Saturday, July 20, 2019

Mi’kmaq: a Language of the Nephites?

A reader recently suggested that “the Miꞌkmaq tribe in Canada were using hieroglyphs that can be compared to the symbols on the Anthon transcript. It is not certain how ancient their writing system is” G.W.
First of all, Mi’kmaq (which means “the people” or “the family”) were among the original inhabitants in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada, as well as the northeastern region of Main—Their presence there was first discovered in 1676. They were also called, Souriquois and later Gaspesians by the French, and as Tarrantines by the British. They were also known as the Acadians.
Mi’kmaq Territory around the Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia 

The Miꞌkmaq territory was the first portion of North America that Europeans exploited at length for resource extraction. Reports by John Cabot, Jacques Cartier and Portuguese explorers about conditions there encouraged visits by Portuguese, Spanish, Basque, French, and English fishermen and whalers, beginning in the early years of the 16th century. Fishing was the major resource in the region, though the Mi’Kmaq also hunted caribou and moose, the latter providing all the essentials for the people, including meat for food, the skin for clothing, tendons and sinew for cordage, and bones for carving and tools.
    The fishing eventually drew a large European industry, with the early Mi’Kmaq originally salting their catch at sea and sailing directly home with it. But they set up camps ashore as early as 1520 AD for dry-curing cod, the latter becoming the preferred preservation method.
    These European fishing camps traded with Miꞌkmaq fishermen, which soon created trading centers that rapidly expanded to include furs. By 1578 some 350 European ships were operating around the Saint Lawrence estuary. Most were independent fishermen, but increasing numbers were exploring the fur trade (Thomas B. Costain, Thomas B. (1954), The White and The Gold, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York,1954, p54).
    The Miꞌkmaq territory was divided into seven traditional districts. Each district had its own independent government and boundaries, which had a district chief and a council, with the council members being band chiefs, elders, and other worthy community leaders. The district council was charged with performing all the duties of any independent and free government by enacting laws, justice, apportioning fishing and hunting grounds, making war and suing for peace.
    The eight Miꞌkmaq districts (including Taqamkuk which is often not counted) are: Epekwitk aq Piktuk (Epegwitg aq Pigtug); Eskikewaꞌkik (Esgeꞌgewaꞌgi); Kespek (Gespeꞌgewaꞌgi); Kespukwitk (Gespugwitg); Siknikt (Signigtewaꞌgi); Sipekniꞌkatik (Sugapuneꞌgati); Taqamkuk (Gtaqamg); and Unamaꞌkik (Unamaꞌgi).  
    In addition, the Mꞌikmaq had a Grand Council, or Santé Mawiómi, composed of Keptinaq (captains), who were the district chiefs. There were also Elders, the Putis (Wampum belt) readers and historians, who also dealt with the treaties with the non-natives and other Native tribes). In addition, there was a women's council, and the Grand Chief, a title given to one of the district chiefs, who was usually from the Miꞌkmaq district of Unamáki or Cape Breton Island. This title was hereditary within a clan and usually passed on to the Grand Chief's eldest son.
    The Grand Council met on a little island on Bras d’Or lake in Cape Breton called Mniku, which to this day still meets at Mniku to discuss current issues within the Miꞌkmaq Nation. They Miꞌkmaq lived in structures called wigwams, which were made by cutting down spruce saplings, and curving them for a base over a circle drawn on the ground. These saplings were lashed together at the top, and then covered with birch bark, either in a peak or dome top, creating temporary structures that would hold 10-15 people, or larger ones that held 15-20 people.
Mi’kmaq hieroglyphs meaning: LtoR: Light; Heaven; Earth; Father; Great Spirit; We are brought; We; Thou, Nourishment 

Miꞌkmaq hieroglyph, called komqwejwi’kasikl (sucker-fish writing), was a writing system and memory aid called logograms with phonetic elements used alongside that included logographic, alphabetic, and ideographic information. They were derived from a pictograph and petroglyph tradition.
    Scholars have debated whether the earliest known Miꞌkmaq "hieroglyphs" from the 17th century qualified fully as a writing system rather than a pictographic mnemphic device.
    In the 17th century, French missionary Chrétien Le Clercq adapted the Mí’kmaq characters as a logographic system for pedagogical or learning purposes. 
    In 1978, Ives Goddars and William Fitzhugh of the Department of Anthhropology at the Smithsonian Institution, contended that the pre-missionary system was purely mnemonic, as it could not be used to write new compositions. David L. Schmidt and Murdena Marshall argued in 1995 that the missionary system of the 17th century was able to serve as a fully functional writing system. This would mean that Mikmaq is the oldest writing system for a native language north of Mexico (Mi'Kmaq Hieroglyphic Prayers: Readings in North America's First Indigenous Script (English and Micmac Edition), Nimbus Pub Ltd, Nova Scotia, 1995).
    In comparing this writing form to that of any other language is quite difficult, since its characters and usage are quite different. As an example:
The Mi’kmaq hieroglyphic writing 

On the other hand, the reformed Egyptian of the gold plates and what Joseph Smith copied down on what is now called the Anthon paper, or script, is totally dissimilar:
The Anthon script, or the Reformed Egyptian of the Book of Mormon 

Writing characters or symbols can be traced back to the beginning of writing into distant BC times, making the Paleolithic characters or symbols the earliest known writing, after 5000 BC. It is generally considered that writing emerged 'independently in at least three different places - Egypt, Mesopotamia and Harappa between 3,500 BC and 3,100 BC. 
Paleolithic characters or symbols, the earliest known writing 

The discovery of the Vinča script (The Vinča culture, also known as Turdaș culture or Turdaș-Vinča culture, is the oldest Neolithic culture in South-eastern Europe, dated to the   period 5,500–4,500 BC). Symbols in the Vinča script can be seen to have roots that trace back as early as Palaeolithic times, as revealed by the exhaustive examination of 'geometric' symbols in 150 prehistoric caves in France, and today believed that these Palaeolithic geometric symbols represent a 'proto-script' from which all other scripts can trace ancestry. 
    Finally, the posed question “Are Mi’kmaq, Cree, or Mayan hieroglyphics descended from Egyptian hieroglyphics?” The answer according to linguists at the Native Languages of the Americas is “No.” The corresponding question “Are Amerindian languages descended from Hebrew, Ancient Egyptian, Scandinavian or Celtic languages? Again, the answer is a resounding “No!” They go on to emphatically state that the people who claim this are trying to prove that American Indians arrived in the Americas very recently. 
    These languages are all non-alphabetic writing systems, but otherwise have nothing in common at all. Egyptian hieroglyphics are sort of like rebus. Some hieroglyphs represent sounds (consonants only, just like modern Semitic writing systems), others represent words or concepts. Many hieroglyphs are strung together top to bottom to make a word. On the other hand, Mayan hieroglyphics are modular. One glyph contains several elements, including an element for gender and some for sound (both vowels and consonants). They resemble Chinese characters more than Egyptian hieroglyphics (though they're not descended from Chinese either). Mi’kmaq hieroglyphs are primarily pictographs, not representing sounds at all--in fact, many symbols are mnemonics for an entire phrase or sentence. On the other hand, Cree is a syllabary, each symbol regularly represents a syllable with a consonant, indicated by a shape, and a vowel, indicated by a position. "Hieroglyph" is not a linguistic term, and simpy means "arcane writing.
    According to Laura Redish, Director of the Native Languages of the Americas, states that “Micmac and Cree are not even the same basic type of writing system as Egyptian, and Mayan, though the same basic type, is a completely different realization of it. It would be more likely that a completely illiterate person would come up with one of these Amerindian writing systems than that someone already familiar with Egyptian would. 
    Thus we can as shown in these ancient writing examples examples, there is no correlation between the Anthon script, or Reformed Egyptian (or Hebrew) and the Mi’kmaq symbols.

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