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1.2.8: The Coming of the Whiteman Revealed - Dream of the White Robe and Floating Island (Micmac)

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    When there were no people in this country but Indians, and before they knew of any others, a young woman had a singular dream. She dreamed that a small island came floating in towards the land, with tall trees on it and living beings, and amongst others a young man dressed in rabbit‑skin garments. Next day she interpreted her dream and sought for an interpretation. it was the custom in those days, when any one had a remarkable dream, to consult the wise men and especially the magicians and soothsayers. These pondered over the girl’s dream, but they could make nothing of it; but next day an event occurred that explained it all. Getting up in the morning, what should they see but a singular little island, as they took it to be, which had drifted near to land, and had become stationery there. There were trees on it, and branches to the trees, on which a number of bears, as they took them to be, were crawling about. They all seized their bows and arrows and spears and rushed down to the shore, intending to shoot the bears. What was their surprise to find that these supposed bears were men, and that some of them were lowering down into the water a very singular constructed canoe, into which several of them jumped and paddled ashore. Among them was a man dressed in white—a priest with his white stole on, who came towards them making signed of friendliness, raising his hand towards heaven and addressing them in an earnest manner, but in a language which they could not understand. The girl was now questioned respecting her dream. “was it such an island as this that she had seen? was this the man?” She affirmed that they were indeed the same. Some of them, especially the necromancers, were displeased. They did not like it that the coming of the foreigners should have been intimated to this young girl and not to them. Had an enemy of the Indian tribes, with whom they were at war, been about about to make a descent upon them they could have foreseen and foretold it by th epoer of their magic. But of the coming of this teacher of a new religion they could know nothing. The new teacher was gradually received into favor, though the magicians opposed him. The ep[;e received his instructions and submitted to the rite of baptism. The priest learned their tongue, and gave them the prayer‑book written in what they call Abòotŭloveëgăsĭk—ornamental mark‑writing, a mark standing for a word, and rendering it so difficult to learn that it may be said to be impossible. And this was manifestly done for the purpose of keeping the Indians in ignorance. Had their language been reduced to writing in the ordinary way, the Indians would have learned the use of writing an reading, and would have so advanced knowledge as to have been able to cope with their more enlightened invaders, and it would have been a more difficult matter for the latter to have cheated them out of their lands, etc.

    Such was Josiah’s story. Whatever were the motives of the priests who gave them their pictorial writing, it is one of the grossest literary blunders that was ever perpetrated. it is bad enough for the Chinese, who language is said to be monosyllabic and unchanged by grammatical inflection. But Micmac is partly syllabic, “endless,” in its compounds and grammatical changes, and utterly incapable of being represented by signs.

    This page titled 1.2.8: The Coming of the Whiteman Revealed - Dream of the White Robe and Floating Island (Micmac) is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Wendy Kurant (GALILEO Open Learning Materials) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.