Maliseet - Settlements



In the early historical period settlement patterns varied seasonally. Winters were spent in family hunting bands, composed of a few adult males plus their wives, children, and occasionally other dependent kin; band composition varied from year to year. Each spring, family bands returned to one or more intervales along the St. John River and formed larger fishing, gathering, and horticultural communities. The location of these communities varied in the historical period, but Medoctec is viewed by the Maliseet as their ancient village and Ekwpahak as a second important summer settlement. With the arrival of Roman Catholic priests the Maliseet settled near newly established mission stations, giving rise to St. Basile and Kingsclear as areas of Maliseet concentration.

With the establishment of reserves in the nineteenth century, and with the arrival of large numbers of Irish Catholic immigrants and a greater number of priests and Catholic churches, the Maliseet reserve communities acquired a more permanent character. Opportunities both for the sale of crafts and for wage labor in the larger European settlements made the lower St. John River areas as well as the south shore of the St. Lawrence River at Cacouna most attractive. By the early twentieth century most Maliseet families had moved to a reserve. A countertendency, however, had occurred at Woodstock and Tobique where families associated with these reserves moved to northern Maine to be closer to a more predictable employment as day laborers in the potato industry. The aboriginal Maliseet residence was the circular birchbark wigwam, but rectangular dwellings with a pitched roof tended to replace wigwams in the 1800s. More permanent cabins and frame houses became common by the end of the nineteenth century. A lean-to served as a temporary overnight shelter for men on hunting or trapping trips. Today, Maliseet housing represents a wide range of styles and is often indistinguishable from that of their White neighbors.

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