Materials required: logbook, a debate set-up
Additional information for the teacher
The point of this exercise is to introduce the idea of bias in historical documents. The detectives (students) need not understand all the details of this meeting but should be able to get the idea that it is one-sided and favours the position of the British. Several points of information from the document that is quoted below are not clear.
It may be helpful if the teacher explains the dynamics of this meeting to the students. This may help the students to understand what is required of them.
- Indigenous leaders were forced to get down on their knees to declare their oath of allegiance to the Crown before they could receive the sacraments from the priest who had been brought to the meeting
- There were some Mi’kmaw leaders at this conference
- John Allen was the American officer who had worked with Wolastoqewiyik to drive the British out of the St. John River Valley, so he would have been arrested had he been at the conference
- As for the priest, he had never come to serve the people prior to this meeting. His presence was offered as an enticement for Wolastoqewiyik to attend the conference
- Additional notes are in blue
Notes from a grand meeting of the Indians at Menaguashe in the harbour of the River Saint John near Fort Howe on Thursday the 24th of September 1778
The Superintendent declared to them (Wolastoqewiyik) that according to his Promise to the Malecites (Wolastoqewiyik) the last year he had now brought in his hand a Priest. (brought a priest with him) Showing Mr. Bourg, he declared that Mr. Bourg would have visited them sooner but for the apprehension of being carried off by the Rebels. (Malecite-Wolastoqewiyik) (The priest, Mr. Bourg, would have come earlier but he was too nervous because of what was happening between the Wolastoqewiyik and the British. The Wolastoqewiyik here would have knelt before the priest.)
- That being about to set out from Chebouctou (Halifax) the Superintendent was greatly concerned that the Malecites (Wolastoqewiyik) had plundered one vessel, taken and ransomed another, robbed, and disarmed many of the inhabitants and killed several cattle belonging to the King and that the loyal subjects on the River of Saint John … proceeded to bring back the King’s flag accompanied with a formal Declaration of War in writing.
(The Superintendent announces that the Wolastoqewiyik had stolen a ship, taken another ship and sold it back to the owner, robbed and taken guns from several inhabitants, and killed several cows belonging to the military. In retaliation, people from the area brought the Union Jack (flag) to the military along with a Declaration of War.)
- That the unfortunate transaction had happened, and that Mr. Bourg was disposed on behalf of the King to settle and adjust amicably all differences between them (Malecite-Wolastoqewiyik). (The priest has been sent by the King to settle these disagreements.)
- The Declaration of War being read and fully explained to the Malecite (Wolastoqey), they declared that they had been deceived by John Allen of Machias (Maine) who had not spoken their sentiments but his own for his own wicked and rebellious purposes. (After the English read the Declaration of War out loud and explained it, the Wolastoqewiyik explained that they were told to do the deeds they are accused of by John Allen of Machias (Maine). John Allen was an American soldier and wanted to drive out the British from the St. John River Valley.)
- That their Malecite (Wolastoqewiyik) eyes were now opened that they would propose to restore to the Inhabitants the arms and all the other possessions which they had not consumed or destroyed particularly the three guns. And that they would deliver to Mr. White, in the course of the winter, two hundred pounds of beaver and many moose in order to make good the damages that had been sustained by the individuals who had been kept from hunting by the idle stories of John Allen. (The Wolastoqewiyik now understand what had happened and will return all the possessions they stole from the inhabitants, especially the three guns. As a penalty, they will also give the trader, Mr. White, 200 pounds of beaver pelts and many moose to distribute among the inhabitants for the damages they had caused the local inhabitants.)
- After the business was over the King’s health was drunk, the Superintendent then equipped the Chiefs and Captains with his own hands and distributed to the rest a variety of clothing and other presents. (After this was agreed upon, everyone toasted the King, and the Superintendent gave the Chiefs some clothing and other presents.)
- The evening and night although very rainy, were spent in the open air with great mirth under the British flag. (A celebration was held under the British flag.)
- The 26th the Indians being on their departure were saluted at 12 o’clock by the cannon of Fort Howe. His Majesty’s ship Albany returned the cannon fire by three Huzzas (hip hip hooray cheers) and Indian whoops. (The next day cannons were fired, and everyone called in celebration as the Wolastoqewiyik started to depart.)
- Then the Mi’kmaq chief made a handsome speech and delivered to the Superintendent a string of Wampum on behalf of his whole Mi’kmaq nation as their start of approbation (approval) to everything that had been said. (A Mi’kmaw chief who was observing the meeting made a moving speech and gave the Superintendent a string of wampum to demonstrate that the Mi’kmaq accepted what had happened.)
- This being finished the Superintendent Major Studholm and the Reverend Mr. Bourg seated themselves when a Malecite (Wolastoqey) captain began a song and dance in honour of the Conference. (The conference ended with the Wolastoqey captain performing a song and dance before the Superintendent and the Priest.)
Be a Detective – Think, pair, and share
In pairs answer the following questions:
- Who do you think wrote this report?
- For whom do you think these notes were written? Why?
- Do you think that these notes are accurate? Why or why not?
- Find at least three details that create some doubt in your mind. (For the teacher, here are some clues: who wrote the Declaration of War, the settlers or the British? What was the role of the Mi’kmaq at this meeting? The string of wampum is already finished even though the Declaration of War has just been read. The priest, Mr. Bourg, took over a year to get there. John Allen is accused of all these troubles but is not present. The priest, Mr. Bourg, has never been there before. The assumption that the Wolastoqeywiyik (Malecite) can give back all those things including the guns and the beaver and moose and still survive.)
- Share your clues and arguments in your group.
- Take it to court. Have your class divide into three groups. Give each group 5 minutes. One group defends the story as presented by the British; one group points out inaccuracies in the report and represents the Wolastoqewiyik (Malecite). Each group is then given two minutes to rebut the other’s arguments. The third group listens, takes notes, asks one question to each group at the end of the proceedings, and then votes on whether or not this is a fair agreement.