7. Roman Catholic Faith:

A. Conversation of Lieutenant Edward Chappell with a Micmac from St. George's Bay on 25 June 1813

"Do you go to-morrow to catch cod?" "Ees: me do to-morrow catchee cod: next day, catchee cod: next day come seven day (Sunday), me no catchee cod; me takee book [footnote: None of the Indians in St. George's Bay are able to read; but they have been taught almost to adore the Bible, by some French Missionary.], look up God." We asked if the savage Red Indians, inhabiting the interior of the country, also looked up to God: when, with a sneer of the most ineffable contempt, he replied, "No; no lookee up God: Killee all men dat dem see, Red Indian no good."{10}

B. W.E. Cormack, Narrative of a Journey Across the Island of Newfoundland in 1822

They are Roman Catholics, but their religious ceremonies, of which they are observant, consist of a combination of that church and their own primitive ceremonies blended together, to suit their convenience and tastes. The inmates of the camp, by the earliest dawn of day, all joined in prayer; and nearly the whole of Sunday, on which it happened I was with them, they spent in singing hymns. They had in their possession a French manuscript of sacred music, given to them they said, by the French Roman Catholic clergyman at the island of St. Peter's, whom they consider their confessor, and endeavour to see once in two years.{11}

C. Bishop Fleming's Visit at Conne River in 1834

The simplicity of the manners of these people is truly interesting; and their piety, the air of recollection they exhibit at their devotions, their attachment to their religion, and their veneration for its ministers, are edifying in the extreme. In rearing their children they are particularly careful to instil into their tender minds a love of purity and attachment to every virtue. Wherever they settle for a season, for they lead a wandering life, the first thing they do is to unite, and by their joint labour erect a large wigwam, which they use as a house of prayer; and should any of their tribe offend against public morals, he is invariably excluded from this church, and, in some cases, is never again permitted to enter until his offence is wiped away in the Sacrament of Penance; and they invariably observe the Sabbath with the most scrupulous exactness.

On Sundays and holydays of the year they invariably assemble together in the morning, and after singing the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria, and Credo, they offer the Rosary, and some other prayers, usually occupying an hour; and in the afternoon they meet again and sing Vespers, for they have not only books of devotion written in their own language, but also the principal hymns and psalms set to the Gregorian chant.{12}

D. Archdeacon Wix's Travels in 1835

Here I met with an interesting Indian, from Conne River, five miles hence; his ascetic acts, and acts of real humanity, had acquired for him a character of holiness, and a great influence over his tribe. He was, at this time, under a self-imposed vow, not to break silence during the Fridays of Lent: accordingly, though the arrival of strangers was, of course, most exciting, and might have been expected to throw him off his guard, he exhibited a degree of impassiveness and of nervous control (as he lay smoking his short blackened pipe, with his feet towards the central fire,) which were quite wonderful. I really imagined that the man was dumb. His imperturbability was the more surprising as he had it in his power, I found afterwards, by merely opening his mouth, to have exposed an act of rascality which had been practised upon him by a person present, who, had he left, as he was expected to have done, before dawn the next day, might have escaped detection.... I learned from Maurice Louis, that Zeul prestoul, in their language signified "God save you!" and a la zeud mat, "let us praise God!" but that they had no word for prayer. This instance of the poverty of their language, if indeed, we understood each other rightly, is the most extraordinary, since they certainly are no strangers to prayer. My Irish pilot...informed me that, while he was four years with Brazil, an Indian chief, this Micmac never allowed his family to commence their day's hunting, or to lie down upon their green boughs at night, without prayer; and I found, while I was myself among them, that the Indians were very regular in their evening and morning devotions and attention to their rosaries, and that, as they Romanists, they were very particular in carrying their children over to the Romish priest at the French island of St. Peters for baptism. The females particularly had a soft melodious hum in which they chanted with much seeming devotion, every night before they gave themselves to rest.{13}

Jean Michael, the ascetic Indian..., this day [Sunday, 12] assembled the Indians for their worship, of which singing formed a very considerable part. He and the rest were collecting wild geese for an Indian feast on Easter Sunday, to which they congregate from all parts, and it was with difficulty that I could purchase one on the morning of Monday, 13...{14}

I had been supplied...with some port wine, some of which I offered to my Indian guide, but I found that his notions of fasting were so correct, that they extended to all indulgences, and during Lent he declined tasting even wine: some of them during that season forego smoking.{15}

E. The Micmac Cross of Bay de Nord

Mrs. Amelia Joe, now of Conne River, was born at Bay de Nord in 1890 and knows the story of the Micmac cross located there.

The cross is located on a terrace approximately 150 meters above the sea level. It lies flat on a granite rock surface with the placement of small rocks forming the outline. It has a maximum length of 14.3 meters and a maximum width of 4.4 meters. Near the base, the sides are connected by a chord of rock. Two small upright pillars, supported at the base by small boulders are to the north.

The cross is believed to be a source of curative and healing powers. The water which flows in a nearby brook, Cross Brook, is sought as holy water. Walking sticks, a testimony to those cured at the cross, are alleged to be at the site. A small mound of gravel on the south side of the cross is a repository for coins. (....) Visitors continue the practice of leaving coins.

The Micmacs contend that they did not construct the cross but rather accidentally discovered it. The earliest coin at the cross, 1865, does not necessarily date its construction although it does roughly date the opening of the telegraph station at Bay de Nord.

The cross is still held in high regard by members of the Conne River community. Some residents believe they have benefited from its curative powers. This past summer [1982], a companion was charged, by an ailing grandmother at Conne River, to return with a bottle of holy water.{16}

To Part
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