Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
September 2004

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Malecite Indians


[This text was originally published in 1907 by the Bureau of American Ethnology as part of its Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. It was later reproduced, in 1913, by the Geographic Board of Canada. The work done by the American Bureau was monumental, well informed and incorporated the most advanced scholarship available at the time. In many respects, the information is still useful today, although prudence should be exercised and the reader should consult some of the contemporary texts on the history and the anthropology of the North American Indians suggested in the bibliographic introduction to this section. The articles were not completely devoid of the paternalism and the prejudices prevalent at the time. While some of the terminology used would not pass the test of our "politically correct" era, most terms have been left unchanged by the editor. If a change in the original text has been effected it will be found between brackets [.] The original work contained long bibliographies that have not been reproduced for this web edition. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]


[Further information on the Malecite may be found in the Canadian Encyclopedia and at the Native American Languages' site]




Various explanations of this name have been given. According to Chamberlain it is from their Micmac name Malisit, 'broken talkers'; Tanner gives the form as Mahnesheets, meaning 'slow tongues'; Baraga derives it through the Cree from rnayisit or malisit, ' the disfigured or ugly foot'; Lacombe (Dict. Cris , 707) agrees with Baraga and gives the etymology as mayi or mal,' deformed,' and sit ' foot'. Maurault's explanation is radically different from all, as he says it is from Maroudit or Malouidit, ' those who are of Saint Malo.' Vetromile says it "comes from malike, which in old Abnaki and also in Delaware means witchcraft," but adds, "hence the French name Micmac is a substitute for Mareschite, " as he writes the name. According to Chamberlain the name they apply to themselves is Wulaslukuriuk, 'dwellers on the beautiful river,' or, as given by Maurault, Ouarategouiaks, ' those of the river whose bed contains sparkling objects.'


The Malecite belong to the Abnaki group of the Algonquian stock. Maurault makes a distinction between the Malecite and the Etchimin, but adds that "the remnants of this tribe and the Etchimins are called at the present day Malecites." Their closest linguistic affinity is with the Passamaquoddy, the language of the two being almost identical, and is closely allied to the New England dialects, but more distant from that of the Micmac.


Although the New Brunswick coast was visited by or soon after the middle of the 16 th century, and St. John r. indicated on maps as early as 1558, making it quite probable that the people of this tribe had come in contact with the whites at that early date, the earliest recorded notice of them is in Champlain's narrative of his voyage of 1604. He found the country along the banks of the St. John in the possession of Indians named "Les Etchemons," by whom his party was received with hospitality and rejoicing, and says they were the "first Christians" who had been seen by these savages, which may have been true of the particular party he met, but doubtful in the broader sense. That these were Malecite there is no reasonable doubt. "When we were seated," says Champlain, "they began to smoke, as was their custom, before making any discourse. They made us presents of game and venison. All that day and the night following they continued to sing, dance, and feast until day reappeared. They were clothed in beaver skins."


Early in the 17th century Ft. La Tour was built on St. John r., which became the rallying point of the tribe, who there learned the use of firearms, and first obtained cooking vessels of metal and the tools and instruments of civilized life. The few French settlers on this river intermarried with the Indians, thus forming a close alliance, which caused them to become enemies of the New England settlers, between whom and the French there was almost constant warfare. After the English came into possession of the country there were repeated disputes between them and the Malecite in regard to lands until 1776. Afterward lands were assigned them. In 1856, according to Schoolcraft, "the Tobique river, and the small tract at Madawaska, Meductic Point, and Kingsclear, with their small rocky islands near St. John, containing 15 acres," constituted all the lands held or claimed by them in the country which was formerly their own, In 1884 they numbered 767, of whom 584 were in New Brunswick and the others in Quebec province. According to the report of Canadian Indian Affairs for 1904 their number was 805, of whom 103 were in Quebec province and 702 in New Brunswick .


Source: James WHITE, ed., Handbook of Indians of Canada, Published as an Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, Ottawa, 1913, 632p., pp. 271-272.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College