Friday, September 02, 2011

Kat and Jipijka’maq

It's where I found the first stanza of the poem that is missing from the fact sheet - Tim

“...(I)t is believed among the Mi’kmaq people that in order to have a successful hunt or fishing expedition, one must make an offering to the creator. This offering is referred to as Pagetunowwedoomkawa’ (Propser 2001, p.18). A portion of the poem Legend of Glooscap’s Door briefly describes eels as Pagetunowwedoomkawa’:
There is a doorway to Glooscap’s domain
Where you throw dry punk and fish
For his fire and food.
But you must not enter
Though you may leave a gift on stone
Waiting to feel goodness.
This is the way the legend goes
So the Micmac elders say.

At Cape Dolphin near Big Brads d’Or
There is a hole through a cliff
It is Glooscap’s door.
And on the outside a flat stone
It is his table.
The Indians on a hunt leave on table
Tobacco and eels.
This brings them luck, so the story goes
The legend lives on

The Mi’kmaq share a long cultural history with Kat. Petroglyphs in Nova Scotia’s Kejimkujik National Park located in Southwest Nova Scotia suggest the presence of the water creature Jipijka’maq - the Great Horned Serpent (Whitehead 1990). Examples of these petroglyphs are shown on this page. The one on the left portrays a Mi’kmaq man and woman in a canoe in the presence of a serpent.

The Mi’kmaq believe Jipijka’maq is the eel. There are many similarities between Jipijka’maq and Kat. For example, it is said Jipijka’maq travel “about under the earth in their snake shapes...and sometimes they come up to the Earth World and carve great ruts in the land as they move across it” (Holmes-Whitehead 1988, p.4). In addition, a special distinction is made between snakes and Jipijka’maq. In the legend Miskwekepu’j contents of a bag is described as containing both “...snake bones and jipijka’m bones…” (Holmes-Whitehead 1988, p.13).

Another similarity exists between Kat and Jipijka’maq behaviour when traveling over land. Kat when traveling over land will leave behind it a trail of skimogan (slime). This trail of skimogan enables Kat to reach its destination to the next water source. Each Kat would contribute its slime to this trail and go as far as its slime enabled it to. In turn, the next eel would continue the trail by depositing more slime along the trail. The Jipika’maq on the other hand would carve great ruts in the land as it moved across it. These ruts are referred to as the “track of the serpent people” (Holmes-Whitehead 1988, p.44).

Another connection Kat has to Kejimkujik National Park are the remains of the stone eel weirs located along the various rivers in the park. Traditionally the Mi’kmaq used these weirs to catch eels and other types of fish The Mi’kmaq had to carefully choose where to construct these weirs due to the great deal of man power and time that was involved in their construction. Where to construct and when to use the weirs required a detailed knowledge of the local area and of various types of fish and their behaviours. Evidence of this type demonstrates the Mi’kmaq relationship to fish and other beings have been in existence for a long time. Located on the next page is a map of Kejimkujik National Park showing a blown up picture of a stone weir located on the Mersey River…”

From: “The Mi’kmaq Relat ionship with Kat (American Eel)” by: Kerry Prosper, Community Research Coordinator and Mary Jane Paulette, Research Assistant

A search for images of Cape Dolphin reveals this photo:

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