The Micmacs at the Athol house Site
The Story of the Restigouche
 

The first Europeans to visit the Restigouche found it to be inhabited by a hardy a race of natives known as the Micmacs, who belonged to the Algonquin family, one of the largest divisions of indigenous people on the continent. The Micmac district of the Restigouche included a large area stretching from the Miramichi to the Gaspé, with camps at various places. Four hundred to five hundred Micmacs lived on the Restigouche with many more in the district. The main and only permanent settlement, however, was at Tjigog, meaning "The place of Superior men". Built on the present site of Atholville, it was a village of wigwams, with a stockade and a burying ground within. This campsite, at the head of the tide, was probably chosen because of the good salmon fishing. They called their river Listogotch. The origin of the name is uncertain, but some believe that it came from the story of a Mohawk raid into the area (2 - pacifique, Études, p.112).

The story is… In the year 1639 a pary of Mohawks led by a young impulsive warrior, entered the Restigouche. At Long Island they came upon some Micmacs who were fishing peacefully. The young leader's father cautioned him to leave the Micmacs alone, but he did not obey. All the Micmacs were massacred, except the chief who was called "Tonel" - after the French word "tonnerre" or thunder. Although wounded, Tonel made his escape. When he was well again he assembled his warriors and set off for the Mohawk village of Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) to reap his revenge. The Mohawk chiefs readily surrendered to Tonel all those who had taken part in the raid. As he gave the signal for the execution, Tonel shouted at the the young Mohawk leader, "Listo Gotj" - meaning "Disobedience to your father". On his return home, Tonel changed the "old" name of the country - "Tchigouk"- to "Listo Gotj" from which we get Restigouche (2).

Whether this tale is true, or whether, as is the common belief, Restigouche means "river that divides like the hand", it is impossible to say. The Micmacs were a strong and well-built people. They were hunters and fisherman not troubling themselves much with fixed resting places or the cultivation of the soil, although they did grow some corn and pumpkins. The river and the forest were their great storehouses. During the warm months they lived close to the shore, gaining an easy living from the abundance of salmon, shad, herring, shell-fish and wild fowl. As winter approached, the tribe would split up into families and go into the forest where shelter was better and where they could trap the fur-bearing animals. Their clothing was of the most primitive sort. It consisted only of the skins of moose, beaver, marten and seal placed over the shoulders in the form of a mantle or robe.


(1) R.P Pacifique, Études historiques et géographiques (Ristigouche 1935)-p.111
(2) This name first appears in the Jesuit Relations in connection with a visit made by Father Richard to the Micmacs at Tjigog in 1842

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