Grand Falls

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A Hunting and Fishing Paradise

Hunting and fishing, today considered sports in Madawaska, were once practised by people who depended on them for their livelihoods. In fact, the Maliseets, first inhabitants of the region, lived mostly on hunting and fishing. We know they had disputes with some Canadian merchants from Kamouraska, the Robichauds, who were seeking to expand their network of trade in fur pelts in the territory of Madoueskaks. In addition, the colonization of Madawaska from 1785 on, greatly affected the lifestyle of the First Nations people. "There were no savages this year in Madawaska, a dozen at most who hunt almost every day," wrote the priest-missionary A. T. Lagarde, on February 20, 1818. “The savages are having difficulty surviving these years because of the lack of animals to hunt,” says the priest Father M. Ringuet in a letter dated March 27, 1824. The causes of these problems? Clear cutting and the pushing back of the forest were reasons, of course, but there was also more competition with the “whites” established in Madawaska. Indeed, even if the Canadian and Acadian settlers were primarily farmers, they were also dependant on hunting to feed and clothe their families at certain times, particularly in 1797, the year of the "Misère Noire" (loosely translated Black Hardship or Famine). The survival of the colony depended almost entirely on hunting.

In addition, the bartering system, then in force, was using fur not currency. "The costs here are exorbitant (...) everything (is) payable in fur," writes Father C. Hott, on December 18, 1804. It is likely that most of the pioneers knew how to benefit from the wealth of fauna in Madawaska, this "land of the porcupines". This industrious little animal was adopted with the motto "If you go looking for trouble, you'll find it" as the emblem of the legendary Republic. Before becoming the Emblem of Madawaska, the porcupine may have found itself as a delicacy for gourmets, alongside moose, deer, hare and partridge.

If, at the beginning of the settlement, hunting was an important economic activity, it cannot be said so of fishing. In his travel journal of 1812, the Bishop of Quebec, Bishop Plessis, wrote that the Saint John River was "the river possibly the most devoid of fish in the entire world (...). There is, indeed, a salmon fishery at the foot of the waterfalls called Grand Falls, but Grand Falls is eleven leagues below the church in Saint-Basile." The Madawaska citizens were not called to a vocation of fishermen as were their compatriots on the Acadian coast. However this did not prevent them from fishing trout and other small fish in the many lakes, rivers and streams in the region.

G. Desjardins
Université de Moncton campus d'Edmundston Société Historique du Madawaska Ville d'Edmundston Patrimoine Canadien