|The people of the Mi'kmaw First Nation have lived in what is now Nova Scotia and the Maritimes for thousands of years. They expressed their culture and world view in stories and traditions. We are able to glimpse aspects of Mi'kmaw traditions and culture through these stories and through the art they have created.|
|The Mi'kmaq created enduring art. Some of this art has been carved into the rock of the province. These rock pictures, or petroglyphs, record their lives and the things they saw around them. Many petroglyphs can be found along the rocky shores of the lakes and rivers of Kejimkujik National Park, the Medway River and McGowan Lake, in southwest Nova Scotia. Petroglyphs have also been created at several other locations around the province. The smooth, fine-grained slates found in the Kejimkujik area make an excellent surface for recording images. The lines were cut, scratched, or pecked using stone or metal tools.|
|The Mi'kmaq recorded images of people, animals, hunting, fishing, and the decorative motifs women sewed or painted on clothing. With the arrival of the Europeans, the lives of the Mi'kmaq changed in new ways. Evidence of this change includes images of sailing ships, men hunting with muskets, soldiers, Christian altars and churches, and small items like coins and jack-knives.|
|George Creed, the postmaster at South
Rawdon in central Nova Scotia, made a series of tracings of the
Mi'kmaw petroglyphs at Kejumkujik and McGowan Lake in
1887 and 1888. The bulk of Creed's tracings are presented here.
It is impossible to accurately date most of the petroglyphs. Images of sailing ships, hunters with guns and European-style dwellings are clearly more recent. A few petroglyphs appear to have the year of their creation carved into the rock next to them, either from the 1800s or the 1900s.
|Creed's tracings form the earliest attempt to document
systematically the rock art in the province and
are an important record of this culture. Constantly
exposed to weather, many petroglyphs have become worn over time.
In numerous cases, vandals have defaced the images. In some cases,
Creed's tracings are now the only record that the image ever existed.
At McGowan Lake, the petroglyphs have been underwater since the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the 1940's, except for a short period in 1983 when McGowan Lake was drained for repairs to the dam. At that time, archaeologist Brian Leigh Molyneaux was able to photograph the petroglyphs and make tracings, adding to the record made by Creed. The Creed tracings, as well as the photographs and tracings done by Molyneaux, are the only access we have to these petroglyphs. The petroglyphs at McGowan Lake have been protected from vandalism and weather by the water covering them and have been preserved much better than the ones at Kejimkujik.
The long heritage of Mi'kmaw art continues today. Mi'kmaw artist Alan Syliboy, for example, blends modern themes and traditional petroglyph images to create a fusion of ancient and modern, expressing his pride and understanding of Mi'kmaw heritage.