Esoteric Native Part 1: Naskapi Tribes of Montagnais and Algonkian

Introducing myself to new land has always been a part of my studies and spiritual devotion. Recently I moved to Quebec, which probably has as much historical value to spar with Norway or Tibet. The major drive behind an introduction to place for me is knowing what is here, and what has happened here. What plants originally grew, how they were used, which animals are the pioneers, and who are the people who stepped foot on Quebec soils first and changed the land with their traditions and culture. The atavistic search is looking the past, and now just things as they are today. It took me a couple hours to track down the writings of one Frank Speck, who in the early 20th century went on missions and ranging travels into the more secluded pieces of the Quebecois province. He met with the tribes there, the hunter gatherers, the nomadic family bands, and the chiefs. All this while detailing in his journals the experiences, wisdom, and observations taken from these indigenous ‘french’ men. They were called the Montagnais in the northern regions, and the Algonkian which were spread through northern Ontario into Labrador and the tip of the USA as well, and Innu which are native to Quebec away from the Montreal island and further from the coast. They can be described as descendants from an ancestral stock called Naskapi, and some still use this identification. I believe these to be my ancestors.

This is a bold statement, even for me because I have never been informed about my past and had known virtually nothing. I am skeptical in many ways, but confident in others as I observe my own behavior and some of the lifestyles of those before me. Part of my immediate family were the farming type, and the men were industrious, wanderers, hunters. I know they lived on many acres and tended to the land when it was still a time that modern technology was available. They did this by choice; cutting ice, hunting/fishing, growing all their food, and I know of one great grandfather who made long journeys with a sled to the nearest county to trade hide/pelts for a small portion of food. They made their clothes, and lived in a valley surrounded by wolves, bears, and moose. This is extremely similar to the way the Innu and Algonkian had lived up until around 1950. Then the government tried to bribe them to sell their land, and eventually a couple chiefs did, which angered the people because they did not have the same territorial aspects we have today. My own direct line lived this way, naturally, but some traits were not evolved, or perhaps had been forgotten. The totemic relationships to animals, as game spirits were not really present even though they did have fairly localized species which they depended on, their symbolism was nothing more than a wild beast for survival. The Innu/Algonkian/Montagnais however for several hundred years possessed an intimate dynamic for their animals. The medicine men/women used shamanizing techniques and scapulimancy to read markings in bone for hunting advice or messages. In the operation, a woman called Mackosi’kwee used a deer or hare scapula. The deer was thought to be more powerful, but since the hunting season was bad they had to acquire a hare from a hunter. The forecast was given to the adept who sought out advice. She held the scapula above some burning coals, and based on the burn patterns she would read into them and this would tell her the prophesy. In one of these rituals she told Speck about a change in route and difficulties of travel on his return trip home, and a sum of money for him, and a strange woman appearing at his house. All of this turned out to be true.

The Innu and Algonkian had preserved a tradition of hunter-gatherers, some of them thought to have migrated from Maine, and the Iroquois stock. They lived in family bands, and each band has their own territory, (which was not the same as property to them). They were semi-nomadic and moved to other land if their game was not plentiful enough. Each were named after the totemic animal that they depended on most, which supplied them with bone for tools, fur for clothing, meat, etc. Thus were the porcupine, beaver, wolf, wolverine, caribou… they were more than just sustenance. Within the hunting territory, which was protected by the chiefs and passed down to the strongest or oldest of the males over generations, were natural boundaries. The outlines were governed most by a certain hill or valley, or stream that cut through, or certain types of forest. In harsher times, other hunting tribes would take from their land, and this was punishable. If animals were taken, it could mean death, but offerings of the meat and skin were given as respect. The land still was not thought of as owned, but merely an ephemeral ground to ensure continual survival. They could not conceive of property because to them, the land was shared by all tribes in the end. Why I relate this to my ancestors and myself is because of my own root beliefs, which are aligned closely to theirs and less influenced by the proto agricultural, industrial work based society where I now live. I would love to have a DNA test done sometime and see if any of the genes would match. If they had been moved to more appointed land over time and lost much of their spirituality yet retained the organic lifestyle, this could possibly be why my background is French/Northern Canadian.

Some of this information may be merely an esoteric way of thinking for me, or it could be in my bloodline. At times, I do perceive it as more archaic because I have never really conformed to modernistic types of living. It supports my natural instincts, and constant spiritual connection with the primal needs. It is also my life path, to integrate the exact same dynamics and lifestyles the indigenous persons had with wilderness. This is empirical, not merely gnosis, my understanding of their culture will progress, and my integration will also involve as I become even more self aware and find the roots, whilst sowing my own growth. This I will be continuing to read into, and enveloping more here about what I can relate to.


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