Summer time – As the ice on the water has melted, the salmon, lobster and other fish have arrived. The nets and gear are ready for the fishing season to begin. The Mi’gmaq tradition is to give the first catch to the Elders.
In between the communities of Listuguj and Gespeg, where salmon bigger than your head swim in the Cascapedia, lies the Mi’gmaq community of Gesgapegiag.
The community of Gesgapegiag was officially established in 1850. The Gaspé Land Commission mapped out the boundaries of the Maria Reserve, now called Gesgapegiag, nestled along the Cascapedia River in Quebec.
However, the Mi’gmaq people of Quebec have lived along and used the Cascapedia River for as long as they can remember.
In fact, Gesgapegiag was a very important part of the traditional territory of Gespe’gewa’gi. In 1958 there were eighty three Mi’gmaq families living in Gesgapegiag.
Gespe’gewa’gi is the Mi’gmaq Nation District. It extends from the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, all the way down to the Miramichi River in New Brunswick.
The Mi’gmaq of Gesgapegiag moved around throughout the year. In the winter they would travel inland into the forests for protection from the harsh winters. There they would set up a winter village, and hunt, trap and cut wood, preparing themselves for the spring and summer months.
In the spring they would move back to their village along the water and would fish salmon out of the Cascapedia. They would also take their birch bark canoes down the river to Horse Island. There they would take advantage of the abundance of maple tree growing on the Island. And would tap the tree and bring back fresh maple syrup. Maple glazed salmon, anyone?
Over one thousand Mi’gmaq belong to the Gesgapegiag fist nation today. Like their ancestors before them, the Cascapedia river remains to be an integral part of their daily life.