July 3, 2017
As we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, we also recognize that this land and the people who originally inhabited it have a much longer history. And we think it’s important to acknowledge indigenous culture throughout Canada, and here in Nova Scotia.
To tell the full story in a single blog post isn’t possible, and any attempt wouldn’t do justice to this rich and meaningful piece of our history. So, we’ve decided to focus instead on a single chapter, our favourite piece of indigenous culture in the Maritimes: Glooscap, the Creator.
Glooscap, is a legendary figure entrenched in Wabanaki culture throughout Maine and Atlantic Canada. The name Glooscap (Kloskabe) means “man who came from nothing,” or literally translated: “man from only speech.” And, although his legend varies from tribe to tribe (Mi’kmaq, Abenaki, Panawapskewi…), and region to region, there are many consistent elements across all of them.
By all accounts, Glooscap was “a kind, benevolent warrior against evil and the possessor of magical powers” – Nowlan, Alden (1983), Nine Micmac Legends, Nova Scotia: Lancelot Press.
As the legend of Glooscap has its roots in the Annapolis Vally, we’ll focus here on the Mi’kmaq Creator story.
It tells of Gloosecap having laid on his back, making Nova Scotia his bed, and Prince Edward Island his pillow, arms stretched and head pointed toward the rising sun, for 365 days and nights. This act led to the birth of Nogami, the grandmother from the dew of a rock, then Nataoa-nsen, the nephew from the ocean, followed by the mother of all the Mi’kmaq from the plants of the earth. These spiritual figures form the basis of Mi’kmaq beliefs.
The Creator was not only larger than life in the sense of what he did for the Mi’kmaq people, he was literally larger than life. The Mi’kmaq believe Glooscap used his size and powers to create some of Nova Scotia’s most beautiful natural features, including the Annapolis Valley and the Bay of Fundy. To create Five Islands, located in the Bay of Fundy, Glooscap transformed himself into a giant beaver. He then used his giant tail to slap the water with enough force to shake loose the land that makes up Five Islands.
In some ways, he legend of Glooscap expresses many Canadians’ belief in who we are and hope to be. Even without magical powers, Canadians are “kind, benevolent warriors against evil” around the world. In that spirit, it makes sense that we address the many indigenous issues here at home. We can also draw from this story in taking care of our young and elders here, of all races, beliefs, genders, and orientations.
We wish a Happy Canada 150 to all among us, and thank all who inhabited this land long before Confederation. Here’s to the next 150 years, true reconciliation, and a future that respects all this land’s people, past and present.