First Nations

The literature of First Nations peoples in New Brunswick is rooted in traditions, forms, and histories that are unfamiliar to Western readers. First Nations literature is oral, meaning that it is meant to be spoken and heard in its original language, and it is also utilitarian, a storehouse of knowledge from which the First Nations draw. For our purposes, the stories in this curriculum are presented in written form and in English translation; however, readers should remember the differences between oral and written traditions, and consider these stories, as much as possible, within the context of the First Nations rather than that of European or settler communities.

Two stories in this module (“How the Wabanaki Confederacy Began” and “Glooscap and His Four Visitors”) carry Christian undertones, likely introduced to the tales before they were recorded and translated. These Christian echoes reflect both the flexibility of First Nations orality – stories would adapt to new and changing circumstances – and the ways in which European influence altered, and often harmed, Indigenous culture.

 

Language is key to the oral traditions of all Indigenous peoples. In the introduction to his still-relevant Legends of the Micmacs, Rev. Silas T. Rand noted that none of the Mi’kmaq he met told their stories in English, despite knowing the language well (Rand would read back his English translations to the storytellers, who would offer corrections). Part of the tragedy of Canada’s colonial legacy with the First Nations, then, is linguistic assimilation. As knowledge of Indigenous languages declined, so too did knowledge of First Nations history and society.

 

For the full Module Page on First Nations literature, click here.