Mi'kmaq history and people: February – or Apiknajit
Pjila'si (Welcome). February – or Apiknajit as it is known to the Mi’kmaq is the month of very strong sun and blinding snow. During this time Mi’kmaq historically kept inland near water hunting moose, caribou, beaver and bear.
The feeding of Apuknajit is a time of giving thanks to the Spirits during the most difficult time of winter. It is a ritual which is performed on the night of January 31st.
“When darkness has settled, food is put out into the night preferably on an old stump or near a tree and offered to the Spirits. In days gone by, eel skins and fish heads were offered. An elder would lead the family to a stump, give thanks for surviving thus far and ask for additional assistance until spring.
Many interesting things have happened in this month in the history of the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq such as:
- On February 2 is Mnumkwej Na'kwekm or Ground Hog Day.
- On February 2, 1972 a province wide organization called the Native Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (NANL) and representing the Innu, Inuit and Mi’kmaq was established to seek better collective rights for all three groups. The Cape St.George Indian Band was originally part of the early movement. The 3 Innu, Conne River and West Coast/Central groups would break away from each other just a year after.
- On February 2, 1937, Genevieve “Jane” Chaisson is the first person to be buried in the new cemetery in De Grau. She is the second wife of Julien Chiasson and daughter of Francois Benoit, Jr. and Marie Duffenias of Port au Port. The old cemetery at Kerfont’s Cove in Cape St. George was filled to capacity and had been used since at least
- On February 9, 1906, Henri Lejeune died in Clam Bank Cove (Lourdes). He was son of Gabriel Young and Sarah Riley from the Bra d’Or lakes area in Cape Breton, N.S. Henri was wife of Susan Duffenias.
- On February 9, 1896, in Stephenville, Lawrence Chaisson of De Grau, son of Phillip-Nazaire Chiasson and Elizabeth Renouf married Josephine Chaisson, daughter of Julien Chiasson and Genevieve “Jane” Benoit.
- February 14 is Kesaltimkewey Na'kwek or Valentine's Day. On a sad note this day in 1990, John (Jack) Mitchell Jr. founder of the Corner Brook Indian Band dies. He was the grandson of the late Mr. Mattie Mitchell, a very well-known Newfoundland Mi'kmaq.
- On February 16, 1884 Mary Jane (Mariam Joannain as it is written in Latin) Young daughter of Valentine “Tiny” Young and Ann “Nancy” ”Nannette” Benoit is born in Clam Bank Cove. She married Edmond Jesso son of Peter Jesso and Elizabeth Barry of Sheaves Cove on September 22, 1901 in Port au Port.
- On February 23, 1915, Edmond Jesso accidentally died due to a self-inflicted gun shot while hunting birds on the ocean cliffs in Sheaves Cove. Two years after this Mary Jane married Michael Benoit, son of Michel Benoit and Desiree Laisne. Michael raised his nine stepchildren as though they were his own.
- On February 23, 1760 the Treaty of Peace and Friendship that was negotiated on December 15, 1725 in Boston is renewed and confirmed in Halifax, N.S between the British and the Mi’kmaq. A Pierre Benoit is one of the Mi’kmaq signatories to the document.
- On February 25, 1872, Jacques Lejeune (James Young) passed away in the St. George’s area. He was estimated to be between 97 and 101 years of age. He was son of Chrysostome Lejeune and Louise Marguerite Hache-Gallant. Jacques was married to Catherine Jesseau, daughter of Jean Jessaume and Marie Anne Fournier.
Wela’lin and thank you for allowing me to share these facts with you.
February 15, 2005
Compiled by Saqamaw Jasen S. Benwah
St. George's Bay, NL.
Website Copyright © 2005 Jasen Sylvester Benwah