounds, making war and suing for peace.
The eight Mi'kmaq districts (including Taqamkuk which is often not counted) are:
Note : The orthography between parentheses is the one used in the Gespe'gewa'gi area.
In addition to the district councils, the M'ikmaq had a Grand Council or Santé Mawiómi. The Grand Council was composed of Keptinaq (captains in English), who were the district chiefs. There were also Elders, the Putús (Wampum belt readers and historians, who also dealt with the treaties with the non-natives and other Native tribes), the women's council, and the Grand Chief. The Grand Chief was a title given to one of the district chiefs, who was usually from the Mi'kmaq district of Unamáki or Cape Breton Island. This title was hereditary within a clan and usually passed on to the Grand Chief's eldest son.
The Grand Council met on a little island on the Bras d'Or lake in Cape Breton called Mniku. Today the site is within the reserve called Chapel Island or Potlotek. To this day, the Grand Council still meets at Mniku to discuss current issues within the Mi'kmaq Nation. Taqamkuk was defined as part of Unama'kik historically and became a separate district at an unknown point in time....
The Mi'kmaq lived in structures called wigwams. They cut down saplings, which were usually spruce, and curved them over a circle drawn on the ground. These saplings were lashed together at the top, and then covered with birch bark. The Mi'kmaq had two different sizes of wigwams. The smaller size could hold 10-15 people and the larger size 15-20 people. Wigwams could be either conical or domed in shape.
On June 24, 1610, Grand Chief Membertou converted to Catholicism and was baptised. He concluded an alliance with the French Jesuits which affirmed the right of Mi'kmaq to choose Catholicism and\or Mi'kmaq tradition. The Mi'kmaq, as trading allies with the French, were amenable to limited French settlement in their midst.
In the wake of King Phillips War between English colonists and Native Americans in southern New England (which included the first military conflict between the Mi'kmaq and New England), the Mi'kmaq became members of the Wapnáki (Wabanaki Confederacy), an alliance with four other Algonquian-language nations: the Abenaki, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet.
The Wabanaki Confederacy were allied with French colonists in Acadia. Over a period of seventy-five years, during six wars in Mi'kma'ki (Acadia and Nova Scotia), the Mi'kmaq fought to keep the British from taking over the region (See the four French and Indian Wars as well as Father Rale's War and Father Le Loutre's War). France lost military control of Acadia in 1710, and political claim (apart from Cape Breton) by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht with England. But the Mí'kmaq were not included in the treaty and never conceded any land to the British.
In 1715, the Mi'kmaq were told that the British now claimed their ancient territory by the Treaty of Utrecht, which the Mi'kmaq were no party to. They formally complained to the French commander at Louisbourg about the French king transferring the sovereignty of their nation when he did not possess it. They were only then informed that the French had claimed legal possession of their country for a century, on account of laws decreed by kings in Europe, that no land could be legally owned by any non-Christian, and that such land was therefore freely available to any Christian prince who claimed it. Mi'kmaw historian Daniel Paul observes that
If this warped law were ever to be accorded recognition by modern legalists they would have to take into consideration that, after Grand Chief Membertou and his family converted to Christianity in 1610, the land of the Mi'kmaq had become exempt from being seized because the people were Christians. However, it's hard to imagine that a modern government would fall back and try to use such uncivilized garbage as justification for non-recognition of aboriginal title.
Along with Acadians, the Mi'kmaq used military force to resist the founding of British (Protestant) settlements by making numerous raids on Halifax, Dartmouth, Lawrencetown and Lunenburg. During the French and Indian War, the North American front of the Seven Years' War between France and Britain in Europe, the Mi'kmaq assisted the Acadians in resisting the British during the Expulsion. The military resistance was reduced significantly with the French defeat at the Siege of Louisbourg (1758) in Cape Breton. In 1763, Great Britain formalized its colonial possession of all of Mi'kmaki in the Treaty of Paris.
The Mí'kmaq signed a series of peace and friendship treaties with Great Britain. The first was after Father Rale's War (1725). In 1725 the British signed a treaty (or "agreement") with the Mi'kmaq, but the rights of the Mi'kmaq defined in it to hunt and fish on their lands have often been disputed by the authorities.
The nation historically consisted of seven districts, which was later expanded to eight with the ceremonial addition of Great Britain at the time of the 1749 treaty.
Chief Jean-Baptiste Cope signed a Peace Treaty in 1752 on behalf of the Shubenacadie Mi'kmaq. With the signing of various treaties, the 75 years of regular warfare ended in 1761 with the Halifax Treaties. According to Historian Stephen Patterson, the British imposed the treaties on the Mi'kmaq to confirm the British conquest of Mi'kma'ki.
According to historian John G. Reid, although the treaties of 1760-61 contain statements of Mi'kmaw submission to the British crown, he believes that the Mi'kmaw intended a friendly and reciprocal relationship. This assertion, Ried proposes, is based on what is known of the surrounding discussions, combined with the strong evidence of later Mi'kmaw statements. Ried suggests that the Mi'kmaw fighters negotiated the Treaties from a position of power (The census data indicates there were about 300 Mi'kmaw fighters in the region compared to thousands of British soldiers). Ried asserts the Mi'kmaw leaders who represented their people in the Halifax negotiations in 1760 had clear goals: to make peace, establish secure and well-regulated trade in commodities such as furs, and begin an ongoing friendship with the British crown. In return, Ried suggests they offered their own friendship and a tolerance of limited British settlement, although without any formal land surrender. To fulfill the reciprocity intended by the Mi'kmaq, Ried reports that any additional British settlement of land would have to be negotiated, and accompanied by giving presents to the Mi'kmaq. (There was a long history of the French giving Mi'kmaq people presents to be accommodated on their land, starting with the first colonial contact.) The documents summarizing the peace agreements failed to establish specific territorial limits on the expansion of British settlements, but assured the Mi’kmaq of access to the natural resources that had long sustained them along the regions’ coasts and in the woods. Their conceptions of land use were quite different. The Mi'kmaq believed they could share the land, with the British growing crops, and their people hunting as usual and getting to the coast for seafood.
The arrival of the New England Planters and United Empire Loyalists in greater number put pressure on land use and the treaties. This migration into the region created significant economic, environmental and cultural pressures on the Mi'kmaq. The Mi'kmaq tried to enforce the treaties through threat of force. At the beginning of the American Revolution, many Mi’kmaq and Maliseet tribes supported the Americans against the British. They participated in the Maugerville Rebellion and the Battle of Fort Cumberland in 1776. (Mí'kmaq delegates concluded the first international treaty, the Treaty of Watertown, with the United States soon after it declared its independence in July 1776. These delegates did not officially represent the Mi'kmaq government, although many individual Mi'kmaq did privately join the Continental army as a result.) In June 1779, Mi’kmaq in the Miramichi valley of New Brunswick attacked and plundered some of the British in the area. The following month, British Captain Augustus Harvey, in command of the HMS Viper, arrived and battled with the Mi’kmaq. One Mi’kmaq was killed and 16 were taken prisoner to Quebec. The prisoners were eventually taken to Halifax. They were released on 28 July 1779 after signing the Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown.
As their military power waned in the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Mi'kmaq people made explicit appeals to the British to honour the treaties and reminded them of their duty to give "presents" to the Mi'kmaq in order to occupy Mi'kma'ki. In response, the British offered charity or, the word most often used by government officials, "relief". The British said the Mi'kmaq must give up their way of life and begin to settle on farms. Also, they were told they had to send their children to British schools for education.
During this time period two colonial figures were honoured at their deaths by the Mi'kmaq. Two hundred Mi'kmaq chanted their death song at the burial of Governor Michael Francklin. They also celebrated the life of Pierre Maillard.
Walter Bromley was a British officer and reformer who established the Royal Acadian School and supported the Mi'kmaq over the thirteen years he lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia (1813-1825). Bromley devoted himself to the service of the Mi'kmaq people. The Mi'kmaq were among the poor of Halifax and in the rural communities. According to historian Judith Finguard, his contribution to give public exposure to the plight of the Mi’kmaq “particularly contributes to his historical significance.” Finguard writes:
Bromley’s attitudes towards the Indians were singularly enlightened for his day…. Bromley totally dismissed the idea that native people were naturally inferior and set out to encourage their material improvement through settlement and agriculture, their talents through education, and their pride through his own study of their languages.
Silas Tertius Rand in 1849 help found the Micmac Missionary Society, a full-time Mi'kmaq mission. Basing his work in Hantsport, Nova Scotia, where he lived from 1853 until his death in 1889, he travelled widely among Mi'kmaq communities, spreading the faith, learning the language, and recording examples of the Mi'kmaq oral tradition. Rand produced scriptural translations in Mi'kmaq and Maliseet, compiled a Mi'kmaq dictionary and collected numerous legends, and through his published work, was the first to introduce the stories of Glooscap to the wider world. The mission was dissolved in 1870. After a long period of disagreement with the Baptist church, he eventually returned to the church in 1885.
The Mi'kmaq practice of playing hockey appeared in recorded colonial histories from as early as the 18th century. Since the nineteenth century, the Mi'kmaq were credited with inventing the ice hockey stick. The oldest known hockey stick was made between 1852 and 1856. Recently, it was appraised at $4 million US and sold for $2.2 million US. The stick was carved by Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia, who made it from hornbeam, also known as ironwood.
In 1863, the Starr Manufacturing Company in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia began to sell the Mic-Mac hockey sticks nationally and internationally. Hockey became a popular sport in Canada in the 1890s. Throughout the first decade of the twentieth century, the Mic-Mac Hockey Stick was the best-selling hockey stick in Canada. By 1903, apart from farming, the principal occupation of the Mi'kmaq on reserves throughout Nova Scotia, and particularly on the Shubenacadie, Indian Brook and Millbrook Reserves, was producing the Mic-Mac Hockey Stick. The department of Indian Affairs for Nova Scotia noted in 1927, that the Mi'kmaq remained the "experts" at making hockey sticks. The Mi'kmaq continued to make hockey sticks until the 1930s, when the product was industrialized.
Jerry Lonecloud (1854–1930) worked with historian and archivist Harry Piers to document the ethnography of the Mi'kmaq people in the early 20th century. Lonecloud wrote the first Mi'kmaq memoir, which his biographer entitled "Tracking Dr. Lonecloud: Showman to Legend Keeper". Historian Ruth Holmes Whitehead wrote, "Ethnographer of the Micmac nation could rightly have been his epitaph, his final honour."
In 1914, over 150 Mi'kmaq men signed up during World War I. During the First World War, thirty-four out of sixty-four male Mi’kmaq from Lennox Island First Nation, Prince Edward Island enlisted in the armed forces, distinguishing themselves particularly in the Battle of Amiens. In 1939, over 250 Mi’kmaq volunteered in World War II. (In 1950, over 60 Mi'kmaq enlisted to serve in the Korean War.)
In 1986, the first Treaty Day was celebrated by Nova Scotians on October 1 in recognition of the Treaties signed between the British Empire and the Mi'kmaq people. The first treaty was signed in 1725 after Father Rale's War. The final treaties of 1760-61, marked the end of 75 years of regular warfare between the Mi'kmaq and the British (see the four French and Indian Wars as well as Father Rale's War and Father Le Loutre's War). The treaty-making process of 1760-61, ended with the Burying the Hatchet ceremony (1761).
The treaties were only formally recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada once they were enshrined in Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. The first Treaty Day occurred the year after the Supreme Court upheld the Peace Treaty of 1752 signed by Jean-Baptiste Cope and Governor Peregrine Hopson. Since that time there have been numerous judicial decisions that have upheld the other treaties in the Supreme Court, the most recognized being the Donald Marshall case.
In 1997, the Mi'kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum was established.
On August 31, 2010, the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia signed a historic agreement with the Mi'kmaq Nation, establishing a process whereby the federal government must consult with the Mi'kmaq Grand Council before engaging in any activities or projects that affect the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia. This covers most, if not all, actions these governments might take within that jurisdiction. This is the first such collaborative agreement in Canadian history including all the First Nations within an entire province.
The Nova Scotia government and the Mi’kmaq community have made the Mi’kmaq Kina’ matnewey, which is the most successful First Nation Education Program in Canada. In 1982, the first Mi’kmaq-operated school opened in Nova Scotia. By 1997, all Mi’kmaq on reserves were given the responsibility for their own education. There are now 11 band-run schools in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia now has the highest rate of retention of aboriginal students in schools in the country. More than half the teachers are Mi’kmaq. From 2011 to 2012 there was a 25% increase in Mi’kmaq students going to university. Atlantic Canada has the highest rate of aboriginal students attending university in the country.
In 2005, Nova Scotian Mi'kmaq Nora Bernard led the largest class-action lawsuit in Canadian history, representing an estimated 79,000 survivors of the Canadian Indian residential school system. The Government of Canada settled the lawsuit for upwards of CA$5 billion.
In the fall of 2011, there was an Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission that travelled to various communities in Atlantic Canada, who were all served by the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. For 37 years (1930-1967), 10% of Mi'kmaq children attended the institution.
In the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, October is celebrated as Mi'kmaq History Month. The entire Mi'kmaq Nation celebrates Treaty Day annually on October 1. This was date when the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752 was signed by Jean-Baptiste Cope of Shubenacadie and the king's representative. It was stated that the natives would be given gifts annually,"as long as they continued in Peace."
Some Mi'kmaq people practice the Catholic faith, some only practice traditional Mi'kmaq religion; but many have adopted both religions due to the compatibility between Christianity and traditional Mi'kmaq faith. Ethnologist Angela Robinson provides an in-depth study of both Traditionalist and Mi'kmaw Catholic beliefs and practices in her monograph, Tán Teli-Ktlamsitasit (Ways of Believing): Míkmaw Religion in Eskasoni, 2005.
The Mi'kmaq people had very little in the way of physical recording and storytelling; petroglyphs, while used, are believed to have been extremely rare. In addition, it is not believed that pre-contact Mi'kmaq had any form of written language. As such, almost all of Mi'kmaq traditions were passed down orally, primarily via storytelling. There were traditionally three levels of oral traditions: religious myths, legends, and folklore.
There is one myth explaining that the Mi'kmaq once believed that evil and wickedness among men is what causes them to kill each other. This causes great sorrow to the creator-sun-god, who weeps tears that become rains sufficient to trigger a deluge. The people attempt to survive the flood by traveling in bark canoes, but only a single old man and woman survive to populate the earth.
A central part of traditional Mi'kmaq spirituality is the concept known as Msit No'kmaq, or "All my relations". Msit No'kmaq is the belief in animism; the idea that everything on the earth has a living spirit, which should be respected as equal to one's own. This means that animals should only be killed when one is in danger, or requires food; it means that plants must only be harvested for a purpose; and when another living spirit is killed or harmed in any way, it is only right to give an offering (typically tobacco, which carries spiritual meaning), in thanks for the sacrifice made. The main part of Mi'kmaq culture is the avoidance of waste; take only what you need, waste nothing, and give thanks for everything.
Additionally, a very important belief is that one's spirit has been sent to the physical world in order to learn, heal, and be improved. Thus, every being who comes to the physical world has a unique purpose to be achieved during their time here, and their lives will be pushed in the direction of those goals by their experiences and encounters. This is assisted by those in the spirit realm, who watch over all beings. However, this is not to say that one has no free will- quite the opposite. What a spirit decides to do with the opportunities provided them is a choice they make independently, and may spend their life rejecting their path or refusing to benefit from what they are given. It is possible for a spirit to pass their entire lifetime without accomplishing their purpose; should this happen, however, they are simply born again in another physical form to begin again. Once their goal is accomplished, however, they must return to the spirit realm forever, and take up a guidance role themselves. Returning to the spirit form is a process, as one must mourn the loss of their life on earth, and learn again what it is to be a spirit. Should a soul deviate so far that the spirits believe they are beyond hope, like causing serious harm to the people around them, when they die, their spirit will simply cease to exist. 
One's spirit has many attributes that they may not be easily or immediately aware of:
(it should be noted that many indigenous cultures have their own interpretation of the medicine wheel, and this interpretation predominantly only holds true for the Mi'kmaq people) The medicine wheel is a circle, which represents the cycle of the sun, life, and the seasons. It consists of four colours; red, yellow, white, and black. Each colour represents one of the four colours or races of man, as well as having associated directions, elements, spiritual helpers, sacred medicines, seasons, and stages of life.
One spiritual capital of the Mi'kmaq nation is Mniku, the gathering place of the Míkmaq Grand Council or Santé Mawiómi, Chapel Island in Bras d'Or Lake of Nova Scotia. The island is also the site of the St. Anne Mission, an important pilgrimage site for the Mi'kmaq (Robinson 2005). The island has been declared a historic site.
Mi'kmaw names in the following table are spelled according to several orthographies. The Mi'kmaw orthographies in use are Míkmaw pictographs, the orthography of Silas Tertius Rand, the Pacifique orthography, and the most recent Smith-Francis orthography. The latter has been adopted throughout Nova Scotia and in most Mi'kmaw communities.
|Community||Province/State||Town/Reserve||Est. Pop.||Mi'kmaq name|
|Abegweit First Nation||Prince Edward Island||Scotchfort, Rocky Point, Morell||396||Epekwitk|
|Acadia First Nation||Nova Scotia||Yarmouth||996||Malikiaq|
|Annapolis Valley First Nation||Nova Scotia||Cambridge Station||219||Kampalijek|
|Aroostook Band of Micmac||Maine||Presque Isle||920||Ulustuk|
|Bear River First Nation||Nova Scotia||Bear River||272||Lsetkuk|
|Buctouche First Nation||New Brunswick||Buctouche||80||Puktusk|
|Burnt Church First Nation||New Brunswick||Esgenoôpetitj 14||1,488||Esk|
|Chapel Island First Nation||Nova Scotia||Chapel Island||576||Potlotek|
|Eel Ground First Nation||New Brunswick||Eel Ground||844||Natuaqanek|
|Eel River Bar First Nation||New Brunswick||Eel River Bar||589||Ugpi'ganjig|
|Elsipogtog First Nation||New Brunswick||Big Cove||3000+||Lsipuktuk|
|Eskasoni First Nation||Nova Scotia||Eskasoni||4,400+||Wékistoqnik|
|Fort Folly First Nation||New Brunswick||Dorchester||105||Amlamkuk Kwesawék|
|Micmacs of Gesgapegiag||Quebec||Gesgapegiag||1,174||Keskapekiaq|
|Nation Micmac de Gespeg||Quebec||Fontenelle||490||Kespék|
|Glooscap First Nation||Nova Scotia||Hantsport||360||Pesikitk|
|Indian Island First Nation||New Brunswick||Indian Island||145||Lnui Menikuk|
|Lennox Island First Nation||Prince Edward Island||Lennox Island||700||Lnui Mnikuk|
|Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation||Quebec||Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation||3,166||Listikujk|
|Membertou First Nation||Nova Scotia||Sydney||1,051||Maupeltuk|
|Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation||New Brunswick||Red Bank||527||Metepnákiaq|
|Miawpukek First Nation||Newfoundland and Labrador||Conne River||2,366||Miawpukwek|
|Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation||Newfoundland and Labrador||Newfoundland and Labrador||21,429||Qalipu|
|Millbrook First Nation||Nova Scotia||Truro||1400||Wékopekwitk|
|Pabineau First Nation||New Brunswick||Bathurst||214||Kékwapskuk|
|Paq'tnkek First Nation||Nova Scotia||Afton||500||Paqtnkek|
|Pictou Landing First Nation||Nova Scotia||Trenton||547||Puksaqtéknékatik|
|Sipekne'katik First Nation||Nova Scotia||Indian Brook (Shubenacadie)||2,120||Sipekníkatik|
|Wagmatcook First Nation||Nova Scotia||Wagmatcook||623||Waqm|
|Waycobah First Nation||Nova Scotia||Whycocomagh||900||Wékoqmáq|
The pre-contact population is estimated at 3,000–30,000. In 1616, Father Biard believed the Mi'kmaq population to be in excess of 3,000, but he remarked that, because of European diseases, there had been large population losses during the 16th century. Smallpox and other endemic European infectious diseases, to which the Mi'kmaq had no immunity, wars and alcoholism led to a further decline of the native population. It reached its lowest point in the middle of the 17th century. Then the numbers grew slightly again, before becoming apparently stable during the 19th century. During the 20th century, the population was on the rise again. The average growth from 1965 to 1970 was about 2.5%.
Maps showing the approximate locations of areas occupied by members of the Wabanaki Confederacy (from north to south):
In the 2013 Canadian movie Rhymes for Young Ghouls the story centers around a Mi'kmaq Indian reservation in 1976 in the context of the residential school system. It is based on the historical abuse of the First Nations people, particularly those in the residential school system.