- Develop a story about the importance of water to Indigenous life
- Explain why water forms would not be a part of the Peace and Friendship treaties
- Role play whether or not to build a dam in a community
- Illustrate a Keluwoskap story
- Examine the impact of development decisions on the environment
Importance of Water
Water is one of the sacred elements of Indigenous cultures. It has always been regarded as something to be shared and not owned. Wolastoqey and Passamoquoddy flags demonstrate its importance even today.
In the often-dense woods which are New Brunswick, water was the highway for Indigenous people. People had to learn great skill in navigating while canoeing over rocks on fast flowing rivers or dealing with wind on the sea.
Recognizing the importance and generosity of Mother Earth, Indigenous people used water with great reverence. Near water, wildlife was taken for clothing, tools, jewellery and food. The forest and plant life which also depended on water offered food, shelter, warmth and medicine.
Water served many purposes.
It was used for transportation, in remedies, in ceremonies, and for bathing, cooking and recreation. It also provided a way to make wood pliable and to construct toboggans, canoes, snowshoes, and baskets and to make leather supple for clothing. Women used water to soften porcupine quills so they could decorate clothing, pouches and quivers. The symbols created on these articles were important symbols for demonstrating aspects of culture.
By being immersed in water, thin strips of wood could be bent without breaking. Once the wood for a snowshoe frame was bent to a proper curve, it was bound together with spruce roots or rawhide. Water was necessary to mix with herbs such as Labrador tea, cedar, burdock and wintergreen to make a liquid that became a remedy for sickness.
Mi’kmaq, Passamoquoddy (Peskotomuhkati) and Wolastoqewyik looked upon water as a vital, living element in their environment. It was used as the transportation web as people followed the cycle of the seasons and changed their home base frequently. Indigenous people did most of their hunting in the winter in the shelter of the forest and they fished in the summer along the coast. They knew many ways of hunting and fishing, varying their methods with the seasons and habits of the birds, animals and fish often using water as a way to do this successfully. Salmon and trout were speared at night by torch light in the pools where they had rested after jumping over waterfalls. Sturgeon and bass were taken by harpoons and lances from the sides of the canoe as they circled in the rim of the light supplied by torches. To catch eels, a small bag was placed in the opening of a wooden fence built across a river where it was narrowest. In the winter, Indigenous people looked for the breath of bears in hollows in trees. They drew them out by mounting the trees and using spears. Beavers were hunted by breaking down their houses and were caught with spears while they were fleeing. Moose were taken by ambush or with dogs through the deep snow until they were fatigued. Indigenous people knew a call for every animal – a snort for a stag; a hiss for a beaver. This is evident in the number of oral histories and sacred stories they told.
While access to water was vital to protecting Indigenous ways of living, the access to use of water was not covered in the Peace and Friendship Treaties.